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. Andy

    Boo, CNN. Boooooooo.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  2. felix_in_Mass

    The occupy movement is not opposed to free a free market system. It's opposed to corporate and government greed. But I do love it when people tell me what Jesus would do.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Johnson

    What a stupid headline. We know historically Jesus existed. Does anyone think for a moment He would walk Wall St without using his whip? The Occupiers are the poor of America. The GOP has to hear this.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  4. streetsmt

    You can attribute any charasticics you want to a fictional character. It carries no extra weight at all.
    What matters is what's the right thing to do. Think for yourself insted of listining to what someone says a 2000 year old character would do.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  5. Pesky

    Tony must not know the fable of Jesus and the Money Changers...moreover would JC carry a gun?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  6. Todd W. Byars

    Another Proof that the Religious Right no longer reads the Bible. Jesus was a Carpenter you do not get more supporting of the people than that!!

    Remember Jesus fed the people with the bread and fishes, healed the people, threw the money changers and cheats out of the temple and a hundred other things to help and support the people! Spread the word! :)T

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  7. jimbo

    Tony Perkins is a closet h0m0. He will eventually be caught taking the salami for meth.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  8. ObamaJoe

    But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean?

    ============occupy heart ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,that's the most important thing

    ,silly Tony,,,

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Occupy Wall Street = Occupy the heart of this great country = Occupy American dream = Occupy your own good heart and work for GOD

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  9. Gannt

    Misinformation is being too forgiving of what is actually going on. CNN needs to be accused of DISinformation, instead.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  10. Slumberjack

    This guy is a stooge and a hand puppet for corporate imperialism, just like the organization he's writing for. He belongs in a circus as part of a ventriloquist act, which someone's hand shoved inside of him.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Cat Daddy

      True Dat Slumberjack!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • pat carr

      well said! and that hand is shoved up the rear part

      December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  11. Dan

    As usual, a greedy minded fool twists words someone else put on paper to justify their unethical beliefs.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Cat Daddy

      Couldn't have said it better Dan!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  12. Matt Minton

    John Boehner even signed a letter saying the the FRC is a hate group.

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

    Tony chooses to ignore the next part of the Gospel story. Jesus enters the temple and confronts the merchants and money changers. He is so enraged by what he sees that engages in an act of civil disobedience, overturning tables and driving the merchants from the temple. Context is everything.
    So Tony, while we are quoting scripture out of context, please consider this;
    And Judas went out and hanged himself.
    Go ye therefore and do likewise

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

    If Jesus were here, HE would be whipping the pathetic occupiers and telling they to stand up like a man and fix your life, not blaming everyone else for your own selfishness and shortcomings.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • pat carr

      No that honor would go to the greedy wall streeters and CEO's first

      December 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Colin Nelson

      Damn right man. That's what Jesus did, he whipped people into shape. "Up by your bootstraps, freeloaders!" He'd always say. I miss him sometimes. Then I really that my memories of him were really just passages from a book I read once, and he didn't really exist.


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

      Right – because Jesus was in to whipping those pushing for social justice. The only time I recall Jesus whipping anybody was when he entered the temple and saw the money lenders, etc. He overturned tables and threatened those who had turned something that was supposed to be holy in to a den of thieves. Seems to me that this is akin to Democracy being hijacked by deep-pocketed corporations. Democracy is no less holy than a particular religion.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • mark

      If Jesus were here, Jesus would be full of compassion for all those that are hurting. Only a fool would see this parable as a lesson in economics, it's about growing the kingdom of God, not your bank account.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  15. PerkinsIsAntiChrist

    Keep it up CNN – posting this kind of crap will only serve to decrease both your cable viewership and internet traffic. CNN is losing traction because of this kind of cynical and disingenous crap written by ideologues and political hacks. Whatever happened to thoughtful commentary?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  16. schwarzey

    Straight from the mouth of a Washington lobbyist. This dork has no credibility.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  17. TheyNotHim

    Jesus did not exist...prove that he did please without using the bible...cite ONE primary source and I will get down on my knees and accept him as my savior on the spot...still waiting...

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

      No serious scholar doubts the historical existence of the person. Then only remaining question is whether any of ther extraordinary things attributed to the historical person are true.

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

      Josephus is a primary source other than the Bible that speaks about Jesus. Now go to your local church.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • elflander

      They don't make atheists like they used to.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • corrie3

      Poor sad creatures – you and this puppet man. Please consider salvation before its too late and read Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus. He is an ancient source, OUTSIDE the bible as you requested. Now what? I'm sorry that life has been so cruel to you that you would deny Christ who despite your denial was sent for your salvation too. I hope you do your research and it leads you to the peace that comes from a true relationship with Christ.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  18. pat carr

    This article may very well gain the award for the Highest pile of horsedung ever published on CNN.

    The bible doesn't advocate anything that Tony believes. I've read it countless times. in fact the jesus of the bible would have condemned such a fool

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

      The parable was actually talking about every person using whatever spirtual gift's; not money in the service of God not free market capitalism. The example of using money (mina) terms of the day was to illustrate how each person should use those talents for the good of mankind. The parable was about faith and character; not personal moneytary wealth. Mr Perkins gives a great disservice to the Word of God by deliberately misinterpreting it's real meaning.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  19. Sneaky Jones

    Jesus was quite the liberal in his own time.. concerning himself with the care of the sick, feeding of the poor. Sounds like a Democrat to me.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  20. Bobs

    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 3:14 pm |
    • pat carr

      i;m tired of people not understanding what "socialism" is.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Matt Minton

      And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Acts 2:44-45

      But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? John 3:17

      Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

      There's no hijacking going on

      December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
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