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. religioNutz

    What a whack job. Apparently he doesn't understand what the movement is about. He's simply using his own misinterpretation of it to validate his Capitalist beliefs and his idolatry in worshiping the dollar. You can just as quickly find people that say the Christian bible decries Capitalism. That's the problem with organized religion; you can bend it to suit whatever sick purpose you want.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Zach

      Tony Perkins is the bully in the schoolyard slapping down gays. Since when does he know anything else about the world? I thought that was his full time job. The Family Research Council – Ha!, it sounds soooo scientific doesn't it? Nothing could be further from the truth.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  2. Tamra M Burgess

    the writer is a biblical hack! does free market mean poor and those who need healthcare should suffer while those with access are given everything but the kitchen sink? what would Christ do?

    also BEFORE someone discussed the "heart" of Christ, it'd be a good idea to understand Christ, his origin, his words, etc. but Satan is pretty good at taking Christ's words and spinning them for rhetoric and propaganda

    December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  3. Mark Garner

    My take on the article is that the author is trying to point out that doing nothing doesn't get you anywhere.

    Look for the positive.....it is there!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • elle

      No, he is trying to deny that, according to his own scripture, what Jesus was supposed to have stood for. He deserves to be called out for being a hypocrite.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  4. Wiggles

    Was Jesus an Imperialist too? Stop using Jesus for your wrong doings. We just like to justify our actions and use Jesus as an example? Did Jesus believe in bombing and killing non-white children outside the US ? Dont ask urself dumb questions like Was Jesus an Occupier or would Jesus shop at Walmart.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  5. kiki

    Did anyone else think this sounded like a piece from the "Onion"? It beggars belief.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • odxjobs

      For real!
      I am so glad Tony Perkins and his like don't speak for all christians. This is beyond embarassing

      December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bill

      oddxjob ... you hit the nail on the head. Tony does NOT speak for a majority of Christians. Not even a majority of evangelical born-again Christians. He just has a loud mouth and CALLS himself Christian. Without question, Jesus was a social liberal.
      I would agree with one thig Perkins alludes to the OTW is doing nothing right now. I support the cause and the message. But what are they looking for??? A promise from Obama that he will never bail out Wall Street again? Government forgiveness for student loans?? Why? The first bailout was a bad idea ... why are more bailouts good ideas? OTW has made its point and people are debatimng the issues ... now they need to be part of the solution ... and you cant do that by setting up tent cities. You wind up defeating your own purpose. Obama will NEVER enact the liberal/progressive policies that the OTW wants him to. Why? Simple. He is NOT the president of the liberals/progressives. He is president of 300 million people and must deal with ALL their needs. He cannot just spit on conservatives because extreme progressives want him to. Compromise is needed.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Bill: If I had to guess at one thing that nearly everyone of the OWS protesters would agree on is the perception that investment and mortgage bankers have gotten off scot-free after engaging in what could at best be described as "questionable" business practices. That's not to say that individuals with lousy mortgages shouldn't accept their fair share of blame; but, those individuals are losing their homes to foreclosure, while a lot of bankers avoided bankruptcy (thanks to TARP), stayed out of jail, kept their jobs and are back to receiving obscenely large bonuses.

      That anyone would be shocked at the level of resentment, and to automatically label the protesters as lazy hippies, simply means they're out of touch. But, I don't think they care.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Nomboria

      @Bill – So things have gotten so bad we need these kids to provide us with all the answers? OWS exists to show the people are NOT content with the status quo. The point is that is the people who are elected and paid well to provide the answers aren't interested in fixing the nation but will continue to kowtow to big money, they can expect growing numbers of people to clog the streets, and OWS accomplished this goal. No demands, no quick-fixes, just growing hordes of angry citizens camping out in front of the big money. That is all that should be expected of them, and they have already accomplished more then all of us internet complainers can dream. Look at this free-marketeer in this article on the defense for example! 6 months ago we were being told the rich should more or less be venerated like pharohs as the sorce of all economic life in our blighted land. Now he's scrambling to justify his greed through obscure religious parables, and convincing no one. Thank you OWS!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Phil Aylward

    Tony you forgot the Money Lenders in the Temple you hypocrite

    December 6, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • manoj

      Money Lendors occupied the temple and Jesus drove them out. It seems Jesus is against both money lending and occupying

      December 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  7. joel

    funny how these evangelical types have changed the golden rule to "get your own freaking gold!!!!!"

    December 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  8. Binky42

    What a hypocrite! While so many Christians are sitting around waiting for the End of Times, they don't give a crap about how they are screwing up this planet. And, once again, a rich pastor (who decided to conveniently ignore that poverty bit in the Bible) wants to justify a free market and lots of extra cash bonuses for his CEO buddies.

    I hope Christians out there realize that this man is a business man and not a man of God. If your pastor is driving a BMW there is a problem with his ethics.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Chandra

      Unfortunately, most so-called christian churches preach feel-good christianity for their clans and have very little in common with the fundamental message of Jesus. When bombs were raining down on Iraq killing thousands of innocent civilians (estimated at 60,000), I did not see any of these "christians" pray for the suffering and dying at the hands of US – but they did not forget to pray for the safety of our soldiers. They were all enjoying the Shock and Awe reality show – also including many "independent" observers like NPR commentators. This article by an evil KKK sympathizer is not suprising at all in comparison to what is preached and practiced by those who claim to be following Jesus.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  9. relians

    what would scooby doo?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  10. MumsToo

    So this is how greedy "Christians" rationalize their greed so they can sleep at night?
    Most Christians I know would completely disagree with this guy's opinion.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Binky42

      "If you read between the lines, you can see that Christ was all for making money off the backs of the middle classes."
      "But what about all those times when he told us to live in poverty?"
      "Oh, errrmmm, yeah those parts weren't important."

      December 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  11. Michele

    Working as a social worker/ counselor for many years I have seen God at work in peoples lives. God does help people to find hope and change their lives. Inspired by all I have experienced in social services over the years. I wrote this book to show that God is there fir you and to provide hope to hurting people in times of crisis. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1467933562?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1

    December 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  12. benji

    Hey Dont forget the GOP Bible also includes "The only two sins are abortion and gays"!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • MumsToo

      And being a Mormon.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • JosephSmith

      Well, being a mormom is only against the new testament, Benji was refering to the old testament

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Bob

      and depending on when and where you live being a Catholic, or a Jew, or black, or hispanic, or an immigrant, etc...

      December 6, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  13. joe

    Jesus, definitely wasn't a republican either. Crush the poor and save the rich? Sounds Christlike alright......

    December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  14. Dave

    The flying spaghetti monster gospel refutes all these facts.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  15. El Camino

    I’m such a lonely boy, and soon I’ll be dead and gone with nothing left but gold on the ceiling and those little black submarines that remind me of your money maker. If I could, I would run right back to you, if it wasn’t for my sister, and tell you what a hell of a season it’s been and to please stop, stop watching tera nova baby because it’s nothing but a mind eraser.


    December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Capitan

      Oh yeah, I forgot that album drops today.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. realtalker

    wow! You take one passage with the word occupy in it and write this junk based on that. Jesus told us to be our brothers keeper. Everything he preached was against greed. He would have perhaps gotten his point across in a different manner were he to "occupy" earth today but he would certainly have sided with the occupiers. Every action he took rocked the boat. He promoted the idea of change and progressive ideas throughout his earthly existance and he trashed the ideas of conservatism and tradition. He was clearly a socialist for he was provided for throughout his ministry. He took handouts left and right (pun fully intended) and helped his fellow man and believed that all should follow suit. Jesus...........WAS A LIBERAL!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  17. matt

    Prosperity Gospel at it's best. Sheesh.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  18. hippypoet

    i think if your going to follow the teachings of the J man then maybe before you do or say anything ask yourself what would jesus do, would jesus do this, and what would jesus not do! Now if your a sane person who knows things besides the bible and do things for a reason besides stupidity then try these -... the first question of why am i here is not a grand one but rather a down to earth question, something we should ask ourselves every day. Why are we here, what are we doing, why are we doing it, and is this going to help my childrens childrens childrens next generations...thats whats important, not if jesus was a friggin free market fan or not! Whatever, this whole thing is dumb anyway.. you should not act on things that you don't understand, and religion therefore is something that none should ever act on for its entire basis is subject to interpretation. Thats retarded! Do what you feel is right, don't do what you feel is wrong. And you don't need a 3000 year old fiction to explain the difference...if you do, then your screwed from the start! This guy is doing what he believes is right but using jesus as a shield to deflect other truths he may not wish to confront...too bad!

    bit of a tangent but so what – all good points! 🙂

    December 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  19. Lynne

    The only thing that Jesus said about government was to pay your taxes. ('Render unto Caesar, etc'). You can't be any more explicit than that. Why don't the right wingers constantly quote Jesus on that?

    God doesn't care if your rich. God cares that you put your riches before your fellow man.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  20. cohockeydude

    What utter rubbish (I especially liked the calculation that Jesus gave each one about $225 each). Jesus as a free-market capitalist, who knew?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • MarcTTF

      jesus was an old school donald trump

      December 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Hmmm

      You should probably read more closely, it was not Jesus that gave it but a character in a parable. Don't be so quick to judge or else you appear foolish

      December 6, 2011 at 7:05 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.