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. @omtndlsswrds

    "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." – Matt. 6:24 (KJV)


    Matthew 19:16-30

    "16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

    23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    27Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."

    December 7, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  2. jacy tx

    I just finish reading my bible, a Kings James version, and mine doesn't say anything about "Occupy", mine says "engage in business until I come", it is the parable of the talents, trying to teach how God gives you talents and how you make them grow or just hide them and not do anythig with them and complain all the time. It teaches of how you use talents God gives you to glorify His Kingdom. IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH OCCUPY WALL STREET!!, please stop putting your twisted spin on to God's word!!

    December 7, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  3. Bruce

    This is an excellent example of warped eisegesis, a hermeneutic which reads into the text a set of presuppositions which force a faulty interpretation which is totally foreign to the text itself. Mr. Perkins interprets a parable as an allegory. His hermeneutic is a prime example of allowing one’s politics to inform one’s understanding of the gospel rather than allowing the gospel to inform one’s politics. Jesus said, “The kingdom is among you,” (Lukw `7:21), i.e., where people allow their lives to be shaped by the Holy Spirit and the gospel, there the kingdom is . . . on earth as it is in heaven.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  4. Philip Boese

    Perkins states the point of OWS but he himself in his materialistic viewpoint misses it. OWS is about getting the corruption out of our system, getting back to democracy. Government of the people, the ordinary people, not government of the heavily monied, is the goal. Jesus was not encouraging everyone to strive for riches on Earth, was he? Use the talents He gave you to be productive so you can support your family, if you are able, and have enough left over to help those in need. What a crock of a Christian Perkins is.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  5. JDBroadhead

    Hucksters like Tony Perkins from the Dobson FRC organization serve to remind us the truth in P. T. Barnum's famous saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." For everyone who hangs on his every word, you might be better served in actually reading the Bible for yourselves, and not letting base opportunists like Perkins tells you what it means.

    "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." - 1 Timothy 6:10

    December 7, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  6. Stargazer

    People like Tony Perkins are the precise reason fewer and fewer young people are attending church services. We're just not buying the behavior wherein the far right claims with one side of their mouth to love everyone, while with the other side of their mouth, they bully and domineer anyone who doesn't agree with them. The faster the right wing learns this, the better off everyone will be—we are grown-ups, and we can decide our beliefs for ourselves.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  7. Cary

    One of the best and most coherent responses to this article can be found here: http://onesimus78.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/would-jesus-occupy Summary: "This is a travesty of biblical interpretation and exegesis."

    December 7, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  8. Mark

    Camel/Rich Man
    Needles's Eye/Heaven

    Oh, also, I fail to be convinced that this one book of myths that Perkins likes should inform all my ethical & moral judgments

    December 7, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  9. Tom

    lol, Jesus occupied Jerusalem, provided free healing services, fed the poor, and provided free religious services without even passing a collection plate. That is, until the political elites had him arrested.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • jacy tx


      December 7, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  10. Reality

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say? Ditto for T. Perkins!!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  11. Michael

    What a sad commentary on Tony's beliefs. To me the minas were talents (and I believe that is how it is often translated). The talents were not meant to line ones pocket but to build up the kingdom of God (which can happen in capitalism, socialism, and even communism). Another of Jesus's parables talks about workers being asked to work in the fields. Those who worked 2 hours got paid the same as those who worked all day. Does this sound free market? Or more communism. Actually, it has nothing to do with money but with entering the heaven. Jesus also said give up all you have and follow me (is this free market) as well as "it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." So why would Jesus be so obsessed with a servant making so much money? would that no make the person more fit for hell than for heaven? Also with Tony's logic: Jesus was a serious slacker, no good, do nothing lazy piece of occupier trash because Jesus never earn one mina in his life!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  12. Jesus was a capitalist?

    Jesus? Free markets? Capitalism?...how about the guy who knocked over the money changers tables in the temple...how about the guy who owned nothing, shared everything and most inportantly looked after the poor and those less fortunate.

    Perkins is an absolute fraud. You and all your morally corrupt right wing friends are headed straight to hell. Enjoy the heat!

    December 7, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Bob

      Christianity is just another god fraud, one of thousands in history. No evidence for its claims, and the church is always looking to load up its coffers.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  13. The Truth

    I find it unfortunate that part of the human condition is to believe in some sort of higher power, we must be hard wired for it. Trotting out Jesus for an modern economic debate is like threatening a child that Freddy Kruger will come for them if they don't eat their peas. Only the weak believe they have an imaginary friend who lives in the sky and grants wishes based on how hard you pray for it and follow ancient rules. I wish I could live long enough to see a time when humans no longer are afraid of their own shadows and realize that religion is just a silly diversion. When you die there is nothing, it's just lights out. All of your efforts to align yourself with a mythical being who will take you to an eternal paradise are an exercise in your own vanity and inability to control your fear.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  14. J.S. Morales

    That's a nice perspective on the matter. While I hesitate to say Christ espouses any particular economic or political system, I certainly don't see any problems with the free-market system and Christianity. It isn't perfect, but no system designed by man is, and it is certainly better than every other alternative we've seen.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  15. Joanne

    Correction: The scripture qouted in this article is wrong.
    Luke 19:13 in the King James Version states "...make use of it till I come." Jesus was the ultimate Investment planner. He was teaching his disciples how to handle the money that was given to them. Nowhere in this version of the bible does it indicate "Occupy" Nor in the 'New' King James version. In the New King James version, Jesus said "do business till' I come." I think the writer of this article should double check his scriptures before he writes an article like this.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  16. The Truth

    I won't read the bible because I don't like fiction. God is make-believe, anyone who believes in such nonsense is wasting their life on folly.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Eddie

      And any true skeptic has room in their world view that not everything can be explained by science.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • The Truth

      Eddie – give me an example of something that can't be explained by math, science or logic.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Chris

      Why are you wasting your time tell people they are wasting their life? Don't you have more meaningful things to do with your limited time here? I find few things more confusing that atheist evangelism.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • jacy tx


      December 7, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • jacy tx


      December 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  17. Joseph

    Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Bob

      And if you don't, his nasty old daddy will torture you forever in hell. Barbaric religion you've got there.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  18. Zex

    I wasn't aware that CNN let known hate groups write pieces for them now.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  19. Chris

    Actually, A pastor friend of mine posted this blog, one response to it was.....Perkins is at absolute best half right, but here's a mostly sub-theological critique of Occupy–look at yourself before you demonize another. The 1% is nothing but a bogeyman. Or a more theological one–they can't tell the difference between law and gospel, and so they make of the law an idol. As do interpretations of parables that proclaim Jesus to be either collectivist or anti-collectivist. If justice is merely seizing the centers of worldly power in the service of one party or another, then we are without hope. For the time being, we help and serve one another–and that means to help our neighbors not only to keep what wealth they have but even to increase it! The justice that is to come belongs to Christ alone–and therefore the only Occupation that matters is his coming into the world, outside the law (and so opposed to all who put their hope in enshrinement of the proper law, whether the law of the 99% or that of the 1%). We prevail not by Occupying, but by being Occupied.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  20. Jirris

    Anytime anyone says 'Jesus was a This' or 'Jesus was a That' and this or that are modern concepts of economics or government, that person is trying to sell you something. That person is trying to sell you on what they think is the best modern method of handling money or government or what have you, and trotting out a religious leader/deity as a taudry cheap spokesman. The person selling you something has no actual respect for christ; no, they'd rather use him as a soapbox. When a non-religious person such as myself calls you out on blasphemy, you know you've screwed up. Tony, shut your slanderous piehole.

    December 7, 2011 at 10:15 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.