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. mc

    WHY would anyone give this freak the time of day? he gave $82,000 to the KKK to purchase their mailing list and spread his bigotry. When the best way to spread your message is to get it out to Klansmen and white supremacists... it's time to shut the heck up.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Stephen

    Get this garbage off of CNN's front page.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Sean

    Another Christian that doesn’t know his Bible. I’m shocked.

    The character of Jesus was a socialist hippy. He was designed to appeal the poor masses.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  4. scott

    Hey look Wall Street bought the church as well as the governmet. Maybe it was a package deal!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Velvet

      When have they ever been available seperately?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  5. JustinJ

    Being that i'm an adult i find it silly to base economic decisions on fairy tales. Regardless, i realize that there are those that do. My question is why he didn't write about what Jesus would prefer about invading Iraq. I seem to remember a few things about peacmakers being good.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  6. Peter Jonker

    This parable shows that Jesus supports the free enterprise system?!? Tony Perkins gets a C minus in interpretation.

    Jesus used investment (not the free enterprise system) as a metaphor for engagement in GOD's business. Jesus is calling us to invest in the business of the Kingdom of God. So the question is: What, exactly, is the business of that Kingdom? Jesus tells us in his first sermon. It's also in Luke's gospel and there Jesus stands up at the very beginning of his ministry and shares with the people of Nazarereth what his business looks like:: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." That's Luke 4:18-19.

    I don't know if Jesus would have been occupying one of the camps around the country, I don't know if he would have endorsed all the means chosen by the occupiers, but it's pretty clear that he would have shared their concerns.
    Using the parable of the Minas to make Jesus into Mr. Free Enterpise is about as sketchy as taking the words from the Song of Mary (Luke 1:52-53 – "The Lord has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty") as an indication that God hates rich people.

    CNN, you need to find better people for your Op Ed pieces.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Jim

      That's just YOUR opinion, judge not lest you be judged, friend

      December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  7. Rev. J.T.

    Allah spoke of Compassion in the Quran; Jesus, "Blessed are the meek."; Buddha of loving-kindness ("metta"). Mr. Perkins has missed the very heart of not only Christianity but all major religions focusing instead on money and banking.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  8. Lindy Lee

    Is he talking about the same Jesus who tossed the moneychangers out of the temple? The same Jesus who said that "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"? The same Jesus who said "sell all you have and follow me"? Doesn't sound like any free marketer I ever heard of. Mr. Perkins must have Jesus confused with some other biblical character. Judas maybe; I believe he's the one who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sean

      Well said.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  9. Patrick Williams

    Why did CNN even post this dribble? This is pure nonsense!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Bob

      You've got that exactly correct!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  10. Ed

    No one could be less Christian then this clown.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sean

      Actually he sounds about right on the mark for a modern Christian, hypocritical and clueless about his own ‘holy book’.

      There is a difference between what is and what should be.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Dan

    You were not all given equal opportunity at birth, but you do have the opportunity of choice. Think about Shahid Khan who will be taking over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He slept at the Y and worked for $1.20 an hour to get to where he is today. There are certainly problems with the system, but OWS believers are greedy attention-getters. Work for it... and there are jobs out there. You just have to earn it by not being so estranged. Sure, times are tough, but don't put it on those that have succeeded in a broken system. Fixing the system means fixing our political system that allows for corruption. Do you really think occupying a park is the best use of time?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • bob

      thats right! bury your heads in the sand, ignore the corruption of banks, government and the media and work for it from within the system! it may not be perfect, but what else is there?!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Patrick Williams

      OK, but what about the crAppola that Tony Perkins wrote? What do you think of his "interpretation"?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  12. Joe

    What next Mr Perkins you going to rewrite The Ten Commandments because you think they are not for right enough for you and your Clown Car full of GOP Phoneys. Why don't you spew your trash on Fox they love that kind of crap over there since watch Fox News makes you dumber it might be real easy to pull the wool over their eyes.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sean

      Why not? The so called ‘ten commandments” have been rewritten several times over by the church. I’m not going to waste time educating you but here is a hint… there were a lot more than ten.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  13. jmadey

    its the mix-up of two very different words. jesus was a "prophet", mr. perkins clearly worships "profit".

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

    In my opinion, it is unacceptable for CNN to be promoting what the SPLC has rightly classified as a hate organization on its website. If you agree, please click "contact us" on the bottom of the page and send CNN your thoughts on the topic.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  15. Velvet

    Isn't Tony Perkins the guy who played Norman Bates in Psycho? I'm sick of celebrities telling me what to do.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  16. Hemp Is a Native Plant


    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  17. R George

    This must be the same Jesus that talks to George W., Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Joe

      I hope they know that there are special pills for them to take so they don't hear voices in their heads.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  18. Jesus

    Keep religion out of my news.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  19. jo an

    Oh really!! Tony Perkins needs to wipe that 'satisfied grin' off his face...I seriously doubt that Jesus would have shown up in any of the so called houses of worship of the FAMILY COUNCIL...I think he'd OCCUPIED....even their spaces...Rant on Tony...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  20. Chuck

    So the Christian thing to do is allow billionaires to sit on the wealth they inhereted while millions around the world suffer starvation and treateable diseases and illnesses? Now we are painting Christ is the savvy businessman? Give me a break.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Joe

      Wow the Tea Baggers have lost the one and only brain cell watch out because they don't believe in Stem Cell Research which might fix that problem lol.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.