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. Wanderer81

    You tell 'em!...if Jesus Christ came back he would have told all these lazy bums to go find a job. Shame on TR. Oh wait...these were our Great Grandparents. Awww shucks.
    (warning: loud scratch at 7:42)

    December 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  2. Gayla Groom

    There is so much wrong with this article it's not worth the work of pointing it all out. But I must say that the fact that you've interpreted Jesus as saying we should serve our rich masters is particularly disgusting.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Disgusted

      LOL – so true.
      (Disgusted w. the article).

      December 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  3. Steve Robinett

    This is the reason why I sometimes pray: "Jesus, protect me from some of your followers"

    December 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Disgusted

      I don't think they are truly His followers... 😉 Know what I mean? Jesus' followers, Jesus' teachings are completely opposite to what these clowns are "preaching". They seem to have missed the "shall not" in the commandment "Thou shall not use the name of the Lord your God in vain".

      December 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • T Lane


      December 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  4. Dee

    Mr. Perkins, I applaud your efforts, but an article like this on CNN is about as useful as having Glenn Beck explain the same thing to the usual readers of this site (I came across this article from an external link). I do applaud CNN for having a different opinion on their site, even if most of their audience wouldn't agree with it.

    For me it always comes down to which arguments are proposing coercion and which are promoting freedom of choice. God has always strongly promoted freedom of choice (this does not equate to freedom from consequence). The free market is the best system for imperfect mankind because it rewards merit. It does so less when burdened with globs of socialistic practices and mercantilism (also known as crony capitalism). I don't have the right to another man's earnings, nor should I demand another man provide me with products and services (like Obamacare). You can claim the parable of the talents or "minas" as he calls them isn't about money, but it works the same. For great effort and sacrifice comes great reward. It doesn't mean it will come instantly or easily. Just as in school if you do average work you get an average grade, so in business are you going to have to go above and beyond what the normal person would do if you want success. A few businessmen have done this in an illegal way and they should be arrested. But most have put in 80 hour weeks for years, sacrificing vacations and recreation (like playing vid games and surfing the net) to accomplish their dreams. I applaud them and they deserve their wealth. I hope to one day become one of them. But in the meantime I'm not going to point my finger at the job creators with disgusting envy dripping from my lips crying "unfair! unfair!" all the while doing average work and somehow expecting a six figure salary should somehow drop into my lap. After all, Thessalonians says, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." And also, from Exodus "Thou shalt not steal." Sounds like God expects us to work for what we have, not take it from others, even the rich. I know this is probably falling on deaf ears, but I wanted Mr. Perkins to know that at least a few people got the message.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Brett

      You're so misguided and deluded, I'm not going to waste much time responding to you. But I will say to your point that people have the freedom of choice, but not the freedom of consequence...If that is true, then why don't you and the other sheep let God determine what my consequences are for my choices, and YOU stay the hell out of it.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • G.M.

      Well said.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • G.M.

      I should clarify – well said, Dee.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  5. Lynn

    Tony. Even if we disagreed with Jesus's alleged take on OWS ...
    do you think that those of us Christians who support OWS can just "vote" Him
    out of office? Sure, us OWS supporters will just run right out and "vote"
    for the other guy now..that should work.

    Really. Tony.?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  6. Larry

    Tony, you're an idiot. And a liar. Clearly a B(iblical) S(cholar) Artist.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  7. Steve

    Mr. Perkins in my opinion your article is a load of you know what. The rest of you, I'm sorry you had to see this article. Its just so bad I litterally can't take it seriously.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Astrid

    This is absolutely disgusting and appalling. Do not "spin" the Bible. Do not distort Jesus' words to suit your own wants. It is completely, incredibly clear from Jesus' words that He had no interest in people going out and making as much money as possible. He had some very specific things to say about the meek and the poor. This opinion article is a glaringly gross example of a human deciding that he backs rich people and then twisting Jesus' words to back him up. I do not think Jesus would be pleased. At all.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Steve

    Appollo the sun god is in support of global warming.
    And Santa Claus is a smoker.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  10. Tom

    "No, the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means 'be occupied with business.'"

    Well, Jesus didn't speak Greek, so who really knows what he said, or meant?

    December 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  11. Megan

    Actions speak louder than words. During Christ's time in Jerusalem, he threw the moneychangers out of the temple. The moneychangers were roughly the equivalent of modern day bankers, who lent money to the poor at high interest rates and charged a flat tax that was a particular hardship for the poor (note the story of the widow's mite). In throwing these moneychangers out, Jesus was protesting an economic system much like ours, in which the wealthy benefited at the expense of the poor. On top of that, religious leaders had overlooked a portion of Jewish law that required a twice-per-century wealth redistribution.

    To interpret the parable of the talents as an endorcement of the free market requires almost complete ignorance of the rest of Christ's actions and teachings, as well as of much of Old Testament prophesy. Jesus said you cannot love both God and money. Perkins has clearly communicated his heartfelt allegiance to the latter.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Gandalf also insisted that Frodo through his ring into a volcano.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Lagos

      Way to lecture someone else and completely lose perspective of the passages you're referencing. Jesus threw them out because they were conducting business in his Father's house. Seriously, read whatever translation you want and try to justify the main message any different way.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  12. Steve

    A conservative so-called Christian misinterpreting the Bible to try to justify his own very un-Christian political views? That's a big surprise.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Lagos

      Someone trying to sound enlightened by using his own conclusions to justify his conclusions? Thanks for setting him straight, moron.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  13. Moses

    Tony Perkins might be concerned with the things of this world. In this parable Jesus is talking about the wise use of talents for the extension of the kingdom of God.

    The parable clearly illustrates that , all mortals will be held accountable to their maker on how they used their talents for HIS kingdom.

    December 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  14. Lou Kavar

    It takes quite a bit of rationalization to believe that Jesus supported the idea of a free market. The concept itself would have been foreign in Middle Eastern cultures two thousand years ago. The primary economic system was bartering for goods and services.

    The passage used as justification for Christian approach for free market capitalism begins with the three slaves charged with a duty and ends with the three men still as slaves. That’s clearly not a free market system. Perhaps Perkins would like to use the passage to justify slavery, but slavery would still be immoral.

    Rather than straining to rationalize a justification for something that fundamentally exploits others (a market economy), perhaps a very clear statement by Jesus should be considered: “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Luke 18:22 What statement of Jesus about personal wealth could possibly be clearer than that?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  15. HawaiiGuest

    About this article,

    BIggest load of crap I have had the misfortune to read in a long time.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Did you already forget about last week's "5 reasons why christians should be okay about Twilight" article?

      December 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I did thanks for reminding me must have blocked it out.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  16. danielwalldammit

    Absolute tripe coming from the Family research Council? Who'd have guessed!

    December 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  17. Nor

    Anti-Christian rhetoric from an anti-Christ.

    The truth is that the parable Perkins refers to is not about money or the "free market". It was about the message of Christ and spreading that message. Christ was NOT a free-market proponent, was NOT anti-collective, and if anything He really WAS an occupier, as evidenced by his performance in the temple. I think it's fair to describe that performance as "trashing public property". If one were to read the Gospels honestly, which Perkins will refuse to do, one discovers that Jesus had ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN ECONOMICS. AT ALL. Jesus just doesn't care about your stuff. It's your SOUL He cares about. If your soul is too tied to money, markets, and economics, then your rewards are here on earth in this life, not in the afterlife. If, however, you "build for yourself treasure in Heaven", as Christ taught us to do, then your rewards are in the afterlife, for all eternity. How do you do that? "Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then, come and follow me."

    Read it again, Mr. Perkins. You missed some stuff.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. enemy of dogma

    Patrick, Jesus didnt say "shall not." He said its hard to enter the kingdom of God, but all things are possible with God. Please read that part of Mark again.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Patrick

    Since when are FISHING and FARMING exclusively "free-market activities"? What Jesus says is that the rich shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. SHALL NOT. Think about that.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  20. enemy of dogma

    This articles' take on Jesus is so ridiculous that there's not enough room here to address it. Most of the necessary ground has already been covered by other posters – the absurdity of taking Jesus' economic metaphor literally being the most important point. The parable has nothing to do with actual monetary investments, but rather investments in God. Fundamentalists and evangelicals are almost always politically conservative (why is that?). Its hilarious how they try to make Jesus' teaching support their socio-economic values, when the contrast between Jesus' views and theirs is readily apparent.

    I notice that a lot of people on this blog "copy and paste" the Gospels to their minds without recognizing that the books were written by people who had an agenda that did not exist for Jesus. Sheeps and Goats, eternal damnation...these things represent the judgmental needs of people (and Matthew) but not the teaching of Jesus. Both extremes of views on Jesus have been represented here, from those who think Jesus was a "fairy tale" (clearly an atheist who can't deal with the historical reality of person 99.9% of historians argree is historical) to those who think Jesus claimed to be God incarnate (the Jewish Messiah was the spritual son, not actual or literal son). Extremes are always an extreme distance from the truth.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Jesus existed but his story is a fairy tale. No proof otherwise. There are just as much proofs for Jesus like figures who were sacrificed and rose after 3 days, before a man named Jesus was born.

      December 8, 2011 at 12:23 am |
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