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. Memerizer

    Heck, not only Jesus but Jm Morrison, George Harrison!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Who the hell cares what Jesus would have stood against.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Almost

      How about Christians? How about people who want to convince Christians to embrace a certain worldview. Just cuz we may not care doesn't mean no one does. Get over whatever it is you have against Jesus...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  3. kurtinco

    He's probably right. Jesus definately wouldn't have given a squat about the poor and less fortunate among us if he had the ability to invest his minas on Wall St and make a few million more for himself. What a jack hole!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  4. WV gooroo

    I didn't read it all but read enough. Jesus instructed, among many things, to love and care for each other like we do ourselves. He wasn't a Socialist, but would question our skewed money and resource allocation. The poverty gap may not sit well with Him. Our free market is flowing with greed and manipulation. Jesus would most likely not approve.

    Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16
    This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. – John 15:12
    And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” – Mark 10:21
    And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” – Luke 3:10-11

    What little good spirits that this nation has had over the last few centuries has been swallowed up by many factors, including status and "keeping up with the Jones'". Jesus would not "vandalize" public property, but it is my thoughts that He would question why the government has to step in and divvy up money/resources and not through free will. Either way, it's skewed and something needs to be donw.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  5. ItalianCatholic

    This is the parable of talants in Matthew not Luke! Stop trying to alter the Bible to fit a Protestant agenda!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  6. Timothy C

    Let's not forget Tony Perkins paid David Duke–the former clan leader–$82K for his mailing list of supporters in 1996. This is a matter of public record, and Tony was fined $3K for attempting to hide this. Perkins is not, and has never been, a man of godly intentions or actions.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    Tony Perkins: The most succinct argument for assassination I have ever heard!

    Head of the American Taliban, and a bigot and racist to his core.

    Everything he espouses is evil.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Agreed. Which is why I defend CNN for publishing his opinion. I'd rather know who these nut jobs are.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Melissa

    Uuuh...Didn't Jesus condemn creditors? Didn't he tell the rich that the only way they could get to heaven was to cast away their belongings, give them to the poor, and live a life of servitude to God? How can a Christian think he is supposed to create a "free market" when the Bible talks about loving your fellow man, helping the poor, and not being greedy?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  9. asdf

    CNN faith baiting pays the bills eh?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  10. Dan Johnson

    And here I was raised on the story of the Good Samaritan.

    Last I checked Jesus was crucified for not playing by the 'rules' of those with the power and the money too.

    I don't recall there being a Gospel of Greed either. Guess the memory is going in my old age.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Timothy C

      I guess Perkins could have written Star Trek's Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Timothy C! True geek cred – I love it!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Army Grunt

      Dan, the good samaritan does good and gives charity on his own accord, not because it was government mandated...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  11. David, CA

    Tony Perkins just LOVES putting words in God's mouth (and now Jesus). Usually they're ignorant and hate filled. This one though is about middle of the road stupid for Tony Perkins and his hate group. Seriously- this guy's Fred Phelpps in a nicer suit.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  12. Pablo

    Poor hypothesis and conclusion. Jesus told many parables to demonstrate truths, some quite violent. Using this logic you could say Jesus supports the monarchy or farming or murder (depending on the parable). Its clear from his life and teachings that he would neither support nor oppose Occupy (or capitalism or free markets) as he focuses on the Spirit and not politics nor economics.
    Just think of the mustard seed parable which is the opposite of the talent one. Or the one where the rich man died and ended up in torment (he was a great capitalist but of poor compassion).
    Jesus preached philosophy and religion not economics. He would tell the people on Wall Street to give to the poor protesters , and the protesters to love the 1%. Both sides are not following Jesus' path.

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

    Isn't it amazing how you can take anything from the Bible and put enough spin on it until it justifies your point? Here's another shining example. Yeah, Jesus would support a market with no restrictions whatsoever, where anyone can screw you out of your money. How Christ-like. What an idiot this guy is!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • David, CA

      Amen. Pardon the pun...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  14. Robert in Florida

    These are the words of a man who has sold his soul to economic convservatives, in the hope that they will support at least some of the policy demands of the religious right.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  15. George

    I do agree with part of this. Jesus never advocated vandalism, defacing and trashing public property, disrespecting others, public deification, of lawlessness. Instead he subverted the status quo (he was a radical after all) by showing the establishment what they really were and instructing his followers to resist.

    Paul said it best when he said that he was "all things to all men" so that he could bring followers to God. Insulting the sensibilities of your potential supporters by public stupidity and a disdain for public property is simply not in keeping with Christ's message. Christ was classier than that.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  16. SlayFalseGod

    Jesus= the 1% ???????
    The guy who died for our sins?
    Made water to wine?
    Republicans can twist anything to suit their needs.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  17. TRH


    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  18. Reflection

    yes, indeed. Jesus wouldn't have occupied iraq and afghanistan after dehumanizing them in the media.Jesus wouldn't have killed one million iraqis. Jesus was not an Occupier! Thank you CNN!.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  19. Donna

    What a pathetic article. If you consider yourself a Christian go to an occupy group and take time to listen and observe. How are you "helping" the people living on the streets? Or isn't that your job? It is so much easier to drive past them and shake your little christian head in pity and condemnation. And if you think your occupy group has disfigured your local park, go take a trip beyond your normal tunnel vision trail and look at how large corporations around the world are disfiguring our environment. I read stuff like yours and just feel sick to my stomach at the stupidity in our world.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  20. Gumboz1953

    He spends an entire column dissecting one parable, and completely ignores the rest of Jesus' message. How Jesus' message translates into an endorsement of "free market capitalism" with its inherent cruelty and neglect of the poor, the weak, the sick, and those in prison - totally escapes me.

    What is MORE likely is that Jesus is outraged by how cruel the "christians" have become in this "free market system" and the lengths they will go to defend it.... When he returns, it won't be pretty. And it's not the sinners who will feel his wrath, but the hypocrites who used his name in vain.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ali

      search for Prophet Peter Anamoh from google and visit his site for the true roealvtien .there is no way God will do something and not tell HIS children .pls stop quoting nobody know the day or the hour .yet Jesus said the day will be like Noah's era didn't od tell Noah? pls be wise .Read mattew 24 and daniel 12 the secret is hidden there ..November 11,2011

      April 4, 2012 at 12:25 am |
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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.