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. blinky

    Father Coughlin made some fanciful fascism out of the the gospels, too. Nothing new here. Perkins' apologia for corporate greed is so riddled with contradictions that it's hardly worth going over.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  2. awaysaway

    My Take: Tony Perkins is a fool – on so many levels. His premise is that (a) he knows the mind of God, and (b) that none of the Occupiers are not free marketers.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  3. michele

    If you do not "get" the occupy movement, think of it this way. In a suburb of Chicago 600 people, making a decent wage, will soon be out of work. Why? Because the multi-million (billion) dollar company (Unilever) that just bought them (Alberto Culver) does not want to keep the factory going – it costs too much to their bottom line, they are a very dilligent company after all. They need to make more money for their shareholders. So they need to cut costs and move production elsewhere. Never mind that these people have dilligently performed their jobs, some for many years, and produced good products. Never mind the stores, restaurants, etc in the area that enjoyed the money these employees spent there.
    I just don't think that Jesus really believed that the rich should get richer by putting the poorer folks out of a job.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  4. hey hey

    You lost me at "jesus"....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • :)


      December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  5. Clifford S

    the majority of the people in these comments need an Exorcism

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  6. mike



    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  7. notanapologist

    ......this sham logic article though you actually believe Jesus is real...let alone a proponent for a modern free market system that didn't exist. This is completely absurd. There is no proof that Jesus existed, in fact there is every proof that Jesus, like the bible, is man made. Nazareth didn't exist around the time it was claimed to in the bible – this is the consensus from Isreali archaeologists. This sort of bogus analysis shouldn't be given this space on CNN.....this article could have read...."How I made gold out of dish soap" – and be just as realistic....how sad.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  8. Matt

    Tony Perkins is a hate monger that uses and abuses religion to hide behind a veil of "moral superiority". His organization has funded research on getting discrimination signed into law, for the past 30-something years. Also, I suppose Jesus called him and told him that he favored a "free market system". That, or like every other religious hate monger, he has cherry-picked the Bible to find parables that support his view, and claims that his view is thus supported by God. What an ignorant bigot.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Ron

      Well said, and thank you. You're exactly right. We need a lot less religious bigotry and a lot more humane treatment for the entire human race. Also, we need a lot less of Tony Perkins and his hate group.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  9. Hottac38

    Their conscenus that they represent the "other" 99% is well to say the least exaggerated. What they don't realize is that while they are breaking local laws and statutes and deficating on public property, the other 99.99999% of us are working 9 to 5 to pay for their right to trash our communities. They need to get real jobs and contribute something. If not, they are no better swine.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  10. Gannt

    Love that some Christians pick and choose what they want to believe about Jesus. Jesus is a hippie. Jesus is a communist. Jesus loves rather than kill. Jesus is a Jew.

    Don't tell that to Tony Perkins, he'll lose many nights of sleep thinking about his fake image of the Lord being something he hates.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Gannt

      Why, oh why is CNN pasting Mr. Perkins on the front page? Oh right, it's CNN, the same poster boy of the elite as Fox News.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  11. Not4Nothin'

    Jesus Saves,
    Moses Invests,
    Tony Perkins is a blow hard.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  12. ToadInAustin

    Pure cynicism, and as such, an awesome article. It's like staring into a void.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Helm

      Once again someone from the far right has completely forgotten the Sermon on the Mount. There is not a more hypocritical group.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bobs

      Agree. The bible says: 'If a man asks for your tunic, give him your cloak also.' It does not say: 'If a man asks for your tunic, give him everyone else's cloak also.' I'm tired of people using Christian charity principles to justify every aspect of Socialism. Christ was all about looking inward and criticizing yourself, not constantly harping on others. Unfortunately Christianity was hijacked long ago by people who think the exact opposite is the case.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bill Wendt

      Very well said, TIA. I read the column with the growing feeling that I was reading a rationale for great suffering, like listening to the testimony of the BTK killer. It sickened me.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  13. Mantismech

    How did the far right kidnapped ideas of the Prince of Peace and Champion of the Poor?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • JAG0419

      No kidding. I second that question.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Aces Full

      Conservatives give more to charity than Liberals.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  14. Jim

    Isn't the Family Research Center one of the groups that attacks gays? Are they really the best resource to be lecturing peopleon what Jesus would or would not do?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  15. Bill, NY

    I get the feeling that if Jesus were alive today he would equate Mr. Perkins as siding with the Romans. Jesus certainly was not a venture capitalist, and I would be very surprised if he agreed with any of Mr. Perkins talking points.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  16. Candace Clough

    CNN should be ashamed of itself, giving this hatemonger a platform.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • ....

      As opposed to the other hate mongers?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Aces Full

      One right leaning piece vs. 100 left leaning pieces and you are up in arms?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Barbara

      Agree – to have Perkins as the voice for Jesus is a slap in the face to Christians. CNN has reached a new low by giving this man a platform and leading your so-called news page. You've lost me today as the go to website for news. Goodbye.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Mel

    The comparison seems to ignore the preponderance of Christ teachings. Did not Zaccheus restore mutiple-fold of that which he had defrauded? Was not the rich young ruler instructed to "sell all that he had"? The servants in the parable alluded to all were given the SAME opportunity. There was equity amongst all ten. At least part of the frustration of the occupiers is that they want the same opportunity as the other servants. I suspect Jesus would agree this is "My Take" from Mr. Perkins perspective-but not HIs.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jim

      So you are using the bible to support your opinion just like the guy above did? Hmmmmm.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  18. Andy N

    nuf said....http://www.thenation.com/article/justice-sunday-preachers

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Detroit MD

    I can't believe this guy, how he will twist biblical text to fit in to "his' perception of what Jesus would do!!. That just burns me up!!. What about Matthew 25 verses 31-46. When he spoke of those coming to His Kingdom. On the right he invited those in who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned. These things done to the least of my Brothers and sisters, you have done to me. "

    also what about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get to heaven?

    Jesus was a hippie, and an occupier– He had long hair, wore a gown, and spoke about peace and love. I have a hard time Seeing him in a Three Piece Suit with a Cigar and Briefcase!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jim

      You bash him for twisting the bible to fit his opinion yet you do the same. Actually anyone who quotes the bible only quotes it to support their particular beliefs so its not a big deal.

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

      Who wears three piece suits and smokes anymore?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. ava owens

    this is the stupidest thing i have ever read. ever.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jim

      I disagree. Ever read the Treaty of Versailles?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 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.