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. Bandus

    This is not news. Thanks for wasting my time, CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  2. EdgarX

    Jesus is a fictional character. Typical stupidity coming from these fundamentalist religious right wingers to try to manipulate the ignorant public's opinion.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Ian Wynyard

    “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

    That was Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  4. brien

    What a load of utter bull crap. Reject this outright distortion of biblical truth and manipulation of religion or perish beneath it's pure fallacy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  5. M.A.

    Well Mr. Perkins! Who ever appointed you judge. No doubt you haven't been in direct communication with Christ. It is obvious. If you had met God there wouldn't be spewing of such filth. You have a heart. Or rather, a heart has you. It is suggested that you knock while you have the opportunity. Love isn't an imposter. Why pretend to understand the plight of each and every one of the participants. Things aren't always as they seem.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  6. acspore

    Pure garbage from the mouth of one of the biggest hypocrites on earth.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  7. xyx25

    How ignorant!!!!!!! and how blinded!!!!!!!!!!!
    Jesus is not talking about the money here. Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT. (broken heart over their sin).
    Jesus asked them to occupy not with money but WITH SPREADING THE GOSPEL.
    Actually this is a SIGN Of TIMES. People will be busy with "business" and "cares of the world" in the last days.
    Matthew 24:38-39 "-\38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  8. Craig Shaver

    Jesus would have left the 10 lepers at the side of the road. He' d have left the blind man blind. He'd have told the dead man stay dead. He'd have told the folks at the Sermon on the Mount to feed themselves. He wouldn't have intervened at the wedding feat either. I just know he wouldn't have tossed the thieves out of the temple.

    Christian right? Give me a break.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  9. Anti-Krist

    LOL, this guy has made millions of dollars for doing absolutely nothing. Of course he loves the current system… he has an entire following of people that have been brainwashed and indoctrinated since they were children into believing that if they don’t send this guy money, they’re going to burn in a place called hell. It’s also interesting that he capitalizes “god” but not Earth. The one that really exists should be capitalized.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Joe Six Pack

    If Jesus were alive today he would be angry at all the neo-cons and all the hate they spew and he would be leading the charge against the greed on Wall St.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  11. jim

    It never ceases to amaze me that people still appeal to the myths about a 2000-years-dead nomadic Jew to determine the moral direction to take in times of trouble. Wake up, people! The answers are in you, not in fairy tales!

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

    Seriously? This article is absolute DRIVEL. The OCCUPY movement has trashed public property?? How about the damage the banksters have done to our economy?

    Tony Perkins - you are an absolute TOOL.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  13. Aldaviva


    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  14. The more you know!

    Is this the same Tony Perkins who paid the Ku Klux Klan $82,000 for their mailing list in a Louisiana state election campaign? (The Nation.) Ad hominem, sure. But... he paid the Ku Klux Klan $82,000 for their mailing list in a Louisiana state election campaign.

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

    Isn't it interesting that Christians believe that Jesus would condone and support whatever political view they espouse. Makes one think about their integrity doesn't it?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  16. Phil

    In 2010, the Family Research Council—under Perkins' leadership—was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FRC President Tony Perkins dismissed the hate group designation as the result of a political attack by a "liberal organization" and "the left's smear campaign of conservatives".

    While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  17. The Librarian

    Believe that and I've got a bridge to sell you!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  18. REALLY.......

    Let's just look at this Chinese Proverb for the Occupiers ....“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”— They need to get over the fact that I am done fishing!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  19. ohai


    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  20. and...

    How dare this pompous arrogant, hate-filled, hypocrite DARE speak for our Lord and Savior. Tony Perkins has made millions of dollars bashing people over the head with religion and acting like anything BUT Jesus. SHAME ON HIM. And shame on the millions of Americans who have made this man rich of of Christ.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
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About this blog

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.