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. Will

    What do you expect from an organization, Family Research Council, that has been found to be a national hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perkins is a mindless hateful twit that insults the love of Christ

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  2. ImmiGrant

    Perkins, why don't you write about the little boy who brought to Jesus 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. You are a disgrace, Perkins. If Jesus is walking among us today, do you think He will be among the uninsured, the homeless, the hungry, and the jobless or would he be in a boardroom with the Wall Street bankers, lobbyist and dirty politicians?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • ImmiGrant

      Jesus will give a sermon in the middle of Central Park, and 10,000 people will gather and camp overnight waiting and listen to His message. The Capitalist will be busy bringing in porta potty and charging people to use it and multiple their minas.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  3. Almost

    For those who "don't care," if you were really as intelligent as you hope to put forth (by simply disbelieving in a widely held belief no less), you would realize that you should care. Whether you like it or not, billions believe in gods, particularly Christ. Your ego isn't winning us any arguments. Instead, you can use WWJD as a tool to win debates with Christians (who you aren't going to sway with your self-important ridicule no matter how intelligent you think being anti-religious somehow automatically makes you). In short, you don't have to believe, but you should care. You got a world full of Christians to pursuade on any number of positions and you're more likely to win some battles on some positions than convince the world to give up religion.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  4. Pamela Haley Design

    AH HEM! Pardon me for a second whilst I reflect on a thing called history. I present you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooverville

    The only difference between an Occupuy camp and Hooverville is the land Occupiers now reside on was undeveloped in the 1920s. OH! AND, They've decided to call it a protest rather than just existing.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  5. Grady

    Grocho Marx was right...religion is an opiate for the masses and Tony Perkins is an abuser!
    Maybe we should establish a re-hab program for those addicted to religion...

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  6. edmond kwan

    the problem lays in this one fact, we have ignored what Jesus said in John 14;12,;I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing...' .Occupy till I come, yes, but what with and on what? it is excellent to have a good work ethics, and a reward system for the diligent...however, if you are talking about the Kingdom of God, our economy is based on the ability to do miracles first, and it is an ecomomy of abundance, not of lack....which the current economy based on mammon is run.Abundance destroys the economy based on mammon. Imagine what would happen to the winemakers, if we could turn water to good wine, the depleting fish stock would be spared if we could multiply the fish and the bread, imagine if all the sick were healed who went to a healing crusade everytime....the economy of the frist world would collapse under such abundance , and the 'third' world would be saved with dignity, and not made to be beggars of the crumbs that fall from the tables of the wealthy who raise charities for them..no, occupy wall street is just another manifestation of the truth of Jesus' words..'You will hear of wars and revolutions.'
    What is needed is repentance, by those who call themselves christians for disobeying the command of the Father, to John, Peter and James..'This is my Son, whom I love,with Him I am well pleased.LISTEN TO HIM.", and for the church to really engage in the business of the Kingdom of God..of miraculous power, joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit, of eating , drinking and talking ..in abundance. Then...we might expect these words..'good and faithful servant.' We have to use the current system ,yes,, because we lost the power that Jesus gave us.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Tim

    Um, there's no such thing as Jesus. But even so, I doubt you are qualified to intelligently comment on if jesus would be an occupier, given the fact you are an ignorant evangelical pseudo-christian.
    Anybody that is part of the so called "Family Research Council" is a sad excuse for a human being.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • jerry

      what an open minded and tolerant reply from a pseudo human being...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Matthew

    I agree with the main point of this article: God looks at individual efforts and rewards the achievement of each person's merits.

    Although the article tells a truth, I would add that it fuels the minds of Marxists who argue that capitalists use individual morality to further the impoverishment of the working class. In my opinion, Marxists tend to assume that society would otherwise have unlimited resources. Thus, Marxist may view the financial crisis as a war against the working class "dominated" by the ideologies of capitalists. For instance, a Marxist will try to point out that the financial crisis is a "disguised" form of working-class impoverishment. Also, they will argue that there is no financial crisis. In other words, society always had the same amount of money.

    I would almost agree with Marxist views, except that the recent financial crisis was a factual problem. The market "crash" led to losses caused by "speculative" and often frantic withdrawal of funds. I think the problem is not on the ideologies of either Marxist or Capitalist views, but on the efficiency of today's financial market. Today's economy accepts that you can make gains as long as you do not harm others in your pursuit. Income gap is acceptable if you can get rich without harming others.

    I hope that our crisis signals a need to review our economic trend for the future. Kaldor-Hick's economic model explains that market will achieve efficiency when the winners can compensate for losers. I believe that this model will resolve our economic problems under scares resources. In any economy, there are winners and losers. As long as losers can get back on their feet, the market will continue to be efficient for both winners and losers. In short, "losers" or poor people need money to get back on their feet. They do not need food stamps or advice. They need money first. The government should play the role of compensating the poor without asking any questions. In sum, the challenge is if our society can grant respect for even the poorest person in the streets to rise above their poverty and to contribute to the overall economy. Without common respect, the market efficiency is meaningless.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  9. jj

    If Jesus existed (and there is no factual proof that he existed), his band of followers following him around Galilee were exactly like the Occupiers. They lived from the charity of those more fortunate and had few material needs (consider the lilies). According to the story, Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple and often spoke against the rich.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  10. Byron

    This guy is clueless. He must be drinking the wall street koolaid.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  11. Daniel in Canada

    My dear neighbors to the south. I now find your level of religiosity to be excessive and nearing a state of unhealthy obsession. To me, religion belongs in the privacy of your home and in the very confines of your church at the very most. In America, it's everywhere. Your homes and churches but also in all levels of government and politics, schools, TV, street. You name it. It is masquerading as science in so-called "museums of creation" and even trying to infiltrate itself as a viable subject for science class, no less. Please sit back, reverse-engineer (as it were) your beliefs and realize what it is exactly that you believe in and ponder – really ponder as to where those beliefs actually belong.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Samuel

    Jesus was the FIRST OCCUPIER! I see the OCCUPY MOVEMENT just the same as when Jesus and his disciplines entered the temple and tossed out the money mongers and cleansed the temple of the vermin! Wall Street merchants are today's bunch of theives... and they've infected the American dream for a fair chance and a fair opportunity! Wall street needs a bath... and needs a change! We need to be rid of the corporate fat cats and WS dollar dogs! The sooner the OCCUPY MOVEMENT takes it lead from Jesus... the FIRST AND BEST OCCUPIER... the sooner we'll see real change for the middle class! Less greed... more jobs... a fairer opportunity for the average person... the 99'rs to get an honest free market that works for them... not just the theives!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Hilo, HI

      Right On!!

      (You saved me the trouble of posting all this! : )

      December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  13. gcam

    Ok, let's take the Bible as a whole shall we? How about James 5:1-6

    1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.a 6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

    The Bible has much to say about the condemnation of greed and the hoarding of well to the suffering of your fellow men.
    The Road to life is narrow, and as Jesus said, "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." He may not support everything that the Occupy movement stands for but he would certainly have been at home among the street level folk.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Nick-o

    So I get it Tony.....This means Herman's Cain's and Gingrich's millions are just a reward for their diligent work, never mind they both cheated on their wives. And all the bank executives are so deserving of billions in bonuses while they took our tax money handout to save their companies and jobs in the first place. That was our money, and we worked for it, not them. This is ridiculous. Stop using parables to mask your objective, you phony, you fraud, you disgrace God.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  15. Adam

    It is appalling that a "news" organization would report anything filtered through the religious views of any individual....This is such an ignorant article that it is astonishing. Even if you subscribe to these views, bankers and CEO's have acted un-Jesus-like for years, but I must have missed the article condemning this... CNN should be embarrassed.....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  16. Ravi311

    You know that Man has created God in his own image when God hates all of the same people that Man does.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  17. epicjourney

    Talk about taking scripture out of context!!
    ""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.""

    This refers to spiritual growth, it has nothing to do with economic systems. The parables you describe in the article were allegories so the audience could understand the concepts – but it always refers to the spiritual plane of existence.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. chill yo..

    "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?"

    For the time, I'm fairly certain that the behavior of Jesus and his disciples was considered antisocial and denounced the dominant power structure of that time.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  19. Brian

    Then how come Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and blew his top when merchants and bankers turned the Temple into a trading floor? Is there a New Testament published by Trump I don't know about?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  20. TexasSky

    Proverbs 22:16
    One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
    Matthew 19: 21-23 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Matthew 25:44-46 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 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.