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My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier
A protester camps out at St. Paul's Cathedral last month in London. Tony Perkins says Jesus had a different view of "occupy."
December 6th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier

Editor's note: Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington.

By Tony Perkins, Special to CNN

(CNN) One of the last instructions Jesus gave his disciples was "Occupy till I come."

As Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem for the last time, just before his crucifixion, he was keenly aware that his disciples greatly desired and even anticipated that the kingdom of God was going to be established immediately on the earth.

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As a way to break the news that it wasn't going to happen in the manner and with the timing they expected, Jesus pulled them aside and gave them instructions by way of a parable.

The primary purpose of the parable, which appears in the Gospel of Luke, was to make clear to his disciples that the kingdom of God would not be physically established on the earth for some time and that, until then, they were being entrusted with certain responsibilities.

Jesus, depicted as a ruler in the story, would have to leave for a while as he traveled to a faraway place to receive authority to reign over the kingdom. In his absence, the disciples depicted as servants were to "occupy" until he returned.

Here's the direct quote from Luke: "He called his ten servants, and gave to them ten minas, one mina each (a mina today would be worth around $225), and he then told them to 'Occupy till I come.' " (Luke 19:13, King James Version)

But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?

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No, the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means "be occupied with business." As with all parables, Jesus uses a common activity such as fishing or farming to provide a word picture with a deeper spiritual meaning.

From a spiritual perspective, the mina in this parable represents the opportunity of life; each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives, and each of us shares the same responsibility to invest our lives for the purpose of bringing a return and leaving a legacy. Jesus gave equal responsibility and opportunity to each of his 10 servants.

The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. When the nobleman returns, after being established as king a stand-in for Jesus he calls all his servants together to see what they had accomplished in his absence.

The first servant reports a nice profit: 10 minas. While the story lacks specifics on whether he invested the money in a herd of sheep or a hedge fund, we do know that he made his gain by engaging in business transactions of some sort. He used a free market system to bring a tenfold return on investment. No doubt such a return took a lot of diligent, dedicated effort.

The newly established king praises the servant and gives him a reward that's an even greater return on his efforts, "because you have been faithful in very little I will give you authority over ten cities."

Likewise the second servant in the story, who had turned his one mina into five, is praised and rewarded with greater responsibilities: He is given five cities.

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The third servant in the story had apparently either slept through his economics course or was just indifferent to the work delegated to him.

He had essentially kept the capital entrusted to him under his mattress for safekeeping.

When called to give an account of what he had accomplished, the man immediately attempts to shift the focus off his failure with excuses of how unfair the boss was because he was always trying to get more than he deserved for his money.

The employee review is immediate and intense: "Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant." The king's disappointment and frustration are nearly palpable. "Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

While such language might prompt an HR complaint today, its meaning was quite clear to the disciples. There are no excuses for doing nothing.

Parables generally have a twist near the end, a final jolt to drive the point home. This one is no exception. The ruler orders that the capital, or opportunity, given to the lazy servant be taken from him and given to the most productive servant. "To everyone who has, more shall be given," the Bible reads, "but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."

Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual.

Some would argue that such an approach encourages abuses, the likes of which we have seen on Wall Street. While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise.

The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.

Remember, these servants were not working for themselves, but under the constraints of their lord and for his benefit. Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by  using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Economy • Jesus • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. james

    Just the thought of this article is offensive. Twisting the message of Jesus Christ to put more money in your pocket is absolutely unforgivable... There is a special place in hell for those who worship the all mighty dollar. People that put money before people are doomed to spend an eternity burning in hell... You can tell the man down stairs how you tried and convince the world that global warming was a myth too so to fatten your stock portfolio at the expense of Mother Earth, and just maybe he will burn you only 23 hours a day forever.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:51 am |
    • jon

      This article Does Not make a case for worshipping the almighty dollar. Read my other posts and you will see why

      December 7, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  2. Scott

    Oh, spare me. Only the furthest stretch and most tortured logic could cram an endorsement of free-market economics into the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christ would have taught that all belongs to God to be used to help his children no matter what legal philosophy of property rights one practiced. The right-wing union of free-market economics and fundamentalist religion is the political brainchild of a rich few that needed a gullible majority to win their way in a democracy. Fundamentalist Christian conservatives are the sheep that keep the rich in power.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • jon

      I agree that God's original plan was that there would be no scarcity and thus need to have any human constructs around private property or exchange (think garden of Eden). After all, why would I need to exchange with you or even work if I had everything I need? After the fall, scarcity entered the picture and Adam had to work. I also agree that in a fallen world, God would want generosity to abound. But it also clear from various scriptures that God would want able bodied people to work. In my opinion, I don't believe Christ was explicitly for or against it free market economics; I support that in my other posts. However, He would support making money and using to advance the Kingdom of God. Ironically, both you and Tony make this same point.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  3. MartyGRMI

    This man is the Devil. Follow him at your own risk.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  4. John

    This gotta be the worst article I've ever read on CCN.com
    I'm seriously considering using another web sites for news.

    This article is both hilarious and absolutely bad. Absurd to say the least

    December 7, 2011 at 3:41 am |
  5. phelonius

    paint me shocked that a conservative "Christian" who is a prominent member of a designated "hate group" thinks that Jesus would be against OWS. i'm sure he is also convinced that JC only helped rich, motivated people that built they're wealth by cheating others out of it. best of luck to him in finding his way through the eye of the needle.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • jon

      Be careful with that eye of a needle parable. Remember that wealth is relative and to vast amounts of people in the world the middle class in the United Stated are wealthy. That verse is about saying no one whose heart idolizes money as their God can make through the eye of the needle. Materialism is more of a heart condition than the amount of your net worth. I have met homeless people who were materialistic and lorded what little they had over everyone else in the homeless camp.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  6. David H

    Two comments:
    1) Jesus was not a free marketeer. He upset the tables of the money lenders. Aside from that, he showed little interest in business matters.
    2) What Jesus' economic philosophy was or wasn't has no bearing whatsoever on what we should be doing now to put our economic house in order. We do not live in a theocracy, as hard as some people try to make it one.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • jon

      1) he upset the money changers not because they were engaging in business per se, but because WHERE they were doing it . . .in the Temple.

      2) this article is in the religion section and no where in the article does it say that the United States should be a theocracy. However, given that this an opinion in the religion section I think it is very appropriate to allow a individual citizen to consider how a major religious figure like a Jesus may consider the Occupy movement as a whole. That being said, I am also fairly confident that Jesus would have a firm understanding of the injustices in our society and would point those out if it served His primary purpose of calling people back into right relationship with Himself. Certainly He had strong words for the religious establishment who were lording their power over those they were to be leading.

      December 7, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • jon

      I also believe He would be keenly interested in the individuals drawn to OWS, in particular their pain, etc. It would be interesting to see how people would respond to Jesus walking amongst an OWS camp. Transparently, I think some who experienced Jesus would walk away from OWS as when they searched their heart they would find they were there for the wrong reasons. Others would likely double down, refining the message and leading the movement into achieving positive change. Many who have had an experience with Jesus have been compelled to fight injustice, think Martin Luther King as a modern example . . . and the whole list is rather long.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Carol Steinel

      "However, given that this an opinion in the religion section I think it is very appropriate to allow a individual citizen to consider how a major religious figure like a Jesus may consider the Occupy movement as a whole."

      I quite agree, Jon - however, someone like me would rarely be given such a forum as Mr. Perkins has been allowed - seeing as how I don't have the political and financial backing that Perkins has garnered by running an organization that is constantly seeking donations (often from very unsavory sources).

      To claim that Perkins got this slot on CNNs site as just an "individual citizen" is disingenuous if you ARE an intelligent person, and tragically naive if you aren't.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • jon

      Hi Carol,

      This web article would argue otherwise. http://www.philipharland.com/publications/articlehandbook22.html.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • jon

      I agree with you that CNN doesn't just pick any one's article submission.
      When I used the word citizen I meant to point out that he is not an elected official, supporting my thought that the article is not suggesting the United States should become a theocracy.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Carol Steinel

      Jon - so what? So he's not an elected official - he's the head of a well-funded LOBBYING organization (which to my mine, is even worse). The fact remains that saying that this is just Tony Perkins, Joe Citizen, expressing his opinion, is disingenuous.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:05 am |
    • jon

      Welcome to democracy. There are well funded lobbyists on all sides of the political spectrum. Certainly you're not insuating that CNN is giving disproportionate access to the religious right? Of all the news outlets, I think you be hard pressed to make that case.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  7. Paul

    Gawd, this is the funniest thing I've read all week! I do feel a little guilty about laughing so hard about people who have single-digit brain cells- their lives must be very hard. Well, except for their leaders – this guy's haircuts cost more than most of his followers' house payments!

    December 7, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  8. Schmedley

    All the OWS supporters keep harping on "That's not what OWS is about..."

    Well you've had a lot of time to put together a message and if people are still writing about what they THINK OWS is about it means that no one knows what it's about and most people are now beyond caring.

    As far as I can tell, OWS is about a bunch of whiney slackers with a really bad case of class envy who would rather spend their time and energy complaining about something instead of finding a solution to even the smallest issue they have. Heck, they can't even coherently explain what their issues are, other than that they hate rich people. Sorry, I'm not rich, but I'm not getting behind that either.

    I'd rather spend my time figuring out how to get rich instead of whining about the fact that some people are rich and I'm not. OWS is rapidly becoming tiresome and irrelevant.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  9. Thrawn

    Perkins proves himself to be sick, twisted, and evil with this piece – truly the wicked son. I'm disgusted by it, and I'm not even a Christian.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  10. Brett

    Tony Perkins is such a flaming closet case!!! I can see right through this man. He is so consumed by his hatred of other people who are freely living the life he isn't courageous enough to have. Come out of the close Tony, you big ole gay Queen!!

    December 7, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  11. M. Hudson

    Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who didn't give a rat's a$$ about markets, free or otherwise.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  12. T.R.

    this article is absurd. as someone who doesnt have an in-depth knowledge of the bible, i could be misunderstanding some of this, but here we go.... it seems hes comparing 10 of jesus' servants to an entire population, and the money they received as the gift of life (as if everyone is born into the same conditions, such as a well-off family with stable housing/employment). i also find it funny how because business may be involved in the parable, he assumes its a free market – which isnt impossible, but theres no evidence (given) to know for sure. he then goes on to say 2 of the 10 servants had made a profit and were rewarded, while 1 servant who made no profit (or loss) is ridiculed. this leaves 7 servants who we are left to assume, lost money, or just left town or something. this means that 20% of the original 10 servants were successful (to varying degrees), 10% incurred no change, and the remaining 70% presumably lost money or died, or who knows, they're not mentioned which cant be a good thing. anyway, those who made profit are rewarded, but not by jesus; which leads one to question how strictly they may have followed jesus' teachings (being a "good christian" has nothing to do with making money on a business endeavor... would jesus have rewarded them in the same manner?). and for some reason, turning a profit qualifies you to run a city; if it were only that simple. i also have trouble understanding the bank reference... were there really banks 2000 years ago? if so, ok, but interest rates for simply storing money at a bank is typically very low, and any interest earned wouldve been minimal. pretty much the only thing i agree with in this article is that our culture has become too concerned with everyone being happy and getting rewards for losing – i remember playing youth basketball at the Y, and at the end of the "season" everyone got a small trophy, even the teams which only won a game or two. if people are rewarded for losing, why would they try to win? as far as his opinion on "egregious abuses" not being inevitable/intrinsic to the free market, this just ignorant. major businesses pay people to make sure they spend as little as possible while maximizing profits. this means paying employees as little as necessary, so the few at the top can reap massive rewards; even before their completely unnecessary bonuses. maybe a free market would work if based on true morality, but unfortunately, its not. i also find it unusual jesus would have an opinion regarding the proper economic system a country should have. it seems to me as though the author is looking at an ancient book with modern eyes, and i dont believe thats a proper technique with a book like the bible. but as i said, im not familiar with the bible and this is all based on the authors personal interpretation, so if im missing something, please fill me in. honestly, this seems like an attempt to use peoples faith to sway their political opinions. sorry about the length but leaving it at "absurd" didnt seem right.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  13. jon

    Wow, so many of you need to take some classes in Economic theory, Economic Philosophical theory, and Judeo-Christian theology. While free market philosophy says that optimal market clearing prices are driven by self interest, self interest doesn't necessarily mean greed. Recall that Plato called even altruism as a form of self interest. So no, self interest is not necessarily greed. However, basic economics would say that the free market is a result of people needing stuff from other people, starting with a basic barter system and moving to currency based systems. That being said, by the time Christ came on the earth free market economics was already well established. But this is where it is key to have a grounding in good theology. Heck, you don't even have to believe it but at least be literate. There are loads of scripture that talk about money and exchange. In fact, it was original sin in the garden of Eden that caused the one thing that drives economies, scarcity. It was God's original plan that there would be no scarcity. But with man's sin scarcity entered the world and you may recall Adam's curse to have to work by the sweat of his brow. Now justice in how one engages a fallen world is also well discussed in the scriptures. Justice involves fair trade and not abusing power but being compassionate and fair. I suggest you all research, if even simply from an academic standpoint, what the accepted Canonical Christian scripture has to say about Justice. I believe you'll find it DOES NOT contradict Tony's article.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Carol Steinel

      "by the time Christ came on the earth free market economics was already well established." Erm - NO. Christ was born and lived during the Roman Empire - which was not based on a "free market" at all. Prices were controlled in the Roman Empire, and subsidies (including a public "grain dole") abounded. Please, Jon, before you go insisting that others read history and study economics - do your homework.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • jon

      I intended on putting the link here. http://www.philipharland.com/publications/articlehandbook22.html

      December 7, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  14. Chad

    Occupy protestors were recently seen washing my car. I would have offered to pay them for this service, but that might have suggested they had any place in our market economy. Instead, I slapped the leader and advised him that there was still a dead bug on my side mirror– totally unacceptable work. I suggested they become nomads instead, living off of scraps in dumpsters and public drinking fountains (this post should not pass the filter as it is absolutely inane and stupid– but maybe that's what forums like this are meant to advance and publicize).

    December 7, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  15. DaDoc540

    Matthew 25:31

    The Judgment

    31“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

    34“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    http://biblebrowser.com/matthew/25-31.htm

    Helping the least of your brothers and sisters in their need is like helping Jesus himself.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  16. DaDoc540

    Matthew 25:35-46

    35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
    41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    http://biblebrowser.com/matthew/25-35.htm

    December 7, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  17. Chad

    Great, I post something intelligent and it doesn't appear. Apparently these posts are moderated by the thought police. Awesome.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:53 am |
  18. Andragogy

    God reveals mortal stupidity in mysterious ways. And for this, I will pray each night for God to given Tony the wisdom to see his folly. So Tony, given Jesus investment strategies, should I invest in papyrus or sheep? Jesus invented capitalism too (heavy sarcasm!). Wait a minute! Could it be that Tony Perkins just wasted five minutes of my life by writing a huge load of bull? From the mount built of gold coins and the corpses of the uninsured, Jesus said unto the masses, "taketh away homes of the poor so that they can assume the tax-burdens of the wealthy." Tony, you don't know jack about Jesus.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • jon

      No, Jesus did not invent capitalism. However, that doesn't mean He was against exchange. It's speculation, but as a carpenter one would assume He and his father Joseph sold their services in the free market. Morever, Paul likely took a wage for his tent making skills. However, what Christ was clearly against was making money your God. Moreover, he was against abuse. Recall the story if Zacheus the tax collector. When Christ came upon him, Zachaeus was ripping off his neighbors taking more taxes than the government required and keeping the difference for himself
      . As a result of spending time with Jesus, he gave all he had taken back. All that being said, I do not see how Tony's article contradicts these principles. Read it again and explain to me how it does. Cheers.

      December 7, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  19. L2k4FC

    "While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise." .....then why do they keep happening over and over and over again? As long as profit is the primary driver of our worldwide culture, suffering will certainly follow, and that suffering takes many forms not the least of which is a toxic environment for all the Earth's guests.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Doris

      These are the vices of humanity and wil occur under any system which involves mankind.

      December 7, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  20. Zoglet

    Way to go to built a strawman account of what OWS represents and then torch it. Perkins, your a numpty.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:28 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.