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. Nicholas Roosevelt

    The protest is that there is a systemic oppression in our society that does not grant space for them to create economy or occupy by doing business. Take the whole of the Gospels and check out the feeding of the five thousand, the many mansions, yes there are winners and losers while we create economy in the meantime, but realizing God's reign means that there is justice for all. I would like you to write more about that vision than one that trashes the very people fighting to make economy, fighting t participate as Jesus asked them to in the world.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Steve

      The people who drive the economy ultimately have lots of money. The money is the proof...just like a fit body is proof that you make fitness a priority.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  2. logan5

    Can this man be anymore transparent! So rather than impugn the fact that the Christian Right is one of the wealthiest organizations in the country, this guy would actually celebrate that fact. All with the excuse that it is for his gods work. *SIGH* This has to be one of the more disgusting articles I've read in a while. Doesn't it say somewhere in the bible that Jesus was AGAINST the hoarding and glorification of money?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  3. JenniferM

    Perkins, Dobson and the rest of them worship money and power, not God.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  4. Joe G

    Oh great. Here come the proto-fascist Charlatans again. Just in time for Christmas and election season.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. Cathy Martin

    Yes! Jesus would have been in the 1% crowd (actually 0.01%)! If he were around today, he'd be managing a hedge fund and flying around in private jets! "Blessed are the meek" is soooo 1st Century, and modern technology is able to shrink a camel so small, it can fit through the eye of a needle. Wasn't Jesus the one who said "Greed is good!" By the way, Tony, how's your mother doing, still stuffed and sitting on that rocking chair upstairs? I'm sure she quite agrees with everything you say.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Erik

      Great response, Cathy!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  6. donuts

    I think Jesus certainly have been an "occupy" supporter...he bucked the Romans...bucked the temple leaders (Jews that were in charge because the Romans delegated authority)....would have bucked Wall Street. No doubt.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  7. Waiting_His_Return

    This story on CNN.... I knew you animals would take it like this. BF, you are as far from being a Christian as the rest of the atheist on this site. The ones that posted their hate yet say they are Christians are the pharisees of modern times. I hope you people find Jesus, but I doubt you can. Your too far from the truth.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  8. kiki

    Cnn...the new Onion.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  9. Adam

    What a retarded news article...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  10. Patrick Williams

    CNN should disclose that he served as a State Senator in LA as a Republican. He is more of a Republican politician than a minister. His commentary is worthless.

    Iti is like asking the devil to comment on what Jesus meant by the things He said.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  11. Name*The Independent

    But he was a liberal

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • asdf

      Translation: I feel guilty and tell myself Jesus would want me and my white country club buddies that look just like me to be obscenely rich.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  12. jonny

    what are you talking about?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  13. Grant

    So very sad and typical. Defining the word "occupy" with it's historical meaning is just another way of "massaging the numbers". If you would like to hold true to historical meanings of words Mr.Perkins, PLEASE go find out what the term "Christ" meant when it was used during all of these religious writings. "Christ" was the Hebrew word for King. Still holds true to your christian slant, but dig a little deeper and you'll find it was used purely as a political term. Given your logic, we should all now call Obama "Christ".

    You are a small man Mr. Perkins and you use language that suits your needs, regardless of the accuracy; a true neocon.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  14. Chuck

    Did that third guy get a chance to mention that the first and second guy made bribes and promises to stack the economic deck in their favor until there was nothing left for him to do but stick the coin under his pillow?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Riley Helsen

    "He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."
    –Proverbs 22:16

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Steve

      In other words: the poor deserve to be poor....poverty is an earned state, just as wealth is an earned state. I agree.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Jim Rousch

      Living proof that Christ would be in the Occupy movement.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  16. Ross

    No one can say what Jesus's opinion would have been. Did you ever meet Jesus?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  17. ObamaJoe

    ----Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.----–

    guard your heart Tony,,,,,,Jesus is not a marketer

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      It's about the fair game rule.

      Tony loves Greed "winner".

      December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  18. bluffcitybritt

    CNN, why would you allow a commenter from one of the most biased, close-minded, and hateful groups in this country? They might call themselves the "Family Council" but anyone who does the slightest bit of research sees that they are nothing more than a religious propaganda machine.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  19. Jim Rousch

    How many times did Christ condemn the wealthy?

    The Family Research Council is one of the reasons why so many people hate Christianity, as Christ healed people for free and broke a few noses when He saw what people were doing in His Father's house.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • GMD4219

      Well said Brother.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  20. jimbo

    Mary had s#x with Joseph and lied about it, that is all you need to know about the Jesus story.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jim Rousch

      We'll find out together, won't we?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
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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.