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. What?

    and I am firmly under the belief that Jesus abhors being cast with idiots like the Family research Council

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  2. billtouch

    I think Jesus would call them Moneychangers. They take in money, manipulate money, use money, keep some of it for their purpose and produce nothing for their labors. The only difference between then and now, is that what Jesus objected to was that it was done in the Temple. People that make their living off other people's labor should not be allowed to control the country. For those that say: There has to be capital to produce product, I say that you produce to get capital then you expand. The Amish have demonstrated this method works quite well. That way, you do not end up with the all powerful corporations who have no concern for people, no concern for this country, just the almighty dollar.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Andy

    He's right.. Jesus would have supported, corporate greed, backstabbing, and outsourcing millions of jobs just so the greedy CEO goofs could save a penny.


    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  4. SuZieCoyote

    I am so cheered that there are so many voices on this forum willing to speak truth to this abysmal hipocrite.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  5. asdf

    Bets this dude if born 150 years ago would be explaining how God loves slavery?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Lou

    Didn't Jesus say "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven."? I rest my case.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. Jim Keller

    Tony Perkins is the president of a Southern Poverty Law Center recognized HATE GROUP!

    Why does CNN persist in giving this idiot air time? Why not go solicit op-ed pieces from grand wizards of the KKK while you're at it?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  8. You've got to be kidding me

    Tony Perkins? That's your idea of an objective source, CNN?

    Give me a break. He's one of the biggest hypocrites who's ever lived.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Alex

    This bozo writes for CNN? Wow, really?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  10. Johann

    Really .... this BS is front page news on CNN??

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  11. landusx

    Wow!! God has just spoken for Jesus?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  12. Justin

    Why is this filed under belief blog? Tony Perkins is not a religious leader. He is a politician. Is it because he mentions Jesus? Regardless of ones opinion on the OWS movement/protests, I think it is important to note a few things about Mr. Perkins. First, as I mentioned before he is not a minister or religious leader. He is head of an organization, The Family Research Council, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. http://splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/the-hard-liners# He was also responsible for violating campaign law when he tried to buy KKK Grand Wizard David Duke's mailing list and then cover it up while running as Woody Jenkins campaign for the Louisiana state legislature. http://www.thenation.com/article/justice-sunday-preachers. I think someone who wants to associate himself with hate groups like the KKK, don't speak with authority on the views of Jesus Christ. In fact it is a disgusting blaspheme for someone like Tony Perkins to invoke Jesus's name in any sense, let alone to use it as a bludgeon against a largely peaceful protest movement.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  13. Heretic897

    Hahahaha "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 – morelike it works for our Corporate Overlords and their benefit. What a complete load of BS!! Hear that Christians – Do your Christian duty, get in line and submit to your Corporate Overlords, you existance on earth will suck, but hey you'll get a mansion of gold in heaven right!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  14. asdf

    And on the seven day God said he who votes Democrat shall be cast into the pits of hell.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  15. Ronald

    I think the Family Research Council doesn't speak for everyone thats for sure and they should remember when Jesus through out the tax collectors and money lenders from the temple. I applaud the Occupiers for trying to throw out the trash in Washington. Are you listening GOP/Tea Party?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  16. Martin

    This family research group disgusts me. They are the American equivalent of the Taliban in many ways trying to shove their version of their religion down everyone's throats. Really don't give a damn what this idiots opinion of the Occupy movement is.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  17. joe

    how does mr. perkins know what jesus would do? i always get uncomfortable when people mix religion and politics. i really don't want our great country to turn into another iran or the like.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  18. Scott

    And thus said the LORD: If thine servants are foolish enough to purchase a house with a 510 ARM, sell it to those idiots on the false idea that thine house is a perfect investment for thy future and that thee can always sell thine home if they cannot payeth their mortgage.

    And when thee convinces poor and middle families to purchase these homes thee knowest they cannot afford, protect thine self by packaging this bad debt as good and selling it to companies that pay for it with my flock's pensions. For I AM THE LORD and I sayeth whatever you can do to support those who hateth the icky gays and Mexicans who not knoweth their place, thy must by making up stories like this so that thy GOP Christians' narrow world view remains intact-eth and unchallenged-eth. For clearly Jesus was talking about Credit Default Swaps and Sub Prime Mortgages, and he approveth of gaming the system-eth so that the rich get bails outs and poor get foreclosed. SO THUS MY CHILDREN: Always remember that Jesus hateth the poor, for THE LORD believes that morals and self-worth are proportional to thee balance of thine interest-bearing checking account.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • whoeversaid9

      Scott – You're my hero. Awesome.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. CNN

    Hello good people,

    We have heard your complaints and completely empathisize. Obviously all the comments being made here, driving up internet traffic and creating discussion was the last thing we wanted to do and we're very sorry. Please accept out deepest apologies. We're going to wrap up shop so get your last digs in, tomorrow CNN will be gone.

    Thank you and have a good day.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Religizz

      It sounds like this guy hasn't read the bible. All that feeding the hungry and curing the sick and self sacrifice and turning over the moneychangers tables in the temple...obviously Jesus was just like me, a D-bag.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  20. The Lord of Excess

    IF "Jesus" even existed, he was one of the plethora of ranting street preachers of his day. There were dozens of profits during his era making pronouncements, etc. This article is typical Christian dribble, apologetics. Quoting the poor translation, of a translation, of a third hand account written down decades after Jesus died (again if the man actually even existed) as proof that Jesus would or would not identify with a movement that is about human compassion? Seriously? CNN should be ashamed to print something like this, it has no place on a purported "news" site even in the religious section or as an editorial. For those who are saying "Jesus said" (Dave Jaipersaud) ... really? Did Jesus say? What is written in the new testament which who knows if any of it was actually said by this person who might or might not have existed, preaches a love thy neighbor philosophy. Certainly "render unto caesar" type language exists, but that is taking it out of context (which Christians love to do) the overall message of the "Christ" was one of love, compassion and sharing ... not one of greedily hording, not one of justifying unprecedented excess that can not be justified by simply "working hard" ... anyone who says that if the man who supposedly said all the things he said in the new testament would be anything other than a tree hugging, far left wing liberal, is a lair ... period. Jesus would be an ultra, ultra, left wing tree-hugging, love thy neighbor ... "hippy" ... period. Nothing any white, starched, up-tight, puritanical, wanna-be Donald Trump says ... can change that. One thing that the buddy Christ Images have depicted appropriately all along is the hippy Jesus would be despite the terrible inaccuracy again if he existed, was likely darker skinned, curly haired, typically middle eastern Jewish, not some long haired blondish Nordic looking guy. This article does demonstrate on thing very well and that is Christianity is built on this horrible hypocrisy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 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.