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. Sockeyerama

    There’s no excuse for being unemployed these days. Just look at this ad. Help wanted: Scary story tellers needed. Good BS’ers can rake it in with less effort than 5-minute abs!!! Scare simple folk into putting money into your basket by waving big book around and telling them they’re going to a bad place if they don’t. Fluency in dead language, medieval English or gibberish with seizures especially profitable.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  2. Newyorker

    Utterly pathetic attempt at trying to justify corporate greed. If Jesus was here, he would be siding with the poor against the rich. Did this moron even read the Bible, before deciding to spread a bunch of contemptible BS that goes totally against Jesus' teachings?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  3. Bobbert

    The family research council is a joke (and so is this article).
    A funny one at that! 🙂

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  4. nepawoods

    "Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence" ... Rewarding diligence ... is that what the savings and loan bailouts were all about?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  5. Tom Leykis

    Is Tom Perkins on crack? It's painfully obvious he's delusional.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  6. Troy

    CNN said they actually do agree with the opinions of this article.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Athena

      Troy, I think that was someone's idea of a joke. I would be really surprised if CNN would post a comment saying they agreed with someone. Besides they already included the disclaimer under the article that the opinions in the article are solely those of Tony Perkins.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  7. Bryant Rudy

    Jesus was a mentally ill man who thought his "father" was floating around on a cloud. He also thought he could heal the sick, turn water into wine and walk on water. Problem is, we now know all these things to be false. Grow up.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  8. Jon O

    "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."

    Yes. Yes they are. And until you can show me an example in human history of said abuses not occurring, this statement has no merit.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Atticus Finch

      I don't think we can show any examples of any system that actually "worked". Everything has failed. Can you show me an example of anything that has worked for an extended period of time without major incident? I think this article is mostly stupid, but free market (with promotion of fair play by the government) works. In this case – fair play was not enforced.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  9. Leaf on the Wind

    But Mr. Perkins, wasn't Jesus' first miracle turning water into wine at a wedding reception? That's a useful, free market skill.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  10. geeeno

    yeah, right, jesus is for donald trump and not for mother teresa. more conservative based idiocy.

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

      Even Jesus doesn't like people that average a bankruptcy every decade. What is that 3 or 4 now Trump?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  11. jkINC

    That may be the first time in my 53 years I've heard Jesus be called a Capitalist. Free market? He couldn't be less Caveat Emptor. He didn't want the buyer to beware he taught that the seller (and buyer) should deal fairly and honestly with one another. He was however in favor of Carpe Diem, Seize the Carp. He did like fishes after all.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Dan in Colo

    Maybe Jesus wasn't an occupier, but the Easter Bunny was. We are dealing with fiction, after all.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  13. Meek1

    Really?!... Really!!?? Who the hell is this guy? Wow... I ... I don't even know what to say... Please please please everyone... speak up and speak out and get this guy out of whatever office or position he holds at the FRC. This is the most un-Christian mumbo-jumbo I have ever read. Sigh... Is this what Christianity has come to?

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

      He's an opportunist. Pretty arrogant to think you can corner the market on Jesus.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  14. GIUK

    I’ve seen less offensive things floating in frat house toilet bowls after a wild party, than this article. Congratulations, CNN, in making Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion appear as beacons of truth in comparison to this trash.

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

      Now, now, you're blaming the messenger. It is crap like this from this group that continues to marginalize these nutjobs.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  15. Brian Nordin

    Tony knows the free market is not "free" when political power warps it as is happening today; warps it in favor of and towards the bidding of the most powerful at the expense of everyone else. Jesus would heap you with the "hypocrites and brood of vipers" – a very special place has been prepared for you Mr. Perkins – I hear its quite hot there all year long .... for eternity.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  16. LPortillo

    Does this verses sound like a “free marketer” to you my friend?

    Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21

    The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; Luke 4:18

    Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23

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

      Give to the poor. Hmmmm, I think that was waxed out of any Republican's bible.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  17. CNNwirestaff

    CNN will now be CRNA (Central Revisionist News Agency). Changes coming soon.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. QS

    I can't think of a more social gathering! Antisocial....LOL!

    And did not Jesus enter the temple and turn over the tables of the money chaners? I'd call that "trashing" the place! LOL!

    What is it about religion that precludes the abiilty for rational thought?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • QS

      money "changers"

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Praetorian

    As if the Family Research Council holds a monopoly on whether or not the Occupy movement is in keeping with Christianity. Their stance should be no surprise to anyone, as they are an extreme right-wing organization that is so extreme that they have been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. How about a less biased opinion, CNN?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  20. Thomas

    A "christian" blindly supporting republican greed? How utterly novel.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:40 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.