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. Chris

    Let me first point out that its probably unwise to read this story as such a strict allegory from which to draw an economics lesson. The statement that Jesus stands for the free-market... heck to say Jesus stands for communism or socialism is absolutely absurd. If the crime here is that the third servant has stuffed his capital under a mattress, then this seems to indict the 1% even more. I can assure you that if those of us who really needed money had it, it wouldn't go under a mattress or sit in a bank. It would go to some productive activity. You, whatever the author may think, you can't just create a business or develop a skill out of nothing, it requires capital, money. Unfortunately our bank's idea of liquidity was to try to put everyone in a house (a nobel goal I will not deny that), and hence everyone's money in houses. This is where its all gone off the rails. Lets stop assuming that just because someone finds themselves with a lot of money that they must be smart. Bankers in the last decade thought they were smart, and they were wrong. I am no 'Occupier' in any sense of the word, but this is the sign of a poorly functioning economy. We are all told to do what the rich do. Unfortunately the rich are mostly occupied with managing money so that they can hold onto it. Some are really trying to grow businesses and create jobs. Its is very convenient to be in a position where you can tell others to be more productive, but please no more of this Prosperity Gospel.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  2. woodofpine

    Separation of Church and State... Early Christianity was certainly more 'communistic' than 'capitalistic' (to the extent those terms aren't absurd at such distance in time) prior to Constantine's adoption of the new faith as the 'state religion' of a falling Roman Empire morphing into a Roman Catholic papacy. But why be bothered by sinners like Perkins; he's just a lobbyist!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  3. JB

    According too this "family group" the thugs that beat up Matthew Sheppard (sic) were just doing the work of the lord. Some of these right wing christians preach love but spew haterd out of every pore in their body.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  4. carmine monoxide

    My Take: Jesus never existed.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  5. Blessmefather

    Clearly, Jesus would have been routing for big corporate interest and the wealthiest 1%. Thanks for clearing that up for us, Tony!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  6. JeremyW

    You are implying that because 'jesus was a free-marketer', that the occupiers are somehow at fault or wrong. Ridiculous, the occupiers are there BECAUSE the 'free-market' system is being exploited by the 'king's servants' in order to screw over the lower-middle class at no fault of their own.

    Keep looking to the bible for your views though.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  7. BEAR

    Oh my god.!!!!! This twit is using the bible to justify ruthless unbridled CAPITALISM!!! Now he is saying Jesus was a Social Darwinist.. "you suffer the tribulations of your genetics" What an ass!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • a55hole

      I totally agree, this man is an imbecile

      December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • memyself

      ... and a vacuous one at that...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • SDF

      Its equivalent to the slave owner who used to beat his slaves with a whip while quoting verses from the bible. I believe you can read the full account in Frederick Douglass' autobiography.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  8. Dr. NoVa

    As someone from Nazareth, whose family has been in that same village for over 1200 years, I'm not sure how this Tony Perkins guy can determine the political and economic beliefs of Jesus – Nazareth of Jesus' time and Nazareth of now remains a mixed bag of small little souks and multi-generational living. Hardly the idea of a free market economist.

    Tony Perkins is a hard-right conservative. Not that I'm not...but this guy is insane to try to discredit a movement based on what Jesus' economic beliefs would have been. I went to Biblical school, as well as Islamic school, carefully read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the Gospel) – you cannot draw conclusions on the economic ideology of Jesus from the Gospel.

    The Abrahamic faiths were intended to give the people of the Holy Land a doctrine to live by, a purpose, and hope...instead the Abrahamic faiths spread and through them, man created divisions, acrimony, fomented violence and war. Terrible, terrible that voices of these conservative Christian zealots (read Zealots...I don't say this about all Christians, as I love the fellowship that I gain every month at a local church I attend, and these people are very open to me, knowing that I come from a Muslim background...it's even more gratifying than when I go to the Mosque).

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  9. GeoffreyF

    I think Mr. Perkins needs to read the Gospels and stop using the name of Jesus to further his own political agenda. This opinion piece is grotesque in its distortion and tells us more about Mr. Perkins self absorbed excuse for faith than it does about Jesus or the Occupy Movement.

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


      December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. Matt

    I seriously can't believe CNN published this crap.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Don Hyde

      Amen! uh, wait...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  11. Mike Brooks

    Isn't this the same "Christian" group that tells people that is okay to divorce spouses with Alzheimer's and other diseases, because "they are already dead". I don't think Jesus Christ would recognize them! I am a Christian and I don't know what these people are, but they certainly aren't Christian's. Spawn of Satan, devil worshippers, is more like it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  12. SDF

    Yet another example of a fake Christian taking God's name in vain to justify the theft of trillions of dollars for the rich. No wonder God said “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.” I'm looking at you Mr. Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  13. fensel

    I know this is an opinion piece, but it still has to be set to some standard of logic and reasoning. This article is an utter embarrassment to CNN, Christians, and humans in general.

    As with all parables, Jesus was talking in metaphors. So, what does this parable mean? It could be a range of things-if God has blessed you, do not take it for granted. Go out and be fruitful (somewhat free market). Even if it is accepted that Jesus was in favor of a free market, making him an "anti-Occupy" corporate shill is ridiculous. Here's why:

    Jesus could have been for capitalism in a sense, but he never cared for money. If you notice, he was poor all his life and regularly told his disciples to not care about earthly possessions (remember the other parable, that the author so conveniently ignored: "it is harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle"). Also, remember how Jesus stormed through the church, turning over tables because the merchants were trying to use God to make a profit? That story, an epitomy of free market capitalism, is the only time in the entire New Testament where Jesus is unstoppably angry.

    The message that Jesus had was that we need to have priorities, and money should be LAST on that list. He cared for the poor, the sick, and the hungry. He didn't care whether or not the aggregate economy allowed for people to become rich. He would condemn the author for being so shallow, as well as other Republicans, in valuing their money over the wellfare of others (how can anyone rationally think that Jesus would be against universal healthcare?).

    Lastly, the authors comments on the Occupy movement show gross ignorance and generalizations. They are not "destroying public space". Look at any movement or protest in history-I challenge you to find even one with a greater focus on peaceful resistance, and a complete lack of violence supported by its cause. Even the great Martin Luther King, the icon of the Civil Rights movement and proponent of peaceful protest, had to deal with icons like Malcom X who supported militant resistance (until his conversion to Islam). The Occupy movement is perfectly in line with Jesus's teachings-it keeps a peaceful message, it has the right focus (the wellfare of people, especially the poor, rather than the conservative pro-rich condemning the poor message).

    In perhaps the greatest twist of irony, if Jesus were alive today and was spreading his message of peace like he did back then, this author as well other Republicans would demonize him, claiming that he can't spread his message in public spaces. The sermon on the mount-send in the riot squad, there are too many people in public that could "potentially" riot. Feeding the poor through five loaves and two fish-a socialist handout, the crowd didn't earn any of that food. Oh, and they've been camping in public for a while-send in the riot squad with pepper spray and batons ready.

    Seriously, Republican Christians need to some twisting the message of Jesus to fit their own wants. In the simplest words, Jesus would be ashamed of you.

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

      As much as they claim to be Christians, Republicans are nothing more than greedy athiests trying to use the word of God to act holy. They do not believe in Christ nor any of the 10 Commandments. They only believe in what they can steal from Society..

      December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Jeff

      Wow! "jesus would be ashamed of you" Who knew that someone on a message board actually speaks for Jesus...or maybe you're just an incredibly pompous ass.....sorry ...Jesus told me to tell you that....:-)

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • fensel

      Jeff-Actually, I don't speak for Jesus since I'm an atheist. But, I grew up in a Christian church that put heavy emphasis on Bible study, so I read and studied the Bible many times over for 15 years. I know what the Bible says, and it is NOT free market capitalism.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  14. lostmorals

    Tony Perkins= IDIOT with no substance to his stance. You can convince yourself that a square is round if your mind is screwed up enough.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  15. inthegrae

    This is embarassing to read. I used to consider Perkins to be at least an intellectual believer, but this is just intellectually dishonest. We know what Jesus stood for, and it had nothing to do with capitalism. And if we're being completely honest, the behavior of wall street with all this credit default swap crap has nothing to do with the purpose of capitalism either. That is taking advantage of capitalism. What the occupiers want are sensible rules for our capitalist system. Free market is economic anarchy. No system can be totally free because of the inclusion of the human element. That is the same reason we, as people even in this country, are not totally free to do whatever we want. We cannot take another person's life. We cannot steal from, or defruad another person. We can't run in public naked. We have rules, because many people will do unsavory things if given free reign. In fact, even WITH rules, people still do, which only exhibits how detrimental boundries are to civilized life (and a civilized economy). God, and Jesus for that matter, are the ultimate spokesmen for why systems need rules. God wouldn't have given us commandments if we didn't need them. (and if you're small minded enough to react to that last sentence by saying the commandments have nothing to do with economics...you're missing the point. God gave us commandments because Man is essentially corrupt at its core and needed a moral framework. We've already shown that translates to any system we create for ourselves, evident in the corruption and unethical behavior that shows up at every level of society (notably the free market bahavior of banks that had a hand in the economic collapse of '08). God gave us a clue as to what Man is made of with the commandments. Shouldn't we be listening to God?

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

      I am so glad this was the first comment I saw. I am just appalled at the way some people use scripture to justify beating up people who oppose their beliefs. I refuse to use the name "Christian" anymore because the connation is embarrassing

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Dave

      Wow – that was the best response I have ever read.

      It summarizes very concisely the real points of the Occupy movement as well as the garbage spewed in this article. The movement is not about rich vs poor, it is about having proper set of rules and checks & balances for big business. These companies lie, cheat and steal from the people of our country (and world) ...something I am certain that Jesus did not have in mind when he said "Occupy till I come."

      December 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • vladimir

      I cannot agree with you more. I am happy to know that there are thinking, intelligent people out there.
      Tony Perkins' falsification of practically everything he was writing about in his exerpt is dangerous for it may corrupt the minds of some who can not think on their own. If he did it on purpose then he is as guilty as the condemned writer in The Divine Comedy. If he innocently believes in what he is writing, he needs to go to a better school.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  16. Real

    Jesus was not only an occupier, he was also an a** – kicker and he launched the cleansing of the temples by starting with the money-fixers.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  17. acts 431

    I am a non-denominational pastor and a strong proponent of the Bible. I am SO TIRED of people manipulating the Bible to advance their political views! First, it is important to understand that one of the primary reasons Jesus came to earth is to set an example for us to emulate. Secondly, it is highly significant that Jesus never sent one single minute speaking out, much less protesting, against the government of His day - which, by the way, was much worse in every respect than anything we see today in any part of the world. The same is true of any of His followers - like Peter, Paul, John, Mark, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, etc.

    So-called Christians in this country are preoccupied with trying to make the USA into a so-called Christian nation. We are wasting our time, aiming our energy and prayers at the wrong target. The reason for so-called Christians wanting this to happen is because we are soft and lazy. We want Chrisitianity to be easy and popular. By biblical definition, serious Chrisitanity will always be counter to the "norm" (the world). As such, true followers of Jesus Christ should and will always be out-of-step and persecuted.

    Finally, it is completely unbiblical to twist Jesus' lack of political agenda and focus into an endorsement of free enterprise and/or capitalism. If anything, the Bible teaches a form of collective sharing of wealth as the model ("All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." - Acts 4:32-35).

    Quit trying to re-invent or re-make Jesus into who YOU want Him to be. Instead, get to know the TRUE Jesus and follow, imitate Him!

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

      Amen, my son.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  18. Rob

    There will be a time when ALL will be on their knees before the Almighty GOD, and will be held accountable.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  19. Scott

    Jesus would tell all the goofballs at the FRC to Shut The Front Door!!!

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

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      April 4, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  20. Jon

    Why the hell does this author say occupy is about collectivism? None of them are asking for socialism. They are just pointing to a severe problem - the growing, unsustainable disparity between rich and poor. So, is the author denying that this is a problem, that lots of hard-working Americans are homeless, while the rich get richer? I'm pretty sure, if Jesus were here, he would not deny that this was a severe problem and that something needs to be done about it. But why am I wasting time arguing with the author? He is clearly both an idiot and hasn't let Jesus into heart.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Nick

      Jon, have you ever been to any third world countries out there? Have you seen with your own eyes the true meaning of having a lack of opportunity? while I agree that there are room for some changes in our country, I don't think the occupy movement really has much merit.....there is STILL plenty of opportunity in this country to do well and make something happen for yourself. It is easier for someone to go to a rally and yell that they are the victim then it is to put in the day-in-day-out hard work of either finding a job or continuing to succeed in the job that they have and better themselves.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Jon

      Nick, that's exactly the point - the U.S. is becoming closer to a third world nation. Its not just about where we are - and its bad –but where we are going. There is clearly a problem, and it is not just "lazyness". The occupiers are being honest - they're not sure what the solution is. But they just want to make sure that the problem is not ignored. Perkins would love to ignore the problem - that's the whole point of this article. The rich also ignored Lazarus at the gate of the city day after day; God's judgement upon them was harsh in Jesus' parable.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
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