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. Kathy

    it IS stupid when some person speaks for God or Jesus or Abraham. I love how they think they can speak for these when half the time, they can't even form an clear opinion of themselves. The nerve.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  2. Jim

    It is obvious nobody was occupying Tony’s brain when he wrote the article.

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


      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  3. Colin Thompson

    I find this article offensive. Jesus would never have subscribed to political theories on the left or on the right. Jesus would have gone into the crowd, listened and given the people a parable explaining his thoughts. God loves rich and poor.

    So many people claim God is on their side. God probably wonders who is on his side.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  4. John K

    There's something happenin' here
    What it is, ain't exactly clear
    There's people carryin' signs
    Mostly sayin' "Hooray for our side"

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  5. Avi Shlomo

    I guess your Jesus advocated to screw the poor. Many of us do not even believe in the Jesus that you present. what is your end dude dude? you are dressed so well. you have no idea what is to loose your job or get cheated of your income. GO lecture at some republican conference for fools.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Teamosil

    I have to say, I'm pretty surprised to find CNN promoting the message of a hate organization like the Family Research Council on the front page.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  7. Reality Check

    Seriously, CNN you're a NEWS OUTLET... Jesus is a mythological figure, not an accurate source for commentary on a real life protest... This is just a completely ridiculous post I don't know how anyone takes CNN seriously anymore

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Gannt

    Why is CNN saying they are not responsible for Tony Perkins's beliefs? They are the ones that freaking posted this on the front page! CNN is responsible for this article!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  9. TheBiz

    Yeah, well, Santa Claus agrees with the movement completely. WWSD?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  10. marc

    Well, if we are really going to get into what political ideology Jesus would or would not have supported there is a strong case that he would have supported the message of the occupiers if not their methods. I mean, he DID throw the money changers out of the church right. He DID say what you do for the least among you you do unto me. He DID say it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. I suppose it's just in how you choose to interpret the scripture.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  11. Erik Schaefer

    From Mark 22 v1-9: And in the coming days they all took their social security checks to Buffalo Wild Wings.and placed wagers on football games. The one who wins the most games gets free wings for a year. The loser has to clean the town donkeys.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  12. yazzy

    A better question is: What does Jesus think of Mr. Perkins?

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

      wonderful – I love your reply – my guess would be, quoting from the movie Oh God, "Mr Perkins ran out of God's words a long time ago –
      thanks so much for your thoughtful answer – very good

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  13. Buffy

    so Jesus is a republican?.....wow, what a shocker!

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

      This article is the exact reason Christ came. In Christ's time, the so called Church leaders worked diligently to counter his teachings with twisted references to scriptures to protect their stations. Jesus never made political renderings or passed judgement on a whole based on a few individuals. If this represents current Church leaders thinking then the rapture must be very close at hand for we are completely and morally corrupted. We should be careful we are not knocking at the gates of hell and thinking it's the gates of heaven.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  14. Brownie2

    Jesus was neither a free marketer nor an occupier. He was the Christ. To make him anything less is not to understand his mission.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  15. Guester

    Do you really think Jesus would support Wall Street?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  16. BobZemko

    Jesus, save me from your followers.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  17. Paul

    Wow Tony – what a twisted hypocrite you are. Why does CNN give a platform to such silly babble???

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

      to let us know what we are up against

      December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Colin Nelson

    I don't think an imaginary person whose only proof of existence is found a Book with an anonymous author should decide how we handle current events today.

    If we were interested in what Jesus thought, we wouldn't be open-minded enough to challenge the status quo. You Christians are welcome to keep praying. We'll keep occupying.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • jimbo, st. louis mo

      Absolutely right.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Reason

    This man is a bigot. Period. Perkins also blamed gays for the bad economy. Shame on this news outlet for letting a bigot spew his hatred.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  20. Gregg A

    Spoken like a true Pharisee, Tony.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:15 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.