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. Brian

    Reading the replys here shows that most have it right and Mr. Perkins is way off base here. Not surprised though – the modern so called Christian movement is a theologocal mess and this comentary proves it. The parable was clearly a reference to spiritial gifts of faith given to believers and is a warning to not neglect so great a salvation. Anything beyond that is being wise above what is written. I am a hard core Christian and the behavior of the Wall St crowd deserves even greater protest than just occupation. Should we talk about what the early Church would of done to them? It wouldn't be pretty.
    BTW – feel free to study your scriptures from a historic Christain view rather than a modern western Arminian point of view. You might begin to find some basic truths in scripture.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  2. Rich

    Sounds like Mr Perkins in on the Koch bros payroll right along with the Tea Baggers

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  3. craig

    Who cares what a 2,000 years dead guy would think of OWS?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  4. MnTaxpayer

    Wow, what a stretch.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Coflyboy

    I can only guess the GOP and Wall Street paid for this bible-thumper to write this nonsense. Nobody, not even the president of the Family Research Council (whatever THAT is...) know what Jesus' opinions are, unless they question Jesus directly.
    How DARE he?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  6. Joe

    Jesus taught people to LOVE. the powers of finance and politics, quote it but don't live it. The monied, wealth overlords of our economy are the great Hypocrits. The do not Love the people, they love money. Jesus was always for the down and out, the poor, the sick, the hungry the thirsty. Have you never read the "TO DO LIST?" Read MATT. 25: 31-46. You have to be DOERS of the word and NOT hearers only. It is by works that you show your faith, for faith without works is DEAD.

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

    Tony Perkins wouldn't know anything about Jesus if his eternal life depended on it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  8. SCAtheist

    "The Wealth of Nations" was published in 1776. Before that we had mercantilism. I think the morons finally got around to publishing the Bible in the 2nd century.

    Am I missing something about this timeline?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  9. glen

    these people are a bastion of freedom fighters for our country. just like the days of vietnam
    and the protest on the capital. the american people need a voice. their movement is about more
    than just the disparity between the wealthy and the poor. it's about having the ability for americans
    to congregate and express their views.

    as for what jesus might say : it's more important for him to see the gospel preached than
    anything else. but he did say " it is harder for a rich man
    to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through
    the eye of a needle".

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  10. Christopher Brooks

    Why is this on the front page? Tony Perkins is president of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes as a hate group.
    "In 2010, the Family Research Council—under Perkins' leadership—was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[10][11] 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".[12]

    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. [13]"

    How about some investigative journalism before these make the front page?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Greg s

      David Duke endorsed the occupy movement.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Wikiwhat?

      Did you really just reference wikipedia as a reliable source?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  11. johnathan

    Say what you want about Jesus, but realize this. Jesus used to get around on a donkey ...not an elephant, Mr. Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  12. myshlei

    What about the parable of the workers, each who got paid the same amount without doing the same work? If memory serves, the ones hired last received the same pay as the ones hired first.
    Oh wait, that would contradict your point, wouldn't it?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  13. BEAR

    Jesus was a radical that cared for the poor. He made bread and wine for them.. He was crusified because he did not bow to the 1%ers.. That is what they want us to do or they will cruzifie us,. .

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  14. Mr. Sparkle

    It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than it is for this author to make a cogent point.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  15. Judas

    Jesus did it for kicks and chicks.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  16. The Half Baked Lunatic

    Since 'jesus' is a figment of the overactive chrisitan imagination, it's unlikely that he would have thought much about it.

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

      Try entirely baked...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  17. Robita

    Perkins is a tool of the people in power who worship money. I'm not religious but I do believe that one of the important Ten Commandments is "no false idols". Also, if we are to believe the bible, Jesus himslef claims it's easier for a camel to go through a pinhole than for a rich man to get to heaven. Look, why don't you people like Perkins stop with the lies and just admit that you are selfish apes who only care about wealth and power. Stop bringing religion or spiritualism into the argument becaus it will always expose you as liars.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  18. Patrick

    "Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles."

    Tony Perkins makes an interesting point here. But I think he has yet again let his personal perspective and worldview cloud the lesson he is trying to teach (as well as probably the many corporate donors he needs to keep his organization powerful and relevant). The Occupy movement (which I readily admit does not have a coherent focus) is not solely about the repudiation of free market economics. The frustation expressed by the Occupy movement concerns the lack of "freedom" in the market. Anyone who thinks that the deck is not stacked against "the little guy", "mom & pop", "the 99%" is terribly misguided.

    The market is stacked in favor of the "corporate citizen". The most obvious example being the ability of investment/commercial banks to bet against their own customers' success in maintaining a mortgage (through the UNREGULATED complex derivatives they created) and then being able to get bailed out by the American public without anyone being held liable. So the premise of Perkin's statement does not play out in reality and represents one of the fundamental frustrations of the Occupy movement.

    The "free" market system in this country is not bridled with moral principle. It is bridled with corporate principle, which at the root is soley concerned with making profit! And those who have already acheived great profit get to then control the system.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Michael

      Well said. So much so that I'm not even going to post my own thoughts. What Patrick said.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Eye of a Space Needle

    Free market jesus is about as revisionist as it gets. All this time I thought he turned those loaves into fishes so that he could feed more people and serve as a source of God's unconditional love. But it turns out (according to the 'Family Research Counci) that the real goal of this miracle was for Jesus to flip a quick profit and hide the gains in a Caiman Islands bank account.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  20. Alex

    Behold the false prophet!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Ann


      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
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