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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. Richard

    Jesus also talked about the "stiff neckec republicanser, I mean pharisees. Jesus said feed my children, yet the reopublicans do everything they can to put more children in the ranks of poverty. Thanks to georgie boy, 8 million children went into[poverty. Anyone can read whatever they want into the bilbe. Mr Perkin, what did Jesus say about abortion. I'm sure you can find some parable which addresses it. You really need to go to a good divinity school and not the one Spermin Herman attended.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Jeff

      By the parable that Mr. Perkins cites he should be claiming that not only was Jesus not an "occupier" but that those who are should be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as the worthless slave was in the parable. But he does not. Why? He certainly would be justified in his biblically literalist frame of reference to say that all who don't earn a "profit" in life will be condemned.
      Perhaps, Mr. Perkins should read a bit farther in Matthew 25 to verses 31-46 where Jesus speaks of separating the sheep from the goats! The sheep (much to their surprise) are welcomed into the heavenly banquet hall and the goats are equally surprised at their condemnation. Both ask the same question: “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” But what separates the sheep from the goats is the compassion the sheep show for "the least of these". "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
      We care for God through our care for each other. Our action or inaction toward the poor, the marginalized and the suffering are what defines us in the end.
      Jesus, far from being a free-marketer, was concerned with the poor and the marginalized. I believe he even got so upset at the corruption of the Temple (which was a place of commerce as well as religion) that he turned over the money changers tables and drove out the merchants and he called the place a den of thieves. Maybe Mr. Perkins should read his Bible a bit closer. Oh, by the way, they killed Jesus for that!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  2. Really?

    From Wikipedia – In 2010, the Family Research Council—under Perkins' leadership—was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[10][11] FRC President Tony Perkins dismissed the hate group designation as the result of a political attack by a "liberal organization" and "the left's smear campaign of conservatives".[12]
    While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  3. Dave

    Yeah, Jesus was preaching a free-market philosophy. That's what he was doing. Perkins, get a clue.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  4. funnyboy

    where did jesus get over $2,000? more magic? I don't think that the son of man was into robbing banks, and he surely didn't gainfully work for the man. jesus would have been in the tents with the rest of them railing against the establishment and telling anecdoctal stories.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  5. blizzardo

    ...wait are we talking about the same guy? Jesus? the guy that was crucified for flipping tables and protesting at the MARKET?

    I also like the use of the phrase Free Marketer instead of Capitalist, this guy got the GOP memo on talking about the protests.

    I get 2 things from this;
    1- People that make statements like this have nothing but contempt for the people they are trying to confuse.
    2- If Jesus was around today he would probably be crucified, in no time, in some form or another, once again, by people just like this guy that would tell us he wasnt really the lord ....deja vu anyone?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Daniel

    Equal opportunity? Consider this: For those of you who have played the game Monopoly, how many would agree to sit out the game for two hours - then, after all the properties are already purchased, get your $1,500 (same as everyone else) and start playing by the same rules as everyone else? That's fair, right? Now, consider 300 years of slavery, separate but equal, pre-civil rights - and even the GI Bill after WWII - sure, blacks could go to college and buy a house, but only attend black colleges and buy houses in black neighborhoods - not the new fancy suburbs that were cropping up all over the U.S. The amount of weath that created (for whites, mostly) through real estate from the 1950's to the 1990's is astounding. Equal opportunity for all? C'mon Tony. You don't have a clue about history, the Bible, or the true message of Christianity.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  7. IndyNC

    It isn't about everyone getting a trophy, it's about the policical corruption and greed that has enabled the elite to remain on top rather than actually face things like market pressure, it's about "wicked bankers" who splurge other peoples money and demand a bail out when they gamble foolishly.

    It's about one set of rules for the privlidged and one set for the rest of us.

    I seem to remember Jesus dealing with money lenders... Jesus abhoring what was being done in the markets and the politics within the temple.

    I seem to remember jesus healing the poor and working to feed and shelter those who had neither.

    Funny how conservatives seem to only see things in their own light.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Jee-zus

    Umm, how the h3ll does Perkins know what Jesus was thinking?!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  9. Robert

    This is one of the dumbest Biblical analyses I've ever read. Pretending based on one parable that is explicitly about investing in the growth of God's Kingdom (not asset growth) that Jesus was a modern free marketer is moronic. This is especially true in light of the extremely collectivist tendencies of the early church, and the many other things Jesus said about wealth that make it supremely evident that someone living for profit is way off the mark in terms of adopting kingdom values. Christians who buy into this kind of crap are following teaching every bit as heretical and damaging as any gospel of wealth, gnosticism, etc.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Dave

      Perkins is too stupid to understand a parable is metaphorical.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • You're Right

      You're Right

      December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  10. ProjectZ

    Jesus, a man never married, hung around 12 other men that were unmarried and drank wine, wore sandals and preached peace and love...HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A REPUBLICAN!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  11. jdunc

    Jesus threw the free marketers out of the temple. Let's make sure the right wing Christians, who only interpret the Bible for their benefit, don't make the presidency and the congress their temple! How they can interpret Jesus as a capitalist and free marketer is beyond me. Lets keep the Bill of Rights in America so we can all believe what we want without anyone making laws against our religious beliefs. Believe what you want, just don't try to make me believe or obey it!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Jackson Ward

      When are these people going to realize the no one is behind them. Stop crying and go get a job. Sitting in a park is unproductive for everyone and is embarrassing. Contribute to the common good by working hard, not crying about ......

      December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Dee Andrews

      Jesus through the money changers out of the temple. And the marketers who with the corrupt religious leaders of the time were requiring sacrificial offerings to "qualify" for the forgiveness they sought. Free marketers is a stretch.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  12. maine liberal

    But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property,

    12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

    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?

    Throught the Gospels Jesus denounced the politcal and economic authority of caesar.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • maine liberal

      22And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? 25And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

      33Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Clif

      Simply not true. Jesus tells us to respect our leaders and authorities. He even encourages us to invest in our system of government by paying taxes, something on 47% of people in America are doing.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • maine liberal

      Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

      The bank of jerusalem service charge on deposits would of wiped him out

      December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  13. boogerso

    This is terrible exegesis. The author picks and chooses which parts of the parable to hold to as metaphorical (the kingdom isn't here yet), and which to take literally (the free market system). And he totally fails to deal with Jesus' saying, in the first pronouncement of his ministry "The kingdom is at hand." I wonder if the author really believes what he is saying, or if it is just a sound bite to attack the other side?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • BUMbO

      Sounds like he's just like a bunch of other fakes- wanting the Bible to say something that it doesn't.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  14. Dave

    As if Tony Perkins would know what Jesus would do???

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Snow

      Isn't that that norm? that every true christian EXACTLY knows what Jesus would do and what he meant at every sermon..

      ... ??

      December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  15. Rob

    I always find it hilarious that people who never met and/or talked to Jesus feel the authority to speak for him. Get a clue, you religious idiots. Speak for yourself, NOT Jesus!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  16. SAM FROST

    i wanna punch this and his group.... Y Would anyone follow this groups interpetation of faith. Keep the movement going!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  17. CosmicC

    Gotta love scripture. You can find support for any position.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • BUMbO

      Everything can be misinterpreted if you use twisted, tainted logic and have selfish and greedy motives.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Erik G.

      Exactly! If anyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Fred Phleps, from Tony Perkins to the Occupy crowd can find inspiration and backing for their (very different) beliefs, then how is this book any moral guide at all?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. erikwdavis

    It's fascinating to me that everyone – except apparently the editors of this page – clearly see Perkins for the troll he is.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  19. jesus has left the building

    christians are fools.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  20. Ridiculous

    It's evident that Tony Perkins does not share the same values as most Christians. Free enterprise, while encourage progressive thinking and innovation, also encourages corruption and selfishness, two major flaws of the system which have come to light most substantially in the last couple of years. There is a reason why as the United States we claim separation from church and state, because often the two conflict with one another. Obviously, Tony Perkins has taken advantage of the free enterprise system in which he lives to exploit Christians who are crazy enough to follow him. While you can criticize Catholics for having a flawed system as well, at least some of their church leaders take a vow of poverty and wouldn't have the nerve to write such a controversial article.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • CosmicC

      The modern concept of a free market system is rooted in the post industrial revolution. Preceeding free market economies had little to do with the massive centralization of production that were made possible by technological innovation in the past two centuries.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:11 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.