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. Patrick Williams

    If the BEST thing you can do as a Christian is to fight for Capitalism....well, then, your Christianity is worthless – like salt that has lost it's saltiness, it is good for nothing anymore. This is what Christianity has become in America – worthless salt.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  2. wruss

    Jesus believed in the free market????? How does he explain his advice to the rich man to give up all that he had and follow him.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Joe Gerken

      This is possibly the silliest article that CNN has ever published. Goof-ball stuff.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  3. dee

    This man is no Christian, and cares nothing about people who are suffering. He gives people who really live Christian lives a bad name.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  4. Jon

    According to this jerk, Jesus was also a bigot too. Why is CNN giving the head of a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group a column on here? What's next, a column for Al Qaeda too?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  5. tomanjeri

    Why does CNN let Tony Perkins spout his nonsense? He's an ideologue with a weirdly selfish agenda who obviously has zero understanding about Jesus' teachings.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  6. Hawkeye1012

    Jesus was a Capricorn. And he wore pretty crappy sandals.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  7. Roy Blodgette

    Another article assuming that OWS is anti-free market... Thank you reporters who don't pay attention.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  8. Alezmendi

    Ok, granted that Tony Perkins isn't blessed with a reputation as an intellectual heavyweight, but it's clear that he hasn't spend much time reflecting on Christian values during his many hours spent sitting and kneeling in Church.

    And nor has he spent much time reflecting on the message or behavior of the Occupiers, who have been relentlessly peaceful, respectful and moral even in the face of overly violent and thuggish actions by police forces that would remind one of Roman conquerers.

    Maybe Perkins missed the sermon where Jesus all but endorsed a progressive income tax, saying that those who earn more should pay more, or missed the entire story of Jesus that told of a man that peacefully assembled the working class to speak out against oppression by the ruling class of religious elites and military rule.

    As it turns out, men of the cloth such as Perkins who speak of Jesus yet stand for everything Jesus preached against, such as the most selfish aspects of capitalism, represent the modern versions of the out of touch and shallow leaders that Jesus stood up to in his own time. No wonder he has no understanding of Occupy Wall Street.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  9. Marge

    Aren't these con men proclaiming to be so so so religious found out yet that the public knows all about them. They just want to fleece people, like banks and wall street, out of their money. What did Jesus say about the money changers( the original name for the bankers) Didn't Jesus give food and drink to the poor. Didn't Jesus try to help the poor. These people who claim that God is peeking out around the corners and talking to them are ill. The only thing God would do to them is show them is lightening swift sword, AND YOU ALL KNOW WHERE.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. PaulC

    Jesus would have taken a stick and driven the money grubbers out....Yeah....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  11. Sallie

    What a joke, Jesus was SO NOT a free marketer. Read the New Testament with a different set of glasses, dude.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Ryan

    Tony Perkins is a f***ing idiot.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  13. vel

    Oh, and interesting how Perkins prates on about morality. His magic book and god have changed their morality ever since they were created by man. It's always religion that lags behind in morality, still supporting slavery, that women are less than human, etc, time and time again. Then insisting that the new morality is what their god "really" meant, once the ideas have become popular. God sure must mumble a lot.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  14. why?

    why does CNN post this junk?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  15. BF

    As a Christian, I totally disagree with Tony Perkins and the others who co-opt Christianity to fit their political ideology.

    As for rejecting collectivism, didn't the apostles live communally after Christ's death? I guess Perkins is just a better Christian than they were....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Slumberjack

    I guess he didn't hear about the one where Jesus occupied the temple and threw out the money changers. But that was the socialist Jesus..the one who apparently consorted with the poor and the downtrodden, healed the sick, lame and lazy alike, and fed the masses...all for free mind you. The conservative Jesus is apparently supposed to have said 'beggar thy neighbour, the rich shall inherit the earth, leave thine planet a smoking hole in the ground, and do what I say lest I smite ye leftist pinkos and foreign sounding nations with my police and my military industrial complex."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Lord2FLI



      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  17. RitchieRich

    Thank you, Fox New.com, for such an insightful piece (of...)

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Cary

    Shame on you CNN for publishing this. I understand that opinions differ, but this is absolute garbage. I know you think your website is "edgy" and you are engaging in "debate," but give me a break. This argument is completely farcical. You must be able to see that!
    Your website gets worse and worse by the day. Your TV channel is atrocious. Report the news! Do your job! Don't give bigots and morons a bully pulpit in the name of free exchange of ideas...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  19. murray

    "Jesus was a free marketer." hahahahahahahahahahahahah

    December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  20. Mateo

    "Family" Research Council? I'm trying to eat my lunch.

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

      Here, here. 🙂

      December 6, 2011 at 3:55 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.