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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 • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. 567123

    Blessed are the meek:
    for they shall inherit the earth.

    Blessed are you
    the poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
    that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
    that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
    when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

    Woe unto you

    that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
    that are full now! for ye shall hunger.
    that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
    when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  2. Maha

    He stood up for what he believed in on his own way, so shall they, Good luck guys!

    December 7, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • Jamie

      Amen

      December 7, 2011 at 5:12 am |
  3. 567123

    Clutching at straws?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  4. tv

    Is it not harder for the rich man to get into heaven?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  5. BJJCA

    The logical fallacies here are many.

    1) Parables and analogies are by their nature not literal.
    2) Ocuppiers are not uniformly anti-free-market or anti-capitalist.
    3) Jesus instructed his followers to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's."
    4) Jesus instructed even the poor to give up what little they had for the good of others and to follow his example.
    5) Jesus angrily decried thievery, deceit, and greed.

    I'm not even Christian (I'm agnostic,) and even I know this.

    Twisting other people's religious beliefs to make off-target political points is bad form.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • Jamie

      You rock BJJCA! Yes!

      December 7, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  6. Jose

    This is a tasteless article....Jesus wouldnt want anything to do with ANY TYPE OF MARKETING!!! He threw people out of his "fathers" home..aka. the temple, for selling things. Im not a devout christian and I CAN TELL YOU THAT. SHAME ON CNN and SHAME ON WHOMEVER WROTE THIS TASTELESS ARTICLE!!!

    December 7, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  7. Y'all disgusting

    Yes, yes, this is all very interesting, but what I really want to know is why aren't there any t!tties in this article?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  8. ET

    Yep, Jesus was a free marketeer alrightas Tony states. Just like Bruce has pointed out, I'll point it out in length, "When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17"

    Sounds like to me Mr. Perkins is more like an antichrist.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • clearfog

      That merely means that Jesus was a supporter of zoning regulations.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  9. jerald

    Shame on you CNN for giving hate groups a platform for their filth. Who next? the Aryan Nation?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:22 am |
  10. jerald

    Take a look at the Family Research Council and find out where this guy is coming from. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.splcenter.org%2Fintel%2Fintelreport%2Farticle.jsp%3Faid%3D524&ei=li_fTuz6B6WqiQK35-nCCA&usg=AFQjCNEaOVxfPJtDdRPrQkJP7IRt2eyD8w

    December 7, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  11. Ern

    "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?"

    Clearly someone never is misguided here.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  12. Whatever

    Jesus didn't leave the poor and the hungry starve

    December 7, 2011 at 4:16 am |
  13. waylon

    Jesus was however an activist. This article would have you believe that Jesus worked within the system when that couldn't be further from the truth. Jesus protested both the ruling class Romans and the church of his time. I would have to to say that Jesus and his followers were occupiers of there time. You make Jesus, the man who went into the churches of his day, flipping money changers tables over in a fit of rage (how else would you interpret those passages?) into the spiritual money lender, I say not. Also, Im not even christian and I can see this propaganda from a mile away....

    December 7, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  14. ShingoEX

    Jesus also didn't face against big corporations that took his money and profited from it while he struggled to make a living.

    This article writer is an idiot.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • duhhhhh

      No he struggled against a roman dictator and jewish elders who nailed him to a cross. Has that happened in any of the occupier locations yet?

      December 7, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  15. nirrti

    So it's official. The religion founded by a homeless socialist long-haired hippie has been taken over by a bunch of right-wing sociopaths. Someone please shoot me now.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  16. Tim B.

    Another example of Christians selling out the words of Christ over an issues that are not overtly mentioned in the Bible (Abortion, gay marriage, etc.). The Christian right has sold a vast majority of the Bible down the river in order to appease their masters from the G.O.P. over the past three decades. Thank God the younger generation seems much less willing to do the same.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:00 am |
  17. jv

    Should we consider Adam Smith the thirteenth apostle? Wouldn't that make The Wealth of Nations the new testament?

    Maybe Jon can answer these questions on behalf of Mr. Perkins

    December 7, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  18. Bruce

    I think Jesus actions chasing the money-changers out of the temple are entirely in the spirit of the occupy movement, except he was a bit more forceful than mere non-violent protest.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  19. madscientist

    Fact: there is no conclusive evidence that Jesus ever existed, which renders this article entirely moot. Might as well claim that because Candide wasn't in favor of unrestricted capitalism the message of OWS is wrong...

    Please, CNN, stick to respectable journalism. There is no need to give quaks, charlatans, demented (pseudo) prophets, or bigots a platform from which to spew their insanity.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Jorge

      Wait a minute when did you get your facts that Jesus did not excisted. you mean that 19 other books have been written from the romans to jewish scholars, they wrote that Pontius Pilate did sentence Jesus to die. The chineses scholars wrote about the star that was seen over 70 days period, written to confirm the time of Jesus birth. Do you believe in Alexandra the great, well people wrote about him 400 years after He excisted, Jesus had people write about him 30 years after the event took place, they are so many proof, the fact that with all the attack on Jesus, He is most popular, the greatest Man that has ever live, and still is Alive. hope you will seek the truth about Jesus

      December 7, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • madscientist

      Jorge,
      wow, so many logical fallacies. Let's begin:
      First of all, to which 19 books are you referring? 19 isn't exactly an impressive number considering the supposed source material, but I would be far more interested in the date of their writing. If it wasn't within the supposed lifetime of Jesus (0-35CE), I will dismiss them as nothing more than hearsay.
      Now about that star thing. The earliest mention of a bright persistent star by Chinese writers was the supernova SN 185, which lasted for approximately 8 months. Ok, it was a bit longer than 70 days, but let's ignore that for the time being. It was recorded in 185CE, and while the gospels themselves do not agree on a date (much less a precise year) of the supposed birth of Jesus, stretching that by some 190 years is beyond even the most ardent of apologists. I didn't know lying was part of the gospels commandments...
      Now that whole 30 year wait period. It's just nonsense! Would you be able to retell a story you heard 30* years ago, but couldn't do any sort of fact checking? Stories like that do not hold up under even the most superficial of scrutiny, which is why the contradictions within the gospels are so obvious! No, this is certainly not proof the bible's veracity. If anything it's damning evidence that it is nothing more than a collection of old fables and legends.

      Please tell me you didn't think that "scientist" bit in my username was just idle decoration. There's a reason 90-something% of us are not religious. We have actually considered the claims, and found them lacking in every sense. That's not to say I consider the probability of *some* god as the creator of the universe to be impossible, just infinitely improbable. Don't be led by blind faith, actually look at the marvelous cosmos we have in front of us, and how natural laws explain all of it! There's no need to invoke a deity, when us mere humans can explain so much of it.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:36 am |
  20. andrew

    Tony, there needs to be jobs in order to occupy ourselves with business. you reference jesus saying he occupied himself by fishing. well, how relevant is that to us today, einstein? grow up.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:54 am |
    • Ern

      Well said

      December 7, 2011 at 4:20 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.