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. Lucas

    Parables can be interpreted in many ways. But this is not one of them. This guy totally missed the point of that parable. The minas were not a chance to "leave a legacy." They were a test of who is a faithful servant. That is why this story shows up twice. It is not a lesson in free markets. In fact it is the same chapter of Luke where he blasts the usery in the temple.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • xyx25

      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.
      Matt 24:38-39 "For 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 4:18 pm |
  2. Matt


    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Blessmefather

    Shame on CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  4. JoJo

    I believe in free markets also and I've been to Occupy Boston, and my opinion is that what is said in this article is the most outrageous lie by omission and TWISTING of the scriptures to justify the opposite of its central message, that I've ever heard since GW Bush (and the other war-profiting chickenhawks) implied the Prince of Peace wanted him to start the unnecessary lie-based trillion dollar holocaust and torture in Iraq. (The Bible also says "Give everything to the poor", "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to get into Heaven", "Blessed are the peacemakers", "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword...", "turn the other cheek", “love your enemies”, “repay evil with good”, “forgive seventy times seven times”, "The greatest of these is Charity", etc.).

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • joeseattle

      The bible never says "Give everything to the poor." That is a lie, It does say some things you might want to check out about those who would add or take away from what is actually written.

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

      Jesus told his rich friend to give everything to the poor and follow him.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  5. John John

    So the right wing extremist religious faction pretending to be a "family religious groups" is against the 99%? Is anyone surprised?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  6. Herne

    Organized religion,sports and mass media, are government tools designed to control the mostly uneducated masses...period.

    it's working.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Typical

    Yeah, I like to pick out one Bible passage to suit my point and ignore every other story about Jesus' all inclusive kindness. He fed all 5000 people, not just the ones who had a nice bank account back in Jerusalem.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Danny

    Tony Perkins you have failed, your analogy is flawed.

    First of all, there wouldn't be such thing as an "occupy movement" if everyone had a fair chance. Capitalism means private profits and private losses, it doesn't not mean private profits social losses. The private sector is being prosperous on the backs of the middle class, there are no jobs been created even after the fact that the government helped out Wall Street with our own tax money. A lower level employee shouldn't make as much as the higher management, however higher management shouldn't lavish themselves with higher pay raises while cutting the lower employees pay especially when the firm or company they work for is under performing. A truly capitalism system would have not bailed out Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and everyone else. College tuition keeps raising, government funding to school keeps decreasing but yet, who see the benefit? not the students or teachers... the management do. The cards are staked against the middle class the middle class has a slim chance to even be in the top 10% of the pay bracket because of this....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  9. Steve

    Christian conservatives have always been trying to spin their way around what the Christian bible actually contains as the teachings of Jesus, to claim it somehow supports Republican "values."

    Trying to make that bogus argument by fussing about the word the double meaning of the word "occupy" in English as done here is just plain silly. At least base the attempt on the original text in the language in which it was actually written.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Typical

      I completely agree. Anyone who knows anything about the Bible also knows to look at is as a whole, as individual stories and actions don't convey the entire message.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  10. louiscypher

    This is too funny for words... REALLY???????

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  11. Tron

    I guess they dont mind staying poor then. They sort of trapped themselves on that one. Now they cant be rich.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  12. electricgrendel

    I am speechless. No wonder the die hard fascists and their enablers manage to believe that the Founders would support unlimited corporate funds in elections, warrant-free invasions of Americans' property and all manner of unAmerican ills. They are so morally bankrupt and dead inside as to believe that Jesus freaking Christ would support our greased rail slide into third world levels of inequality. Jesus healed the sick, and we've got them dying in the streets because providing them with health care would actually require the rich to be their brothers' keepers. There's a hot room in hell for this guy.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  13. Maclin

    I think the occupy movement is more akin to JC running the moneychangers out of the temple, eh? WWJRO - Who Would Jesus Run Off.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  14. Allen

    Yes, Jesus would be with the occupy movement, as should all good Christians. The FRC and its members claim to be Christians, but they are conservatives first, and that is the problem. Just because you're a conservative doesn't mean you are a good Christian. There are Christians on all sides of the debate. Christians are about issues not parties. They should support the right issue no matter what party agrees or disagrees. There are more Christians in the Occupy movement than the Tea Party, because Jesus was not for the rich and powerful, he was for the poor...all you have to do is read the Gospel to figure that one out...I learned that simple truth in Church.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  15. eddyteddy

    He was ultimately arrested and executed for "occupying" the Synagogue, and trashing the trade booths of the money lenders and merchants. I love it when "Top" Christians don't even know the man they claim to follow.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  16. Chef Jeff

    Why would you cheapen Jesus by getting Him involved in our petty politics? Worship the Lord but do not put words in His mouth or ascribe positions to Him just because it seems convenient. Keep Jesus sacred, not secular!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  17. question1

    A free marketeer? Like when He multiplied donated loaves & fishes to feed thousands of people who had followed Him for 3 days (camping out)? He never asked for an ID, birth certificate or political affiliation, by the way.

    He paid His taxes with a coin He found in a fish caught on public property. He DID pay His full taxes though – no offshore deduction for the fish. When He got hungry, He plucked other farmer's leftover grain as He & His disciples wandered through their privately owned fields.

    He called the religious leaders of His day "whitewashed tombs" for laying heavy burdens on the people. He also beat the money-changers in the temple for defiling God's house. Free marketeer? Really?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  18. ELEL

    Did'nt the Bible outline how to keep slaves? Wow lets use that as our moral compass.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Yo YO ma

    uhhhhh..... that just happened. Tony Perkins? Who payed you to write this article? You should be ashamed of yourself. Yeah, Jesus loves free market capitalism....... LOLOLOLOLOL

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  20. BW77

    Why is CNN is giving hate-filled bigot, Tony Perkins, a national platform to comment on anything? Mr. Perkins is neither an expert on economics nor he remotely connected to the reality faced by most Americans. In the future, I hope CNN can refrain from lending Mr. Perkins and his hate mongering, bigoted, and intellectually stunted ilk, any airs of credibility by providing them a national platform. Mr. Perkins should be given his marching orders back to the fringe of the far-right, Christian fundamentalist, conservative, Republican world – where he belongs.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
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