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. fineart

    If we don't heed the words and action the Occupy Movement is trying to instill in us, Occupy two (2) isn't going to be pretty.
    The vast majority of us are being trashed everyday; be it foreclosure, homelessness, hunger, drug addiction, it's all right in front of us. Wake up before it's too late. See what we did to the banking industry when we witdrew $600,000,000 and put it in credit unions. We can do it again, we can even bring the entire rotten, unfair system down altogther without any violence.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  2. Keef

    Another example of corrupt people using religion to try and keep the masses in line and doing their bidding. Disgusting.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      Agree. We need to call these people out an banish them from the land! Let him preach on an island somewhere.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Paul

      The problem is that there are so many fools that will vote for these idti0ts because they constantly twist Jesus's words and carry a 100 pound Bible.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  3. oneSTARman

    This PARABLE is Also told in Matthew 25; where shortly after we read: “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ – PLEASE REMIND the GOP

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Paul

      The GOP has made up a republican god and call it Christianity. They lack compassion for those in need. Protect the unborn but forget them once they are born. And say the Earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs are fake. They deny life saving treatment research with stem cells. These are the religious nuts who want to run our country.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  4. Hawkeye

    I don't need Tony Perkins to tell me what Jesus would think or do. Martin Luther established the precedent for thinking for yourself on matters like this in 1517. The next thing we know, Perkins will tell us Jesus was a Republican and that we should vote a straight party ticket.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      He was also a global warming denier!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  5. GPC

    Perkins starts out this piece with a complete lie. He says that Jesus' disciples believed that the Kingdom of Heaven would arrive soon. Supposedly Jesus corrected them and said it wouldn't be established for some time. Perkins needs to actually read his Bible. Jesus made very clear that the end would come within the lifetimes of some of his followers. Of course, Jesus turned out to be wrong and here we are still waiting two thousand years later for something that should have happened within at least a couple of decades.

    "Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Mark 13:30-31 NAB)
    "He also said to them, "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power." (Mark 9:1 NAB)

    He also must never have read the book of Acts. Christianity actually began as a collectivist religion. People were expected to give up all their worldly goods to the community. And, of course, he missed the part about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven. If you believe in the Bible, you should actually take the time to read it cover-to-cover.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      Yes, and the Christian monastaries have always been very collectivistic in nature. So according to this author, Jesus would frown upon all of those monastic order.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • AmazedinFL


      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  6. FasterAndFasterTheCommentsGo

    I don't really have anything to say. I'm just taking up space.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  7. Kool Aid

    Dear CNN...is there any particular reason you have failed to post any of my comments for at least the last two months? I would genuinely appreciate an answer. You have my email address. Please let me know what I can do to assist you.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • CNN

      Dear Al,

      It's simple, we don't like you, your face, your dog, everything, we just hate it. It's not because you probably had some naughty words within words (like do cu.m ent), nope, couldn't have been, it's really because the staff has been as.signed to watch your every move and make your life a living hel.l.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  8. James

    I can't stand when morons try to tell others what Jesus would have done.

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

    Wow... I knew this was going to be a great read. Jesus was a free-marketer? Christianity already requires a massive dose of cognitive dissonance to even BELIEVE... let alone to frame Jesus as a capitalist, who sticks up for the rich?! I mean... REALLY!? **REALLY**?!? This is like someone arguing protesting is invalid because Superman was friends with Lex Luther. Not only is the line of reasoning completely false to begin with (Superman DOESN'T EXIST), but it isn't even consistent with what Superman actually DOES according to the comic books!!! Lmao... well done, well done. Amazing troll.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      He's a typical white christian DB that thinks he's special and part of the chosen ones. People like this make me ill.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  10. TheyNotHim

    Jesus did not exist so why exactly does it matter what this sheister imagines that he said 2000 yrs ago?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      He did exist and was Jewish by birth.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  11. LarrytheMenno

    Sorry, this does not compute. I would love to have a discussion with Mr. Perkins. I would have LOTS of questions about his interpretations. He manages not to mention the times Jesus talked about sharing with those in need, etc, etc, etc, WOW!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      He's an idiot!! How does more than one person follow this kind of crap???

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  12. Paul

    Nonsense, which part of "blessed are poor for they shall inherit the kingdom" don't these evangelists understand? Looking at these people's website of the Family Research Council, I see all of the GOP religious caca that they are trying to cram down everyone's throats. I bet they want a needle with an eye that a camel can fit through. Jesus is solidly on the poor's side, a fact lost to the religious right in this country. Their brand of twisted Christianity is a total turn off and false. Dump Dominion Theology, its going to destroy what Jesus came to teach us which is to Love one another.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      According to this author's clearly wrong thinking, Jesus also would have frowned upon the Christian monastaries, given that they are very collectivistic and non-materialistic in nature.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  13. Bob in Denver

    Anyone who has read the bible with passion and diligence knows that Jesus would not have tolerated reckless gambling activities. Wall St. is not the cornerstone of commerce or job creation. It is history's largest casino. And just as with every casino, the house always wins. All bets are off as far as Jesus would be concerned.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  14. Marvin

    Tony Perkins obviously suffers from deep-rooted mental illness.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      He's not alone – most rich people do – they just never get called out (only the poor crazy ones do).

      December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  15. leftcoast1

    Mr. Perkins and the Family Research Council may dress up what they believe in religious language, but it's all a cover for what they really want. An America as it was in 1700. Woman sub servant to men. Gays and Lesbians imprisoned for who they love. And the very rich free from pesky taxes or regulations. Make no mistake. FRC worships more than its version of Christianity. It also worships "THE MARKET." It believes that GOD and THE MARKET are one an the same.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  16. johnborg

    As a student in theology, I can tell you not to take anything Tony Perkins says seriously. He's one of those conservative "know-it-alls" who doesn't actually know anything about the Bible for two reasons: (1) He believes God handed it down to people, (2) he takes the Bible literally and out of context.

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


    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Seeker


      December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Josh

    "Blessed are the poor" doesn't mean that God prefers his followers to all be poor.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Seeker

      You're a complete idiot. Why? because it is clear that Jesus CRITICIZED those who valued material things and the rich – that's why? Quite trying to distort things to suite your distorted and guilt ridden life!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  19. Truth Seeker

    What is this CRAP???? What's next ??? – Jesus would have been a telemarketer too, if he lived today??!!!!!

    "Holy COW" are these guys nuts, or what?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • JCMars

      NO. He wouldn't want your job.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  20. seriously?no...seriously?

    Wow. Just…wow. How asinine and ridiculous these “preachers” are, and furthermore, how stupid and ignorant they realize their followers are. So ignorant, in fact, that they will listen to this garbage, and not even question one iota of this crap this person is putting out there. Disclaimer: I KNOW how the world works, and that you need money/currency to survive and operate in this world, but these “preachers” are the worst hypocrites. Ok, you can’t have it both ways…and again, it is neither here nor there to me—because I have an understanding that seems to escape these “sheep”. Now, we were all taught in Sunday school how Jesus despised money—or at least the idea and function behind it—to the point that he walked into the temple, and trashed the money-changers tables. But over 2000 years later, this “preacher”—and many of his ilk, would like their sheep to believe that Jesus has just walked off the trading floor at Lehman Brothers, or some other Wall Street building, espousing the virtues of sound investing and where best to hide your money from the tax collectors.
    Ok…which is it? Did he feel so strongly about the evils money can cause—and the people behind this, that he did what he did—or, was he one step away from being Bernie Madoff? I mean, wow. Did this guy read what he was putting out there before allowing it to be published for the world to see? I mean, he is talking about Jesus as if He was a Golden Parachuted executive of Merrill Lynch. This reminds me of the “God needs 10% of all your earnings” crap. Pray tell, just what does God need with my money? Now, I know why the preacher says that…so he and his “First Lady” can park their matching Cadillacs in their reserved parking spots, while I ride the bus to church—but God needs my money? You know, for a group (Christian conservatives) that reviles the Government for wanting your money, they sure as hell have no problem believing—and pushing—that an invisible force needs your ducets. Tell you what there, chief…I’ll continue to decide how best to utilize my money…while doing my best to keep your and the Governments hands out of my pockets, thank you.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:45 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.