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. Jean Luc Picard

    How ironic that Perkins fails to mention the story that immediately precedes this parable in Luke 19, where Zacchaeus tells Jesus 'half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.' Jesus' response is clear in meaning: 'Today salvation has come to this house.'

    If Perkins wanted to be fair to Jesus' overall social teachings, he should not only scold sloth (an unfair caricature of the OWS participants, BTW) but he should also scold the Wall Street crooks who hoard and defraud. Unfortunately, though, Perkins has chosen to cherry pick in order to make a cheap political point.

    This piece is simply an example of the tried and true maxim that anyone can make the Bible say anything they want it to.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  2. dale zalewski

    I find these self-appointed, self-righteous hypocrits claiming to know the mind of Jesus most amusing. In fact, one might liken them to slinkies...very entertaining when pushed down stairs.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Pingpaul

    It is probably a mistake to suggest that Jesus endorses the idea of a "free market." He is more complex than that, according to the Bible. A market is a tool, a means to an end.
    It is pretty clear that Jesus, and God, use tools like markets in a very different way than most of us do. God makes it very clear that the disadvantaged of the world – specifically widows, children and aliens – are to be helped. It is clear that the modern concept of "free market" places self, not others, at the center. In his death and resurrection, Jesus made the most selfless sacrifice so that others might live in the presence of God. Without that sacrifice, no one could live in the presence of God.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  4. Adam Mix

    I want to know what Santa Claus, Bugs Bunny, Spider-Man, Gandalf and the rest of the fictional characters would think about the Occupy Movement...

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

    This is the most reaching argument I have read in quite sometime. I seriously wonder what spin this idiot could put on the book of Acts. If the occupy movement is the "lazy servant" then should I draw from this story God rewards the liars and thieves who profit from the labor of others?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  6. ObamaJoe

    Does free market mean you can cheat ?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  7. David Roy Cohea

    Oh...........So now you are speaking for Jesus. Did not know you had a in with him.
    Please ask The Lord what the winning power ball lotto numbers are if you get a chance.
    I would like to donate it all to occupy if I win.
    Thank You

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Rich

    who is this jesus guy anyway.Seems everybody on the right is in tight with him.

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

      read the bible,,,,,,,,,,,

      December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  9. Cool Brooklyn Guy

    No, Jesus didn't believe in sitting peacefully by as the foxes raided the hen house. No... He just went right into the temple and F'd those corrupt moneylenders upside the head. Yeah, Mr. Perkins, you self-serving tool of the FAR RIGHT... Thanks for chiming in.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  10. Jason

    Mr. Perkins, you are a complete and total ass.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  11. asdf

    CNN once again baiting their audience. Way to go out of and find a dandy to write an obnoxious opinion piece. I guess its alot cheaper and easier than actually going out and covering the real news.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  12. duncan

    Wait, The Family Research Council? The organization that's officially listed as a hate group? Well done, CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • David M

      Whose official list would that be? Yours??

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  13. Hemp Is a Native Plant

    Reading these comments warms my heart. My calculation is: Perkins 1, Reason 10,000.

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

      B..S.. Jesus threw the money lenders Out! and Occupied the Church For the People!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Me

      This article is complete propaganda B..S.. Jesus threw the money lenders Out! and Occupied the Church For the People!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  14. sfk324

    According to multiple sources, Tony Perkins and the FRC have begun construction of the world's largest needle. The aim, it is said, is to allow for all the richest men in the world to pass through its eye without needing to feel the least bit of discomfort.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  15. James

    This is the fallen form of apostate Christianity that is foretold in the bible, "fornicating with the kings of the earth" (marrying itself to the world, in the form of wealth, politics and economics, rather than being faithful to it's true husband, Jesus Christ), and urging it's fallen facade of morality upon everyone. It will soon become more forceful in the latter, in an attempt to return to it's golden age, what we call the dark ages.

    @awaysaway Conservatives are against the OWS movement because it is a self-described Marxist/communist movement (their own words, not mine), and communism is the polar opposite of the conservative values of freedom and responsibility in the hand of the people (a.k.a. small government). Republican politicians are "against" it so that they can gain the votes of conservatives.

    @Patti Did you mean to say "Outside of the bible and the historians", or would you prefer we not know about history? Anyway, yes I'm quite sure Jesus sees the hypocrisy in all of us quite clearly.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Calina


    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  17. ABBFLA

    I'm inclined to recall the story of Jesus and the "loaves and fishes". Jesus fed the hungry crowd, once. He seemed to leave them on their own after that day. Maybe there's someting to that eh?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  18. Doug

    Its apparent you come from good stock, Tony. as in laughing stock.
    Jesus would be cuffed and sent away to misdemeanor jail by Christians if he were to show up today, because he would be accused of engaging in anti-social behavior. (See the bit with the merchants and money changers in the Biblebabble). Its time to get your head out of the Bronze Age, son.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  19. conrad

    Tony Perkins does not understand the teachings of Christ. His article is a calculated misinterpretation of his teachings intended to mislead the masses and would qualify as the worst kind of evil.

    Jesus did not advocate for freemarket capitalism and specifically commanded his followers to Love even the least of his children – to love ones neighbor as oneself. He specifically spoke against the practices of money lending and charging interest, he saw that they were simply means to exploiting the weak.

    The parables about fishing and farming are obvious metaphors intended to direct us to cultivate what is within us, and thereby reap grace. He did not mean be occupied by business, he meant the opposite. He taught that we should be occupied by helping each other. Jesus was a socialist, and Tony Perkins knows this in his heart of hearts.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  20. nepawoods

    "Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier" ... Is he suggesting the occupiers aren't free marketers? In a free market there are no expensive government bailouts to save businesses from reckless mistakes.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
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