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. sbeeze

    Is this seriously even a coherent conversation? Seriously frontpage worthy?
    Would jesus support the Occupy movement....well its good to see we are dealing with the issues....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  2. Mary

    And yes, this editorial sounds like something right out of THE ONION!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Teamosil

    In case anybody wasn't aware of this- the Family Research Council that the author is the president of is an right wing extremist hate organization.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Pick and choose

    How about the story where Jesus lash out at the money changers and livestock vendors and accuse them for turning the holy temple into den of thieves? I am sure Jesus hate free market commerce. :D. Take your blue or red pill

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Pick and choose

      Matthew 21:12
      Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Eddie

      Because they were doing it in the temple, not because they were doing it.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  5. abtime

    The one sure thing we do know is that Jesus would not be hanging out with you in these churches fleecing people and taking his teachings to do it. That's exactly what OWS is about protesting the fleecing of the people. Remember the 12 year old who disrupted the selling in the Temple. He's the same today as then. OWS= Disruption of the selling in the Temple to the detriment of the people. Somewhat likethe fleecing you are attempting to do with this misguided article.

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

    What an idiot. I guess he has never read the Bible. Like most evangelical christians, he parrots the 'blab it and grab it' philosophy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Ted

    Everyone "creates" their own version of Jesus to justify their own personal ideology.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Martin in New York

      Perhaps but to cite a source inaccurately to do so stinks to high heaven. There is no way you can read Luke as a person of faith or a student of literature and understand Jesus the way this guy says.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jeroen

      The bible leaves no, no, room for us to igaimne how jesus looked wool hair, burnt bronze skin. The white blond hair blue eyes false image of ceasar boshure, was necessary to justify slavery and the false babolyanian religion and practices. Jesus will return soonl. Get over your superiority complex, althou unconscious. You love the real Jesus?, are you married to a black man or woman? In america these black people are the blood line descendants of Jesus, tribe of Juda

      April 4, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  8. Ricky L

    So....the moneylenders in the temple were just the victims of Jesus waking up on the wrong side of the bed that morning?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • TonyB

      The merchants in the temple (not just money lenders) were using the temple for their own benefit, not the benefit of God. That is why Jesus grew angry. It was about the intention of the merchants. If they were selling merchandise to give the proceeds to the poor, for the glory of God, I don't think Jesus would have had the same reaction. It isn't about the act as much as it is the intention of the person committing the act.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  9. Justin

    I have to question why any article from Tony Perkins would be published on a mainstream website. Perkins has proven himself time and again to be an extremist evangelical with a deft hand at cherry-picking only the sections of the bible that suit his dark and obsessive outlook. Perkins has ties with the KKK to name just one unsavory association, but I highly doubt CNN would post an article from them. And to be clear, no, I did not read the editorial. Perkins has nothing new to tell us except than only white, republican christianists are True Americans, and everyone else is going to hell.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  10. JBHedgehog

    CNN...this is NOT news. Jon Stewart is correct in that you just have FAKE news. Please report on the news and don't give platform to one-sided opinions.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  11. Craig

    I'm more concerned with what the Flying Spaghetti Monster thinks of OWS, or the Tooth Fairy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • OHIO


      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Moe from Tennessee

    How does he know did he personally ask him? I need proof!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Mary

    I am too appalled by the editorial to comment. And to be honest, this editorial is not worthy of any serious critique of comment.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • kiki

      It belongs in the Onion instead. Surely this is a joke piece?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Anthony

      You took the words out of my mouth. People of any political stripe should be disgusted at this and at CNN for allowing such an article.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  14. Martin in New York

    What an incredibly inaccurate depiction of Jesus! Say what you will about the occupy movement but to use Christ as a defense for Free Market Capitalism is willful ignorance. Shame on you Tony Perkins. Of all the gospels Luke clearly portrays Jesus as having a preferential option for the poor.

    You don't have to support the occupy movement. You may even support a class and economic structure that clearly favors a small group of people. But you CANNOT hide behind religion to do it.

    CNN no reputable Biblical Scholar: secular or religious, Christian, Jewish, none or other would support this outlandish interpretation of Luke. You owe your readers better.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Jeff

      Is supporting the free market and concern for the poor mutually exclusive? You are aware that donations to charity increase significantly during time of economic prosperity as does tax revenue for soical programs? In fact, the most significant increase in charitable giving occured when Reagan reduced the marginal rates on the highest income earners in the early 80's. The rich are castigated for having money, but in truth there would NOT be the supprot systems both public and private that are in place now, if not for their industry.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Martin in New York

      I'll remain agnostic about the best economic model. But to hide behind religion, and to so perversely interpret Jesus and the Gospels to advocate for the model is cowardly.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  15. job218

    I wonder if someone smacked that smile of his face if he would turn the other cheek! He strikes me as one of those people that say that they are good people just because they go to church.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  16. Humanitari©

    Perkins is a Banksatorship gestapo like slave

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Jon

    "the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means 'be occupied with business.'"

    So Jesus was speaking Greek? I'm pretty sure Jesus spoke Aramaic and not Greek nor was Luke speaking or writing in Greek. So you're using the literal meaning behind the root of a translation to show the true intent of Jesus. That is illogical on the face of it.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • TonyB

      Actually most of the Gospels are written in Greek because that was the most well-known language of the time. Therefore it could be read by the largest audience without having to be translated. Many of the Gospels were also written in Hebrew.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Eddie

      Actually, the book of Luke was written in Greek. Much of the New Testament was written in Greek as it was the popular (wide-spread) language of the era. Perkins is interpreting (at least that phrase) correctly.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Eddie

      TonyB beat me to it.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. James in San Diego

    Perkins has claimed this parable shows Jesus to be a free-market capitalist, with the highest reward going to the hardest working. But what about the parable of the workers in the field, who are all paid (rewarded) with the same amount no matter how long they toiled? Each worker was in the field a different lenght of time, yet the employeer pays them all the same, as per the agreed amount. Sounds socialist to me!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Martin in New York

      Add to that Jesus' sermon on the mount where he goes out of his way AFTER blessing the poor and hungry to heap "WOE" onto the rich and full. To say nothing of Mary's song of God uplifting the humble and casting the rich from their thrones. Tony Perkins should be ashamed of himself!

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

      The bible is not always as easy to interpret as just reading the words, you also have to know the context and the society of the time. For example, Jesus first reveals that he is the Christ to a Samaritan woman at a drinking well. Today that wouldn't mean anything, but in the Mediterranean world when Jesus lived, women were second-class citizens and men did not speak with women alone. Even worse, she was a Samaritan, who were despised by the Jews. And Jesus chose her as the first to know he is the Son of God. I could go on about why that is important, but I don't have room enough to dive into that theological discussion.

      Likewise, many of the rich placed their wealth above all else, including God. That is the root of Jesus' words toward the rich. There are many parables where a rich man is actually portrayed positively. For example, the parable of the prodigal son, the father is wealthy (has servants, a large estate, etc.). The father welcomes his lost son back with open arms when he returns.

      The rich man and the "eye of the needle" shows not that being rich is a sin, but that loving wealth above God is the sin.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. steve

    It seems to me a little balance is required.

    "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

    Christ certainly taught that no one should expect something for nothing. We all have to work to provide the necessities and luxuries of life and proportion reward for amount of effort is implied. However...

    "to whom much is given much is required"

    which means those who are stronger or more gifted are expected to help those who are weaker or less gifted. We are our brothers keeper.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Gannt

    This article is pure revisionist garbage. Everything Jesus said and taught is right there in the bible, something Mr. Perkins loves to thump. Maybe instead of holding it up for CNN to eat up, he should read it.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 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.