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.

Groups bring Occupy to Congress

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?

Opinion: Occupy Wall Street looks like church to me

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.

Occupy Wall Street movement tackles housing crisis

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. Jeb

    How many of these fake Christians need to get exposed as perverts or charlatans before people stop taking their double talk seriously?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  2. Casa de R&R

    it is AMAZING that CNN gives this kind of insanity any coverage at all... Although the backlash and user comments maybe are the story in itself... Letting the family research council know just how far out their nutty OPINIONS actually are...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  3. Forrest

    Holy crap, this article phailed

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Reality

    And how much does Tony Perkins make for spouting his and Dobson's "red neck views"? -––



    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      Exactly. The guy has a totally cushy, high paying job and can't even fathom what the occupy movement is about. I bet his tune would change if he had been out of work for 3 years with no health insurance. What a total tool this guy is...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  5. WhatTheFlyinFudge

    This is about the stupidest piece of crap article I've read all year.

    I'm not sure what's worse: The premise behind the article, or the pure insult of the reader's intelligence.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  6. e065702

    It is interesting how the evangelicals cherry pick their interpretations of the Bible. Sometimes ancient Greek is used, other times not so much.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Bob

    That's quite a good bit of sophistry citing this one parable and ignoring everywhere else in the bible where Jesus rails against wealth. (Moneychangers in the temple, hmmm?) But even so, saying that Jesus wanted people to be diligent and productive doesn't mean he would think our current corporate capitalist system is fair and we shouldn't protest it. In fact, he probably was using the money as a metaphor for spiritual growth. We should grow in faith and love and bring more people into the church. He was saying "don't hide your light under a bushel," not "trade bushels of grain for money."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  8. JCMars

    Anyone who believes that the "occupy" movement has anything to do with religion or spirituality is a complete moron. This movement is all about "notice me, I want my fifteen minutes." The occupiers are the most selfish, self-centered people evolution has produced. This is a media-created movement, there's nothing noble about it.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Me

      Like a right winger knows anything about spirituality. Let me guess you thought the tea party and the racists slant was a movement? You probably sit in your house and think you know god and that the world is a dandy place. You're the moron. Go find a mirror.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Bob

      Get the BIG money out of Government... That's the message from OWS... Cut the "Jesus would not approve "crap.. It's just more right wing/big money propaganda from big money psychofants... Jesus kicked the money lenders out of the Temple and says to love the poor... What hokum..

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • JCMars

      Typical liberal. Always looking for a mirror.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Leo

      You are wrong on all counts. The impetus of our movement is social justice. The current system is predatory, exploitive and corrupting. We have the finest government money can buy, our politicians running like pigs to the trough of corporate money and then using their office to bail out these corporations and to enrich themselves. The wealthy elite ship our jobs overseas, take grotesque compensation and bonuses and use their political donations to ensure loop holes limiting their tax burden and bail outs. Read your history sir, Injustice, inequality, lack of opportunity and corruption brings people to the streets. We are the symptom of the disease destroying our country. Government should fear its citizenry. We have had enough.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Scott

    The hoops that religious conservatives jump through to justify their political beliefs is becoming a spectator sport.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  10. MaryM

    Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington. Yep , this article is BS and the majority of Americans KNOW IT. Too bad GOP/TP, this C R A P wont fly in the face of logical thinking.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • todd in DC

      He's part of a hate group. I'm still waiting for CNN to ask a few Grand Dragons their take on racial inequities.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Lee van Laer

    Here is a man using Christ's own words to urge men to lay their treasures up on earth. It's sad.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Steve

    Way to go there Tony. Nothing like twisting scripture to match up with your twisted politics. Remember that Jesus said that if anyone adds to his word, they will be punished. Well, when you take a spiritual parable and try to apply it to a non-related real-world situation, you have pretty much added to His words by grossly misapplying them.

    I am a follower of Jesus and often avoid the "Christian" label, simply because I don't want to be associated with the likes of you – people who make a living, twisting sacred words to match up with your economic and political views.

    Shame on you for spewing these kinds of lies and wrongfully trying to cram scripture into your narrow-minded worldview.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Point

      Steve – I have to speak up to say it's not a political point to encourage productivity and investment at the individual level. The great non-productivite segments of society in our country are truly a moral issue of the greatest magnitude. So also are the Wall Street types abusing their role for gain. But the author's take that a morally-based personal initiative to be productive and gainful is one of the most spiritual principles I know of. What argument can you reasonably make against it? Working hard without cutting corners is a bedrock principle.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  13. Adrik

    I'm pretty sure that Jesus used parables to put something spiritual and abstract into concrete terms that humans could understand, not to justify a particular economic model 2000 years down the road.

    See, here's My Take: This was actually a lesson about faith, and Jesus didn't give a crap about our political or economic systems here on Earth. It's like Matthew 19:23-24 (...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.) I doubt Jesus is condemning all rich people to hell. Rather he's reminding folks that some of the traits people acquire when they become wealthy don't translate very well into salvation.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Point

      While I would agree it's a reference to a spiritual point, do you really think that Jesus could care less about the work-ethic of people? I mean, if you had to ask God which is right: 1) working hard, investing with great care & wisdom vs. 2) any other straw-man argument you could create – I pick #1. I think the point of a parable to is to explain 2 things: 1) The parable is self-explanatory to all that the first 2 lived "righteously" because of their industry, and 2) the spiritual application. But to pretend that the natural half of the parable is not significant is to miss the foundation of Jesus' point. If the natural application is "right", then there is no basis to make the spiritual application. In other words, Jesus was making a case for hard work. That's a part of the Christian faith.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Adrik

      So...Jesus IS condemning rich people to hell?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  14. Dale

    The truth is that Jesus hung out with the sinners like tax collectors and overturned the moneychangers and sellers of goods at the temple. That being said, we all must treat people like Jesus is with us. Property must be respected if obtained in a just fashion. And guys- it's ok to clean up and look for a job.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  15. Danny

    If you look at the system God decreed in the old testament there was some free market economics, but with balances. Every 50 years the land (in an agricultural society this is the "means of production") reverted back to the original families. In other words every 50 years the playing field was leveled again so anyone could compete. If you had done well and made a lot of money you could then buy up more land and start again, but if you were poor because your family had fallen on hard times you had a fair chance with everything being reset to zero.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  16. Joshua

    To ocupy working on the evangelism not money. richness can be deceiving and once rich share your wealth with the ones at the botton but in todays date people die of hunger daily and how many pounds of food we trow in the garbage daily. is that the system we have to work on. come on wake up richness is worthless here work for the rich we can get from God when He comes and pay us for the work done in His name whether jew muslim or christian or atheist. judgement is for all. lets work on what matter most love one another. and prays God by doing so.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  17. Ran

    Jesus bore witness against injustice, period. Mr. Perkins is just another holy man that is too cowardly to stand up against money and power out of fear of losing his wealth. Christ made is clear to you rich people, drop your wealth and follow Him! This is the sacrifice that is required of you to see the kingdom of heaven. If you "holy rich people" can't do that, then just go back to you "houses of ivory", shut up and let the "real Christians" fight the good fight! Men like Mr. Perkins are getting tired and I'm getting tired of hearing their "weak-sermons" jumping on everyone but the rich!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  18. thatguy555

    This piece is just another example of how the republicans have gone off the deep end. I won't be too surprised if they decide to vote on whether or not broccoli is a small tree. While I blame both sides for the problems, one side clearly needs to be placed in a padded room with no windows or sharp objects

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Tony Perkins has no idea of What Jesus Would Do. Do some research and discover for yourself what a bunch of hypocrites this Family Council outfit is. No integrity at all. Start doing what Jesus would do and stay out of the Pharisee Party....I mean Republican Party.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  20. ArtPh

    Great, one more person who thinks he can speak for Jesus. How on earth, or in heaven's name, can you presume to know exactly what Jesus would think or say about the occupy movement?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Furthermore, this is a fictional character. You can attribute any charactistics you want to him.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109
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.