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. Mary Davis

    God created the entire universe that we live in. Jesus died for every human being. The Ten Commandments are the guide for our
    lives. In this physical life we have here on Earth, only one choice has to be made. Do you choose God or not? I chose God. He
    gave his only son for me (a lowly human) that someday, I may join my Lord and Savior in Paradise for all eternity. God did this for
    me. When Jesus knocks at your heart's door, please let him in. Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me. The Bible is
    the blueprint for our lives. Remember this, God is perfect...............mortal man is not. God Bless Everyone Around The World!

    January 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  2. Secular Sanity

    What occupy is about:

    January 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  3. Captive Audience

    Bailouts to crooked companies. Is that what passes for the free market these days?

    December 30, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  4. amber

    I seriously can't believe this article was written. I've now seen it all.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  5. Meestor Yay

    Has this guy ever friggin' read the story of Jesus kicking the lenders out of the temple!? "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven." – Jesus Christ

    December 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  6. dougaussie

    jesus said " the world hates me because i tell it its deeds are evil". you need to get a grip of what wall street has done vs what occupiers have done. lets see, wall street trashed the whole world enviornmentally and financially vs a few thousand people who killed the grass and used the toilets and made a noise. Great greedy corporations that such the blood of the earth and leave it carbonised, plastified commercialised and fat, that have no social agenda other than greedy exploitation of everyone and everything backed by teams of lawyers and politicians in their pockets. The FREE MARKET is just an excuse to enslave the human race to the enrichment of a minority.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • ????

      If it weren't for these corporations you hate, you would not have a home, car, computer to vent your frustration on, TV to watch and most everything else that you take for granted. Also, little people like myself are part owners in some of these corporations. If you think government is the answer, name one government agency that is efficiently and profitably operated. You can't.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  7. cbld

    "to be occupied by business," i've never directly seen so many people doing important work for no money as with the occupy movements.

    December 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Dawn

    I was so frustrated when I read this, that I had to write a blog about it.


    December 12, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  9. Stu

    Jesus was a rebel and said and did things that stand oppositie of the claptrap that Tony Perkins spews out in a twisted view of Christianity. He convienently leaves out the part about Jesus throwing out the money changers at the temple...which is a really accurate portrayal of Occupy Wall Street goals regarding the thievery and fraud committed by them in the two recent financial system collapses. Besides, as OWS highlights, there is no Free Market System, it is a perversion of the rules of that system and replaced by criminal behavior, buying influence in Congress to weight the system in their favor and in direct contradiction to Perkins' parable, has used other's money to produce absolutly nothing of value except more money in the CDWOs and Derivitives market. Christ is no where to be found in the real story of that parable. OWS is the masses begininning to rise to attack the elevation of money over all other values and subvert the real workings of Christ in our communities. He is very dangerous as is anyone who believes in his perverted portrayal of morality. But then again, Christ said this about those who preach in His name but are not of him. Perkins fits the bill.

    December 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  10. Ryan

    I never thought about the fact that Jesus told the disciples to "occupy" the world until he returned and how that relates to the occupy movement. Many people seem to be a part of this movement and do not know what it is about. I found some more info about how the BIble's truths relate to things that have been going on recently as well: http://bibleistrue.net

    December 10, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Stu

      Ryan, read my response in the posted replys. You are very mistaken and relate more to OLD TESTMENTARIANISM than the New Testament. You appear to be far from Christ as does Perkins.

      December 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  11. PRISM 1234

    This article is absolutely nauseating!
    I always felt like wearing a gas mask wouldn't do being around one of his type..... This article is obvious WHY!
    Those hypocrites really think that God is like them !
    Oh, boy.....there is a surprise comming to those kind, and it won't be what they think!

    December 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  12. Doug J.

    Please remember that Tony Perkins does not speak for the vast majority of Christians. Unfortunately he has twisted religion to match his political views. Jesus would never, ever be a "free market" conservative. He picks out certain parts of scripture that work for him – nothing new there. I wonder why he left out the part about how Jesus felt about the money lenders?

    December 10, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. Robert P

    This is directed more at CNN and I certainly hope they read it –

    My family have been long time watchers of CNN, but that will now change. As they continue to use poor judgement in having Tony Perkins, the President of FRC, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group (or others like him) appear constantly on their programing, then CNN is no long a business I, or my family, will patronize by watching. CNN would never consider giving a hateful anti-Semite air time to talk about their hate for the Jewish people. They certainly wouldn't have on a Klan member to promote the idea of denying rights to the African-American community. They would never allow someone that worked to end the voting rights of women. So, why do they allow multiple appearances by Perkins (and hateful bigots like him) who do everything within his 'evil' power to demonize our wonderful and decent LGBT citizens? Have you no decency and shame, CNN?

    The bigotry and prejudice against our decent LGBT citizens needs to end, and end now. And it needs to start with the networks that allow such hateful bigots to spread their disease of prejudice on the rest of this nation.

    Start doing the 'right' thing, CNN and stop the hate group pandering. Until you stop, don't expect to see this viewer or family watch your station, ever.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      As much as I despise the author of this commentary and all he stands for, he has the right, under the Const.itution of the United States, to express his opinion. Nothing is to be gained from censorship. Every voice has the right to be heard, even the repugnant ones.

      December 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  14. brightapplestudios

    My take? Jesus would most definitely be an Occupier. Check out this article where I tear apart Mr. Perkins' weak argument for a "free market Jesus" and lay out the case for a compassionate, peace-loving Jesus who cares for the poor and warns against the excesses of material wealth: http://radishreport.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/would-jesus-occupy-wall-street-or-work-there/

    December 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  15. evensteven

    Jesus was considered an extreme political rebel in his day . . . and he threw the money changers (loan sharks and bankers) out of the temple.

    December 10, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  16. Onix Sosa

    Tony Perkins misread the Gospel of Luke. It is incredible that Dr. Perkins is dumb & blind to the powerful message Jesus; is delivering via the gospel of Luke. FOR A MORE COMPLETE ANSWER TO PERKINS GO TO: http://www.myprogressivefaith.com/2011/12/tony-perkins-misread-gospel-of-luke.html

    Let us pray that economically well off members of our society would chose to follow the example of Zacchaeu, (Luke 19:1-9) and that all christian ministers in our country can declare, as did Luke: "... he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

    December 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  17. CheckAgain

    Parables are always for individual interpretation. This is for the sheep who go to church and don't actually read the Bible, or pick through it piecemeal at the direction of a likely psychopath calling himself a preacher. Any Christian who actually practices the spiritual disciplines will not be fooled by this. Sadly, there are too many aware people without faith and too many faithful without awareness.

    December 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  18. what1ever

    Actually, if I were to think of a group, living in the United States that are the closest to living how the early Christians lived, it would certainly be the Occupiers.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  19. what1ever

    It's amazing how you can use the bible to defend anything, including the opposite of what the whole new testament is about. People can nit pick portions of the bible to make it seem like it's saying whatever they want it to say. I bet these people could read Huckleberry Fin and find a way to say that it's a novel defending slavery.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Janie

      You are so right. I am so sick and tired of people twisting religion
      to support politics. It happens so often and it infuriates me.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  20. Janie

    It's all BS folks, and its bad for you...George Carlin.
    Don't get me wrong, I have a faith...I support others rights to have a faith, or not if they choose. But for
    pitties sake lets take it out of the news shall we?

    December 9, 2011 at 1:12 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.