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. rex edie

    right on Bob....couldn't agree with you more..... people who call themselves christians .... that feel they are somehow the overseers and enforcers of god's will.... who criticize the needy.... those needing work.... who are willing to work but have no opportunities to do so ...because of the arrogant manipulating greed mongers ..... are doing the opposite of what jesus said... they are the "anti christ".... you should know a man by his deeds and actions.... the greedy and selfish don't give a rats "a" about their fellow humans....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  2. reality check

    Jesus was part of the upper crust of the temple, much like the 1%, he rebelled much like many of the 99% come from wealthy backgrounds.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  3. Jon

    I am disgusted that CNN would post this article by the leader of a group that is labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    This is disgraceful CNN.

    Also, this is the worst Biblical interpretation I have ever read.

    Just another example of the "Christian Right" making things up to justify their backwards position.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  4. mark

    This is so laughable I'm sure my neighbors heard me. What an idiot this guy is.
    Maybe he forgot the little part about Jesus destroying the tables of the money changers at the temple.
    What a hypocritical jerk. To think that he can speak for what Jesus would have thought, and to say Jesus would be on the side of the Wall Street capitalists who have caused poverty and homelessness by their own acts of selfishness.

    This guy is a tool. How could CNN give this guy, who does nothing but beg for money, a voice in this debate?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • mark

      Who Would Jesus Evict?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. Name*The Independent

    But he was a liberal.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  6. mike

    and you wonder why your losing your news monopoly to alternative choices, idiots

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  7. Nacho1

    What a stupid remark concerning Jesus....no respect from CNN......they have nobody but Commies writing for them!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  8. Jesus


    You don't speak for me, so please stop.


    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  9. Vince

    He might not have been an occupier...but he was most certainly a socialist.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  10. Teamosil

    What's next CNN? Posting the manifestos of the Aryan Brotherhood on the front page?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  11. Danny

    I think that Jesus shows that time and again the ability to transcend the political squabbling of his own day and always divert questions aimed at forcing him into a box (liberal v. conservative or free market v. communism etc.) into a teaching on how the Kingdom of Heaven transcends their petty concerns. So in response to the article I would say that Jesus would neither be for the occupy movement nor for the wall street establishment. Furthermore I feel that the article is fallacious in that it draws a weak parallel. The parable used refers to three servants of the king or three followers of Jesus. Many of the protesters are not followers of Jesus and it is painfully obvious that many large corporations do not adhere to the principles that he taught. But to people who do follow Jesus I feel that the article makes a valid point that the occupy protest is not the task that the disciples were entrusted with. However, many of the protesters complaints indicate that many of the values that are dear to them are the same or very similar to the values that Jesus taught–making it easy to use quotations from the gospels in their message. So maybe as believers we should refrain from criticizing the protesters, who are seeking the same things that we as believers should be seeking, simply because their methodology is different than the one that Jesus laid down for those who follow him.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Karmaapple

      So, ancient Judea, under Roman control, had a Free Market System?????
      This is puzzling!!

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

    From Wikipedia:

    The Family Research Council (FRC) is a conservative or right-wing Christian group and lobbying organization formed in the United States in 1981 by James Dobson. In the Winter 2010 issue of its magazine, Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the FRC as a hate group, saying that the organization "pushed false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia."

    The FRC is affiliated with a 501(c)(4) lobbying PAC known as FRC Action. A 501(c) is an American tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation or association, probably funded by Corporate America, who gets a tax deduct for their contributions. In other words, FRC is a mouth piece for the right and/or Corporate America.

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

    This is the stupidest interpretation of that passage I have ever heard. The passage wasn't about Jesus advocating for a free-market society. Especially considering in the previous chapter he told one dude to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. The parable was about the cruelty of a master who had lost sight of what was important and ruled by fear. So much so that a servant was so afraid to lose the money that he didn't risk anything.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Karmaapple

      When Republicans stop twisting scripture to mean anything they need to prove in the moment, then maybe, just maybe, they might find true meaning and spirituality in their faith.

      Oh, and remember that thing about it being easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the gates of heaven??

      Just sayin...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  14. xab

    Frankly, I don't live my life following man-made writings based on the so-called words of an invisible sky wizard. Call me insane.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Common sense

      How did this make it on the front page, let alone anywhere on the website? I'm sick of religion being used as a moral benchmark when in reality it's the source of countless wrongdoings and killing. Whatever happened to being good for the sake of goodness?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  15. qbhawk

    One thing for sure, we don't have to worry about where hell is no more if this guy represents Jesus...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  16. YBP

    This is total rubbish.

    1. The Family Research Council is a hate group as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Why Mr. Perkins has a voice in the legitimate news media is beyond belief.

    2. If you read the Gospels, Jesus continually preached against the wealthy. If you understand history you know that in First Century Palestine, the wealthy, who were very few in number (probably less than 1%), remained wealthy because they embraced the Roman Occupation and enforced Roman Order which most others found to defile the Holy Land. The wealthy sold out (and enslaved) their own nation. Jesus spoke out against this, and it got him killed.

    3. Times have not changed.

    What an incredible twist on the Gospels and History, Tony. What do you to for an encore?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  17. Paul

    The author completely missed the point of the parable. The servants in the story are followers of Christ, and the money given to them is the Word of God. The purpose of the parable is to explain to his disciples that Jesus wanted his followers to go out and spread the Word of God and increase his believers. The servant who does not go out and spread his gift (spiritual, not physical gift), is the one whom the master (Christ) is angry with. Like all parables, this particular parable is a metaphor, not a plug for free market principles.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Anomic Office Drone

    Jesus was clearly a hedge fund manager. Didn't you people read your Bible? When Jesus said “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) he was being sarcastic.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Roger Ogilivy Thornhill

    So if you're an Occupier, you're not following Jesus? Thanks for that tidbit. Usually, it's just called un-American, now it's against Jesus too.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  20. Chris

    This guy has got to be kidding and needs to get his conservative head out of his conservative back side. Any creditable theologian can tell you that while Jesus had the Jews (big organization like Wall Street) on one side and the Romans (another big organization like Wall Street) on the other. That there was probably no one more vocal against large organizations like Wall Street then Jesus.

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

      Sick, Sick, Sick article. This man has no idea what Jesus was all about. The group is a right-wing hate group. Their views are so far away from what Jesus taught. How dare they use Jesus for their political BS.!! I am so disgusted. I thought I had seen everything with police officers beating harmless peaceful occupiers. They should be embracing these occupiers for caring about this country and how corrupt it has become. They are brave to try to bring this corruption into the light. We should be glad they CARE. Jesus CARED. He would have been embracing the Occupiers NOT BEATING them. !!!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Whorhay

      What I love is that he's claiming that Christ was absolutely against collectivism while most of the actions attributed to Christ in the Bible are not consistent with this view. I might agree that Christ did not teach that we should be mandated to share wealth he definitely did not want wholesale unregulated capitalism, he tossed the market for sacrificial animals out of the temple with a whip in hand.

      Then there is this man's assertion that the people who make up OWS are lazy, unproductive and seeking handouts for free. The majority of what I've seen from OWS has been people that are frustrated at their inability to find work because of the economic trouble created by the reckless and selfish behaviour or the Wall Street banks. What ever happened to "Him who is without sin let him cast the first stone"

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
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