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. Marla

    As with most bible stories, the minas in the story didn't necessarily mean money–it could suggest that the test was to see what they would do with their gifts. In this sense, gifts could be spiritual gifts as well. It asks the followers if they will take their salvation–akin to someone giving you money since it's valuable–and use it to make more–by growing in faith and bringing others to the faith. And I doubt that Jesus would approve of the corruption of Wall Street and the games played by those in power. Bailouts for the bankers–but no such empathy for those who have lost their homes...WWJD? I think the answer is quite clear.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Jon

    This is a disgusting article. Jesus stood for no political or economic system. He came to bring people to God and to teach them that to love their neighbor in reality, and not just words, is necessary to love God. Regarding political or economic systems, God gave us a brain to figure that out for ourselves. And guess what: Every economist tells us that an economy where the difference between rich and poor is increasing and wider than it has ever been since the great depression, cannot be sustained. That is what the occupiers stand for, and it is truth. Jesus loved truth, and it would be nice if you did, too, buddy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  3. momo

    i can t believe he is saying such things . i wonder which kind of christian he is ?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  4. Truth Seeker

    Wonder-Bread-White trash!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  5. Joebusify

    Well, there goes another conservative Christian putting words into the mouth of Jesus. Another great day for proof-texting!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  6. lacoaster

    A bundle of fallacy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  7. Timothy C

    I love Perkin's point about the occupiers "trashing" public property. I'm sure their little bit of litter is much, much, worse than BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the continuing Fukushima Daiichi reactor contamination, and the persistent polluting of our planet by industry that the free market has allowed.

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

    That's right. Jesus would be for the bankers. That's why he turned over their tables in the Temple, right?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  9. studebaker

    Some Christian scripture for Mr. Perkins:
    Amos 8:4-7
    Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?" The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:"Surely I will never forget any of their deeds….”
    Luke 1:53
    He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
    Luke 6:24 & 25
    But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
    Mark 11:15-18
    And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him…

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  10. XO

    Mainly, this article is stating that you guys are the laziest generation yet and worse than broke– you are in debt. No one forced your hand to fill out credit card apps and take the american dream out on credit. Most of the workday, I find people surfing FB, YT and Tweeting while their jobs go out of the country.Try being socially responsible and working for a change. I'm tired of my hard earned tax dollars going to stimulus packages and bailouts. The folks who worked hard to build this country are in the graves. This (want first, pay later) generation is pathetically spoiled and lazy.

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


      December 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Patrick Williams

      What are you doing posting this while you're working?! Get back to work!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Hugo

      What are they tweeting? Google Tony Bingham vimeo and then listen to his 2010 speeches. If you still have the same opinion of tweeting then please get really specific about your complaints (and how Tony Bingham and others have faulty research including what mistakes they made).

      December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • XO

      Shift ended hours ago ;).

      December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • XO

      @Hugo Don't even know that guy. I know what I se– most of the folks i work with are lazy. All the work is dumped on me and the Indians contractors. We get things done while the American workers complain ad surf the net all day. Every work place I've been at fall victim to job cuts to folks who know how to work when they're at work. You need research for this?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  11. Caesar Atlanta

    I'ts ridiculous that we speculate on what any God would do...hello!!! ??? he is a spirit not a Christian Republican conservative bee_got.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  12. Saul

    "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24).

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Pan3

    Tony Perkins and The Family Research Council is a HATE group likened to the Taliban and should be ingored.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Matt Logan

    I do not read the bible literally, so when I read Luke 19 13 , I do not see it as Jesus telling people to go make money. The metaphor going on as I read it is that Jesus wants us to take what he has given us and use it to promote God's Kingdom. In some cases that may mean going into business and using your talents to provide products and services that benefit people. In other cases, it may mean taking the teachings of jesus and ensuring that our systems treat all people as God expects of us. Jesus frequently advises selling everything you have and giving it to the poor, so I have a hard time accepting that Jesus would turn around and tell us to go make money for ourselves as we wait for his return.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  15. keithmoore1

    Then there's the possibility that everything related to Jesus and The Bible is fiction. 😉

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

    Perkins has a lot of nerve thinking he can predict what Jesus would and wouldn't do. He also demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about the Occupy Movement. It's idiots like Perkins that need to be revealed as the phonies they are.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  17. jo an

    Show me one place in the life of Jesus that he was a capitalist....ONE! He never appeared to own anything...work...he threw the tax collectors out of the temple...he broke all the religious rules of his day. He 'paled' around with sinners...Can you for one moment imagine him on WALL STREET in any capacity other than an OCCUPIER....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  18. DB

    The Family Research Council also believes that Jesus would have supported political campaigns to ban gay marriage and that the poor should be punished for being poor by paying more taxes.

    This guy is no dummy. He's fully aware that his politics are not consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. But he's selling a political ideology to ignorant (and angry) people that are willing to listen. It's sad.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  19. Grumpy

    Jesus sure wasn't a privileged WASP like Mr. Perkins! And He wasn't part of the 99%, a stock broker or a banker!!!! Read Carl Sandburg's poem, "To a Contemporary Bunkshooter" for an interesting perspective.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  20. Dave in SC

    This is the rubbish I would have expected from this Republican shill and he did not disappoint.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:54 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.