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. Gannt

    If this is solely the opinion of Tony Perkins, what is it doing being featured on the front page in a much larger view than the top stories?

    CNN, stop pretending you don't agree with Tony Perkins or any of the Belief Blog you constantly make the rest of us who don't buy that stuff view. I'm done with CNN if this continues. You guys are becoming Fox News.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  2. Mrs.V

    Jesus also said: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's".

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • U.S. Common Sense

      I was about to post the same thing.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  3. charlie732

    Tony Perkins is a politician with an agenda, not a pastor or a bible scholar. He is obviously conveniently ignoring the context in which Jesus spoke the parable to further his agenda, as many pointed out. How dare he twist God's words. Wikipedia says: While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment. Case closed.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  4. Calina

    TAX ALL RELIGION,Then You Will See The Difference........
    TAX Them ALL...................

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  5. zach

    This guy is taking that parable completely out of context. Jesus was discussing what we should do with our talents given by him, it had nothing to do with the free market economy. This guy is a joke and frankly has no right to implement Christianity into these protests. If we go based on this man's analogy then this country shouldn't exist, because Jesus wouldn't revolt against a set government right? This is exactly why protesting was allowed as a given right. You're a joke dude.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  6. Hello Society

    Wait a second, I thought... "For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." I thought free market capitalism was a modern economic philosophy, adopted almost two millenia after Jesus's times. Oh no, I'm sorry, my mistake. Historical anachronisms are irrelevant, and the Bible only exists to support whatever paltry thesis Tony Perkins thought up about OWS five minutes ago! How could I be such a fool. I'm an agnostic who just got done playing keys in a non-denominational (born again) congregation for over a year. Truly the blind leading the blind...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Marc

    I seem to recall a little incident in the Temple involving JC and some Pharisees and moneylenders, which went a little further than civil disobedience. And I also think I recall something about the meek inheriting the earth. What I don't recall is jesus cheering on hypocritical supporters of Caesar. Tony – you are full of crap. And somewhat incompetent if this is any example of your ability to interpret scripture.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Humanitari©

    CNN is really desperate for rating, this article is a sham and a shame

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  9. lil Catch'r

    I need to discuss this with my priest. Luckily he's standing right behind me!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  10. DaveO

    While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  11. Engaging Retail

    Anyone who has read the bible will agree this guy is a bonehead....what I want to know is why his BS gets top billing on CNN?????

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  12. tantricpal

    I do not think any spiritual leader with the compassion that it is said of Jesus would embrace anyone using such money to take advantage of other people. Instead, s/he would be among the masses occupying whatever space necessary to call attention to such abuse. So, it is a concern that Tony would dare to speak such corporate supporting gibbish in the name of a leader he presumably holds so high in regard. He may want to give this some thought and soul searching.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  13. batjones

    It is my understanding that the American people bailed out the banks and corporations with many minas. The banks and corporations are now sitting on trillions of minas. I agree with Mr. Perkins that the trillions of minas that the corporations and banks have not used should be taken away and given to the most productive in society – the American wage labor class. The meaning of the parable is: "If you don't use it, then you will lose it."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  14. jen

    If you label the occupy movement with the simplistic view that the right-wing has given it, that these are just a bunch of hippies looking for a free ride, this article would be correct. Unfortunately, that simplistic view is completely wrong. The occupy movement was formed to stand up to the wall street crooks who ruined our economy and are rolling in money as a result because they were allowed to actually bet that they economy would fail and reap the rewards from it. OWS formed to combat corporate pilfering of the economy and wall street corruption of our political process, not to give a free lunch to a bunch of people living on the street. Ever heard of credit default swaps? Please do us all a favor and EDUCATE YOURSELF. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/business/whos-at-fault-if-stocks-continue-to-plummet.html?pagewanted=all

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • U.S. Common Sense

      .... Just as the Left tried to label the Tea Party as racists.

      People tend to speak with stereotypes based upon the small segment that stands out. In the case of the OWS crowd, it's the anarchists that create the reputation of the collective, even though they are the fringe minority. OWS should take a lesson from the Tea Party can cast out those that create the false impression of the group.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  15. Mark

    To the guy: You're completely transpartent. Get dressed.
    To CNN: You publish this stuff, why? Why?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Cat Daddy

      Here, here Mark!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  16. LC

    must we always twist things to suit what we think to destroy something that is a right! no one has beeen unruly but the establishment/ government who gives the right to assemble peacefuly. the occupyers could pack up and come back each weekend and make more of a mess for cities to clean up but they at least are organized in cleaning and not leaving the areas filthy unlike the Tea Party with its racist republican party.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  17. DB

    Tony Perkins does not know Jesus, Buddah or any great teacher of human values and truths. Perkins is an ass/.=*. Why does CNN print this crap from idiots like him? Occupy Wall Street is trying to do this responsibly. The distance between the rich and the poor is very great. The time to listen is now to avert a real revolution.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Cat Daddy

      Unfortunately DB, they won't listen. The real revolution is going to happen.

      France a few hundred years ago anyone? Storming of the Bastille?

      It's coming and though I have no idea what it will look like, I know that the status quo will never be the same. And fear, unbelievably enough, isn't anywhere on my radar. What the rich don't understand, couldn't understand, is that we have nothing to lose...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  18. Humanitari©

    Jesus would be ashamed of all the people that trash the poor for their rights, no one practices anything that Jesus said, continue your low life wars and economic downnnnn turn,

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  19. Mike

    I love the assumptions this guy makes. Like he knows exactly what Jesus would think? And as for the people of the OWS movement, the point is they work their asses off and get nowhere, while bankers and politicians make money from very little work. These people do work hard.
    Also, this man is profiting off of "God's word" and things like that... If he wants to quote the bible, what about this quote, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25)?
    Learn to live by the whole bible if you want to be a Christian, not just the passages that appeal to you...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. George1234

    I thought this had to be a joke. Then I saw that it was CNN and I knew for sure it was.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:21 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.