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. Bob Devendorf

    CNN is leaning way to the right these days. C'mon now CNN fess up. When did Murdoch buy you guys out?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  2. Doug Soy

    Some items:
    1) I am a strict Christian
    2) I am sympathetic with the occupiers, as I believe their base premise is legitimate
    3) I am guessing that not all occupiers trash the joint and cause trouble, right? Kind of like not all evangelists are thieves but some of them are. Get that?
    4) I think it borders on sacrilege for someone to surmise what Jesus would have thought. And I agree at least in part with one poster who accuses the author of this article with using religion as a leverage to protect his assets.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  3. RobotJohn

    Guess you skipped over that whole bit about Jesus getting mad at the moneychangers bit.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Doug Soy

      This is an excellent point, and nearly irrefutable as I see it.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  4. JERRY

    JESUS LEAD THE OCCUPY THE TEMPLE MOVEMENT...“ And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all of them who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
    And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

    — Matthew 21:12-13

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Test

    So, did Jesus eventually get a huge bonus ? Just curious.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  6. Mr. T

    Interesting that Mr. Perkins stops short with this parable. What about the parable that follows? (There are three in this sequence, where Jesus is saying... "The kingdom of heaven is like.....") The parable of the sheep and goats follows, with the message that what we should be doing with our "talents" is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and comforting the sick and imprisoned. Jesus doesn't say, "Go make yourself wealthy." Ever. In fact Jesus was pretty hard on wealthy people.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  7. Skyler Daniel

    as one working on a Masters of Divinity degree, I can personally attest that this article represents the absolute worst excuse for biblical exegesis and an understanding of Jesus turned completely upside down. What an embarrassment to the Gospel.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  8. Jacob

    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.

    Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV)
    1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for a denariusa a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’b 16So the last will be first, and the first last.”

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Robinson

    It seems that Tony's hypocrisy knows no bounds. Do you act in the way that Jesus would have, Tony? Would Jesus wear that $1000 suit? Would he live in that huge house that you live in? Would he save all of that money he earns or would he give it to the poor?

    Perhaps most importantly, would he appreciate you bending his words in such an obviously incorrect way? Jesus was all about peaceful protest, and this is the 21st century version. Perhaps it's time to look at your own behavior before plastering your picture on a national news website and throwing stones from your glass house, you arrogant hypocrite.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Michael

    Why does CNN and other media outlets try to legitimize Tony Perkins? He's a leader of a certified hate group? Do they give ample time to leaders of the KKK to explain "Christian values"? He has NO idea on what Jesus Christ would think nor say. Christ was killed due to Him going into the temples and overturning the money tables. Christ detested how money could corrupt most anything, just like it's done our country and it's exactly what Occupy Wall Street is protesting.

    I am disgusted CNN would portray Tony Perkins as the authoritative figure on what Christ would do. He spreads his message of hate and that is the ONLY thing he does. When has the Focus on Family fed the poor, helped the needy or gave a damn about anything but demonizing the LGBT community?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  11. Ann

    OMG – give me a break.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Rich

    Mr Perkins is a typical bible thumpin money grubber.Get a real job Perkins instead of playing on others fears for christ sake.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  13. Michael

    This is one of the most misguided opinion articles I have ever read.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  14. Vicki

    Mr. Perkins missed a very important detail in the lesson. Jesus made sure that they all started out on equal not equitable footing!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  15. chris

    NO. NO. NOO.

    Jesus was a communist. Remember the loaves and fishes?

    Jesus was against the money lenders. Remember him WUPPIN' @ZZ in the Temple?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  16. RobinMO

    Perkins needs to go back and read the gospels with an unbiased eye. Jesus advocated for the poor and said that it was harder for a rich guy to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Perkins and his ilk corrupt the teachings and witnes of Jesus to serve their wealthy masters. Perkins needs to repent before it's too late.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  17. Patrick Williams

    Tony's Jesus would not have fed the hungry or healed the sick for free, no, no, no....Tony's Jesus would have charged a fee based on "supply and demand" economics and made a nice profit and he would have become super-wealthy. But, then again, if Tony's Jesus had lived, we would have never heard about him because the establishment would have never crucified one of their own.

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

    It's simply unbelievable that anyone, believer or not, could believe that Jesus, real or not, would champion the free market.

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

      So "Almost", tell me what kind of market do you think Jesus would champion? It is easy for someone to criticize someone else's beliefs, why not be apart of the solution and offer some solid rebuttal???

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  19. Would we expect less?

    With the recent crushing rebuke of the Citibank/SEC deal by Judge Rakov in New York, you would think that somewhere people might be getting it in their head that something is just not quite right with Democracy in America, but then maybe not.

    I guess the more simple message from the "Occupy" crowd is we are people and you are accountable long run to us. The politicians can decide the career risk management issues themshelves. My guess is that if there is any momentum at all behind Occupy there are a few on the hill that should be worried. Mr. Boehner for one stands out. His district has both low voter turnout and high unemployment (higher if he does not get his much lobbied for second engine program). If the idle voters in his district turn out against him, he is toast.

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

      Also Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) is in trouble. Elizabeth Warren is running against him, who OWS very much supports for her strong consumer protection stands.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  20. Penny

    Gee, some fictional character wouldn't have agreed!? How about Santa Claus, would he have been in one of those tents?

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

      Penny, you might want to do some historical research on the proof of Jesus' existence. Your comment makes you sound quite ignorant to the question that you pose.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
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