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. Merwyn Haskett

    The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the FRC as a hate group. Maybe CNN will let Thom Robb have a forum now. Or better yet, Anders Breivik.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  2. JAG0419


    Jesus was talking about fishermen and farmers. Not hedge fund managers, mortgage brokers, and Wall Street CEOs. We don't really know what Christ thought of capitalism. Jesus didn't write Scripture after all. But regardless, capitalism has morphed into something Christ would find repulsive.

    OWS lacks a message, to be sure. But those people are by and large harmless. To suggest that Jesus would be on the side of Goldman Saks makes me lose my lunch!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Beth

      Maybe he would have been on nobody's side?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  3. gantry's radar

    I believe Jesus would be unhappy with the machinations of Wall Street, too often done at the expense of the weakest of our society. Likely he might recall his own words of Matthew 25, as well. There are decent business people. Few can be found on Wall Street or high up in firms that believe in "maximizing shareholder value" at the expense of ethics and humanity.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  4. Jeb

    If Jesus ever does return, these crazy right wingers will crucify him all over again because he wouldn't agree with any of their selfish, crazy, hypocritical agenda.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  5. RG

    Well Tony,

    From the majority of the responses, I guess you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Jesus wasn't for the rich and well connected; He stood with the less fortunate and rejected. He was a true "radical" as you might put it and paid for it with His life.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  6. #OccupyTheTemple

    Now... that has me totally convinced. Jesus was a free marketer, and the merchants in the temple were the real communists. A total missed connection with logic! It never ceases to amaze me how people believe that snow would be black if they said so.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  7. spellwizard

    This man speaks with Satan's own tongue

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  8. RenaP

    i'm thinking Jesus wouldn't approve Tony Perkins – profiting off of God and Jesus Christ.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Scarls


      December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tim W.

      You mean like all religions, preachers and many politians today are doing !

      December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  9. Jeff

    I agree with Sue. Don't decide what Jesus would have thought. You are not him. You only imply what you want to think.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • CommonSense

      Thats why this is in the opinion section you idiot

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  10. RachelM

    "Jesus was a free marketer."
    What did one expect the president of a conservative or right-wing Christian group and lobbying organization to say?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Paul Williamson

    Tony Perkins is just another fascist right wing nut and a lackey of the banks and right wing religious cults that call themselves Christians. His arguments are very weak and make no sense. Hitler and the Nazis claimed Christ was on their side also; that doesn't make it so.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  12. Ben

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins (and not Jesus).

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  13. Passionate Conservative Christian Dude

    Well said. Well said. Thank you for this. Christ also said, "Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar's". He didn't say "render everything to Caesar" ! It's all there, if you just take the time to look. You know, Mark Twain said "Classics are books which everyone loves, but have never read." Unfortunately today, the Bible falls into that category too often.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Greg

      All your money is issued by the governnent, so by your reasoning you DO have to turn it all over

      December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jeb

      The currency of the day had Ceasar's head on it. All money was made by Ceasar's government and therefore belonged to them. It's interesting that you call yourself a Christian when you clearly have no clue who Christ was and what he stood for.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mateo F

      You know damn well you have never read the bible yourself. Get off your soapbox.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  14. LAsmog

    Perkins sounds like another greedy neo-con who sees Christianity as a great marketing tool. Tony probably cheers for Mr. Potter every time he watches "Its A Wonderful Life."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  15. mfx3

    I think both sides should be careful assuming that a 2,011 year-old crazy, homeless person would have sided with them. It's just presumptuous.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • WillPostForFood

      Hah! good one!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  16. dorothy

    "Jesus was a free marketer" and a lesbian.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • dorothy

      ...and had one hell of a sense of humor!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  17. Uncouth Swain

    Invest in that which is good and do that which is good. I think that is what is needed to be known for the politics of Jesus.
    Seek justice, love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Jesus de Nazaret

    Jesus=Occupy. Famyly Reasearch Council=Satan

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  19. jkn

    Of course you'd say that Tony, that's how you make your profit.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  20. marty rogers

    I"m amazed at the assumption of this person that the OWS is somehow against hard work and success. lets make this a bit simpler for him: OWS is against the unethical and criminal behavior of Wall Street executives that tanked the economy. criminal you may ask? inside trading is criminal, selling the opposite position you take to an investor is criminal, bribing politicians, is criminal manipulating the stock market is criminal. I'm sure Jesus would have sided with OWS on this! These people are either willfully ignorant or not that bright.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
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About this blog

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.