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. Tahoe

    What a hunk of garbage.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Jim


      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  2. Scarls

    The last thing that these conservative "Christians" want is for people to actually be like Christ. They should try reading the New Testament sometime. Unfortunately, if you go to any Christian church today, 90% of the time, the scripture they will quote you is the Old Testament. They don't want to focus on Jesus and his teachings because then they would have to actually try to live a Christian life, which is way too hard and asks them to care about others way too much.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  3. Judas

    I sodomized Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Bob

    That has got to be one of the most rediculous and shamelessly hollow anti-Occupy messages I've heard so far. It is made all the more atrocious by the shallow attempt to couch this movement in religious terms. I think the author is seeking to describe meritocracy (as expained in the parable) something which occupiers (as well as most Americans I know of all political stars and stripes) share in common as a value. The fact that he chooses to equate occupiers with some of the same empty labels and slanderous stereoytpes repeated in mainstream media shows that he is just one of the hypocrites. It is time he sat down with the dispossessed (as Jesus did) and thought about what it truly means to be Christian.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Jeff

    That parable is about hard work, not a rationale for 'who has money has the right to more.' It's not about 'capital' in the modern financial markets sense of the word at all. The 'more' that is being talked about is effort, the work ethic. Perkins is dishonest, and needs more airtime on Fox News, obviously, where he can help others wanting their misguided belief systems supported by those that share that belief system

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  6. Rosie Perera

    Unbelievable! Another take on that parable by someone aligned with Occupy Vancouver who preached at my church a few weeks ago: http://blog.pgimf.org/2011/10/sun-oct-23-2011-dave-diewert.html

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  7. Lisa

    Really... CNN really???
    This tripe is not news, I don't even think it's true opinion, my cat has yakked up better stuff.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jim

      I disagree. Cat puke is really gross. In addition, it is much easier to make the above go away with a single click of the mouse. As with cat puke it is a whole process that is much more complicated.

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

      okay, you got me there, cleanup is much easier with cat puke.
      But ... Mr. Perkins opinion in my view is still more disgusting.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  8. vernon

    You all miss the point. Jesus would not have joined the Occupy Movement because Jesus was not a loon.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • ccastine

      not a loon? seriously? i am not a religious man even i know everybody thought the guy was crazy. he was telling people some cray stuff. i dont see why any of this matters anyway, jesus died like 2000 years ago. everybody needs to get over it. this is the modern world, you can live a good life and have strong morals and values without giving money to people and getting on your knees for them.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • the commisar

      you are an idiot and a mindless victim of news propaganda if you think all the people at OCW events are loons and homeless hippies..WE the democratic socialists of America cant wait to collectivize your stupid self and turn your church into a stable..to make YOU work for the good of the people to atone for your crimes..YOU are the problem..and as soon as we consolidate our power we will send you and your kind to re-education camps in Alaska..you are OBSOLETE..YOU are almost extinct..

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  9. Basement_Cat

    Mr. Perkins' has no idea what Jesus would have done. Maybe since he believes the Bible's fairy-tales he should read the one about Jesus and the money-changers.

    What a hypocrite.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jim

      He never said he knows what he would have done he just developed an opinion about Jesus and how he would view Occupy today based on what he has read. Its his opinion. Who cares?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  10. 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 3:07 pm |
  11. Stop Freeloading And Get A Life

    @ Ihpogo: If you don't read the Bible, you shouldn't attempt to quote from it or mislead others. Jesus was by no means a hippie who condoned freeloading off of others in the name of sharing.

    "Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don't permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn't sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn't be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn't because we didn't have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.

    Don't you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? "If you don't work, you don't eat." And now we're getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don't slack off in doing your duty.

    If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don't let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he'll think twice. But don't treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares."

    2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Matt

      Check it out, another religious, bible cherry-picker. Yea, sir, you think you know what Jesus would have thought? I bet you do, you delusional fool.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Blessings

      Truth is you can prove or disprove anything, anything by quoting the right Scripture. But what we have here is one more of the "prosperity gospel" preachers, which can mostly be found in megachurches.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Sean Rawles

      Jesus told Countrywide to sell subprime mortgage backed security derivatives at a substantial profit then refuse to lower "balloon" payments – singlehandedly making a DECADE worth of financial gains disappear overnight, then letting CEOs recover huge losses in EMPLOYEE funded pensions to the tune of BILLIONS and claiming it was all a BLACK PRESIDENT'S FAULT?

      I think I'll turn to Satanism. At least he's honest about it.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  12. john

    Tony Perkins' argument here is a complete joke. Can you imagine him presenting this to professors of logic, philosophy, and history? He would be laughed out of the room.

    This is absolute ignorance at best, and hate speech at worst.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Sean Rawles

    Standing with those who would oppress and ROB the masses is NOT Christian either. Also, all you really have to do is search for this "commentator's" name in Google and literally OVER a million results, most of which resound on his overwehelmingly clear hatred and bigotry. CNN, I understand that this is commentary, but you featured it on your front page. This is a clear and revealing push toward your ideals. I am disappointed, to say the least.


    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  14. detada

    You are kidding me with this article, right?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  15. EC

    "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." Jesus would have supported businesses and the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, not dodging what they owe. He would not have been ok with unfair lending practices. He would in NO WAY be ok with corporations controlling the political agenda to secure their own interests.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Frank

      But would he came out on someone else's property, smoking pot and defacating on thier lawn? I thnk not.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  16. Fallout2man

    It's obvious Tony Perkins worships the Gospel of Supply Side Jesus: http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/03/09/17_franken.html

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

    This is a self-serving article by a person who sells a very narrow and self-serving version of Christianity. Jesus overturned the money changers' table in the temple because he was infuriated by people profiting in the name of God. Living in Roman Occupied Palestine, Jesus had no clue about "free market systems." What an idiotic thing to even assert. According to the Biblical SCHOLAR (which Perkins is not) and historian John Dominic Crossan, Jesus was a "tekton," or the very lowest class of laborer in the culture of his time. The idea that Jesus would have defended his other lower class followers to defend and act like the wealthy upper crust of his own time is ludicrous on its face.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  18. ProperVillain

    Great, the FRC trying to re-cast Jesus as a free market loving American. The FRC is a total joke and should be ignored. If you want to know who Jesus was, read the Bible for yourself and ignore these clowns.
    I really do think he must have skipped the entire sermon on the mount. Pathetic.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  19. JasonP

    What the H?? Jesus was pro free market now?? Wow, now I have literally heard everything. These hypocrite Christians know no bounds.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  20. Bob

    “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

    These Republicans wouldn't know "Jesus" if he stood right in-front of them.

    Yes, Jesus WOULD be an occupier. He kicked the money hungry greed filled businessmen OUT of the Temple; He'd do the same thing with today's corporate execs as well.

    A vote for ANY Republican is a vote against yourself – unless you're filthy rich.

    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.