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. JP

    Hey, I'm a total atheist, but I seem to remember a story about Jesus "occupying" some temple and kicking a bunch of rich a**holes out. Seems like that behavior eventually led to seriously bad consequences for him too, if I'm not mistaken.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  2. FromPA2NYC

    Jesus took 10 loaves and fishes from obviously a few people and fed over a thousand. That sounds like the 1% giving back to everyone. Very Pro-Occupier. Not at all Free Market, Mr. Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  3. John _Atlanta GA

    Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into a building. Like most Christians, this guy is a fraud!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • JP

      Man! that is an EXCELLENT quote! I'm gonna remember that one!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  4. Anotherdayjustbelieve

    Oh, how I would love to be "a fly on the wall" in Mr. Tony's household and see just how he's living....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Tony

      Interesting to see how Atheists and Agnostics find it acceptable to attack someone because of their religious beliefs yet these are the same people crying about seeing any religious symbols/practices in public. Learn to respect someone's right to believe just as i respect your right not to believe. It is wrong to attack someone for their religious beliefs, or make fun of them.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  5. MICKY

    OH! Another right winger spouting more BS! Anything to criticize OWS!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jon King

      Yup, Jesus also lived in poverty, washed the feet of lepers, had long hair. Sounds quite liberal to me.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  6. asdf

    Only Republicans go to heaven dontchaknow.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. Rich

    The jesus freaks also said the bible condoned slavery and black people were not in anyway equal........so much for what they think jesus would have liked or disliked

    December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  8. eric

    Jesus talks more about giving to the poor than any other topic. He wasn't a political figure, but a spiritual figure. Do what is right, do not oppress and take advantage of the poor, take care of orphans and widows.

    On another note, the free market rewards those who "get rich no matter what the cost". It's only "free" in the sense that you are "free" to take advantage of whoever you want in order to get yourself ahead, it's enslaved the rest of society.

    I'm very glad to hear other Christians disagree with this article.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • hippie power 69

      and what was that jesus said about the rich man and heaven? something about a camel going through the eye of a needle?? jesus was a liberal and i don't believe he would be on the side of the 1%. no, jesus would be with the poor. remember the top will be the bottom and those on the bottom will be on top? the meek will inherit the earth. i disagree with this right wing rethug.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  9. EnjaySea

    Jesus, if anything the bible says about him can be relied upon, was a protester first, and an anti-profiteer next. According to his rather annoying claim, you have to give up everything - your riches, your family - and follow him. Doesn't sound like he was too keen on bilking the masses for every penny you can get out of them, which is characterized today by free marketers, and the christian church alike.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  10. Jeebus

    The single greatest accomplishment of the modern right wing (neocon) movement has been to convince millions of week minded people that greed, selfishness, and hate are good Christian virtues.

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

      Got that right Jeebus!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Bizarro7

    Jesus made a display of marching through a city while pinned to a symbol. That's a very clear demonstration, for a very specific spiritual purpose. The MONEYLENDERS are the ones he railed against. Get a clue.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  12. nepawoods

    "Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence" ... Oy, they're not railing against a free market system that rewards diligence. Government bailouts were not the free market, and they rewarded gross financial negligence, the exact opposite of rewarding diligence. This guy doesn't understand Occupy at all.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  13. John

    Perhaps Mr. Perkins should read up on the actual economic practices of the Ancient World. And, since this parable ends with the returning King giving the command: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (KJV) does that mean, according to Mr. Perkin’s logic, that Jesus also endorsed capital punishment?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  14. Randy O

    Biggest piece of outright blasphemy I've ever read on CNN. Next they'll tell us that Jesus was the devil. Why does CNN print this drivel??

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  15. Steve

    That's pretty short sighted, don't you think? Just because Jesus (allegedly) advocated a free-market system, doesn't mean he would advocate the unbridled greed that we see on Wall Street today. He would have surely spoken out against that, just as he overturned the money changers' tables in the temple. He probably would have encouraged Occupiers to protest peacefully (as they are doing), but to make the most of te talents they have been given.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Truefax

    What a total dbag, really? This man proves people try to invent God in their own image, look at him trying to corrupt the message of his Lord to suit his needs. Wow religiosity at its best, reminds me of the muslim clerics that get kids to explode themselves even thoughth suicide is one of the few totally unforgivable sins in Islam.

    Play on, keep herding those sheep to pasture and back and just like a every shepard, enjoy their delicous flesh when you get hungery.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  17. lolwut

    while we're on the topic of fictional children's characters, i wonder if Snoopy would've been an occupier?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  18. Michael

    Disregarding the fact that Jesus lived more than 2000 years ago and therefore said nothing on modern conditions... Who gives a damn what some preacher thought millenia ago? It's irrelevant and stupid to even discuss.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  19. CNN

    We completely and unquestionably agree with and support Tony Perkins and his recent posting on Belief Blog. That is why we featured it on the front page.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • 24shamsky

      Yet another so-called "Christian" who clearly doesn't have a clue what Jesus supposedly stood for.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  20. David M

    "Occupiers" have a lot of gall to claim any kind of 'high moral ground'.

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

      and you have a lot of gall to judge someone else insect

      December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
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