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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. Deep North

    So Jesus told them to......."GO TO WORK"

    December 7, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  2. Michael Leonardo

    To those here insisting on calling Jesus a fable. Why do you come here to attack peoples belief. The point of the story is that this man is twisting the words in a best seller for his own ends. I would like you to prove that conscience was not evident in the original singularity that caused the big bang. I will respect your disbelief, you respect my belief. We stop people from using power to harm us and others, deal.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  3. sybaris

    Jesus, the David Koresh of his day

    December 7, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  4. curt

    Opinion: Occupiers are not Jesus

    December 7, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  5. Opinion: tony perkins iis insane

    Fact:: Jesus wasn't the magic son of a deity, nor did that "Establishing a kingdom of god" thing work out very well for him.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  6. PSSSSH.....

    How do you know what Jesus was? You never met him. Jesus would most likely tell you to abandon money and follow him, but likely you are unable to do such thing a thing. Money rules you doesn't it Mr. Perkins? You don't know what Jesus was, and you proclaiming that you do is just a red flag. Get your head out of your a$$. P.S. Wipe that smirk off your face, we're not in the times where people should be walking around with stupid grins on.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  7. Michael Leonardo

    Christian in America, lol, a church without the pope. People, read the book make your own decisions and stop following men seeking power behind a pulpit. That applies to Americans voting for leaders rather then good pulpit speakers as well. Take the time to see through the BS and then you will see real change. It all starts with you. SO OCCUPY YOU

    December 7, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  8. There are no gods!

    jesus does not exist. Your whole argument is based on fables. Fables that do not account for the corruption of REAL humans. Next I guess you should write an article about how Rod Blagojevich is like your made up jesus and should be acquitted because his intentions were jesus like? There are no gods, jesus is a lie!

    December 7, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • Justice

      Really? Your argument in inherently flawed. You provide a conclusion with no supporting premises. Different atheist-same argument. Are Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle also myths as you suggest Jesus is? They came ~400 years before Jesus. Where are their graves? Strange how people accept their lives and teachings yet they came long before Christ. You've presented nothing but your mere opinion. Try practicing tolerance for others who are different than you. Perhaps we would not have so much division in the country. God bless you.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  9. ConsiderThis

    If you think this is a "Free market" parable, then you clearly don't understand the free market. The key point of this parable is that everyone started with *equal opportunity*. Establishing that equal opportunity is what the Occupy movement is all about . . .

    December 7, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  10. disgustedNY

    Apparently Tony was not paying attention at mass when the priest/pastor told him greed is a sin and to treat your neighbors as you would want yourself treated. Now it's "mass according to Tony".

    December 7, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  11. 21k

    perkins, a top 1%-er, is to us what the tribal elders was to ja-sus: the ones who suck as much money out of the economy as possible for their own benefit. who supplies that wealth? the remaining 99%. anyone who wants to disrupt that redistribution of wealth is an enemy of the 1%. same now as it ever was.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  12. MaryM

    If you read the majority of the comments posted heree, it seems that Perkins does not know what he is talking about. He is just another right wing christian blowhard that says he speaks for GOD.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  13. Michael Leonardo

    A good thonging, oh, oh pain. Enjoy judgement Tony

    December 7, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  14. Deep North

    God and Business....way to rile up the masses!

    December 7, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  15. remoteDef

    It's OK, nobody expects a privileged conservative Christian white male to understand the Occupy movement.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  16. Normal Human Being

    Wow. Someone decided to actually post this on CNN, huh?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  17. Tony Perkins is an idoit

    Stop telling Jesus what to do Mr. Perkins. If anything, if Jesus was around he would be more disgusted by people like you mis-using his name

    December 7, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  18. Nitalynn

    Well he may not have been an occupier but he definitely did not have much faith that the rich could get to heaven. Something about getting through the eye of a needle if my memory serves correctly. This leads me to believe that he would not be a Republican!

    December 7, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  19. beat your plowshares into swords

    I think Jesus would have beat his plow share into a sword and started to take heads at this point. It is really our last resort to save what is left of our society and way of life. We have to start killing from the top down until the 1% agree to our demands or they manage to kill off the 99%.

    It is a war. The walls of Jericho is Wallstreet. general Joshua is about to blow his megaphone and topple the corrupt evil greedy tyrants.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • NONATHEIST

      "We have to start killing from the top down until the 1% agree to our demands"
      You are a terrorist. You have no moral authority. You may indulge yourself with angry delusions of vengeance, but you are a moral degenerate with no real power. Learn to accept your own self-pity and childish tantrums, without delusions that you will actually accomplish anything more than hurting people. That would be the beginning of a better life for you.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  20. lv_nonanon

    2,000 years ago the Romans just executed opponents, including Jesus.

    They were just slightly more extreme than Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, but only by a bit.

    So, Jesus was executed the moment he looked like he could have an 'Occupy,' wasn't he?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Nitalynn

      The Roman governor did not want to execute Jesus. It was the priest who forced his hand.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:20 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.