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. DKelley

    That is SO not true. The Gospels say that Jesus knocked over the tables of the moneylenders in the Temple. Jesus was not only an "Occupier", he was RADICAL in his protests, and FAR more violent than the current Occupiers.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jesus H. Christ

      I'm a fictional character ready to dance.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Damian

      It is mind boggling to think that anyone would give the time of day to Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council. I thought all of their time was spent on devaluing the lives of gay people for public and conservative political consumption.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jesus H. Christ

      I just wish the protesters were more productive for society. All that energy waiting to fade away into the vaults of nightly news shows.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Angela

      Just when you thought that the Family Research Council was only about bashing gays at all times and with every possible dollar earned from stirring up fear and hate, we find out that they have an opinion on the free market. Who knew?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Ike

      Jesus was only radical in regards to the Jewish system and the Roman paganism, but he was not anti-government. He never railed against the government or the establishment. In fact when asked about paying taxes Jesus said, "Render unto Ceasear the things that are Cesears and render unto God the things that are God's." He only overturned the tables in the Temple, because it was God's House and not those outside the Temple.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Doug

      yes Ike, and the Occupiers aren't saying that they shouldn't have to pay taxes. Nobody is saying Jesus is a socialist. I'm pretty sure he would be a capitalist, but I'm also pretty sure he'd be on the side of the Occupiers, since their message is about justice and equal opportunity, not about socialism and free handouts.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Mr. Real

      Why is Tony Perkins writing for CNN when he has an entire conservative cable news agency at his beck and call. This man has a terrible history.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Everett

    The Occupy movement as a whole is not "railing against a free market system that rewards diligence" as this [insert derogatory term] implies at the end. They are railing against a corrupt, corporate system that rewards deceit. I and most of the folks I know who sympathize and identify with the occupy movement have nothing against well-regulated capitalism. Indeed, capitalism has given us the very technology on which we are having this debate. What we ARE upset about, is corporatism, and the idea that corporations have the same – nay, even moreso – voice in federal and state lawmaking than do the "people" from which our government supposedly derives its power. The religious right loves to take one statement from Jesus out of 100 and claim that makes the rule. Meanwhile the other 99 statements argue otherwise: That Jesus was a socialist hippie.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  3. Doug

    Here are some nice quotes Tony Perkins conveniently omitted:

    "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."

    "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." (socialism!!!!)

    "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Dan W

    Wait a tick. Wasn't Jesus preaching on the steps of the Temple which was the power center of the Jewish faith that he was ultimately trying to get rid of, that was led by the corrupt Pharisees? I'm just sayin'.... he was potentially occupying the Temple and hanging out with the homeless preaching a new gospel and standing against greed and corruption, sort of like the occupiers.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Ike

      As you pointed out he was on the steps of the Temple preaching, but he didn't tell hundreds of others to gather there and cause a scene. Jesus did most of his things under the radar as a whole.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Dan W

      Man I hate the CNN commenting system, it's so buggy.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dan W

      Ike you obviously would have found yourself standing against Jesus in the Temple as part of the Pharisees.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  5. Failcongress

    This article make me want to join Islam.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Cindy

      When I try to think of who in the world would know the least about Christianity and Jesus, the first thing that comes to mind is Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  6. matt

    The US needs to just write its own bible featuring Jesus, the CEO of Earth who becomes President of heaven. Then you can finally have the billionaire Jesus shooting up terrorists and spreading democracy while other Christians maintain their bible with the added benefit of no longer having to associate themselves with these guys.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  7. Ike

    All through the Bible slothfulness is looked down upon, but being poor isn't neccesarily equated with slothfulness. Why? Most of the population would be considered somewhere between poor and middle class. Rich people today as back then were primarily materialistic, but now even the middle class falls into that category. Jesus didn't preach against wealth, but relying on wealth and not letting it distract you. Jesus was not an occupier or a Tea-party person in that he never preached against any establishment or government and he was hardly much of a capitalist in that he never preached on making money and profit and he wasn't a hippy in that he never demanded that others owed him anything while he didn't work. Jesus was on a particular mission and he worked diligently at it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  8. Alva Puddin

    Tony Perkins uses Christianity like a weapon to hurt others. Somehow, I do not think that is what Jesus intended. He has not had his name in the news in months – that is why he comes up with such a ridiculous premise and makes it a point to put it out there. Like Hagee, Coulter, Trump and all of the other media W-hores, he says the most outrageous thing that he can think of so that CNN and other news outlets will cover it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  9. steven harnack

    This man is an amoral huckster who makes Elmer Gantry look like a saint. Anyone who uses god to promote any political philosophy is no better than the Taliban. Worse actually because at least they are honest about their aims.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Alva Puddin

      Great comment

      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  10. winnie the pooh

    Should all this nonsense be broadcasted by a major media? Unless the entire issue is meant to be a joke. But ten, please reserve the space for better jokes. Need suggestions? How about: would Jesus like Lady GaGa? Cmon guys, there is a lot of potential here for creative thinking, Strain your brain a little more...

    December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Jack

    Jesus threw the money-lenders out of the Temple. That's what the OWS movement is trying to do as well. Our mission, as Christians, is to help the poor and the sick (and not just our relatives or people we know and like).

    December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ike

      So Wall Street is a temple? What? Jesus threw the merchants out of the temple because it was a temple of God and not a place for commerce. This was the only time Jesus overturned tables of merchants.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Janet

      Jesus threw the money changers out of the TEMPLE, not the government. And this article isn't even about taking care of the poor – the author said nothing about that.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Steveo

    This is coming form the guy who paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  13. WWJD

    When he says hedge fund – presumably they grew them as food for the sheep?

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

    Simple and truth, nice article. It hurts the feelings of so many "good people" but what can we do? We talk to them and they only keep acting as the kids. The 60's are over, want to have $$$ WORK !! Stop playing nice guy we don't belive in this leftist comedy anymore.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jack

      Hang on, Edgar. You may not want to hear this but–The 60s are back! And the "kids" are smarter than ever.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • t.marino

      Guess you are not one of those "good guys".

      December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Daniel

      Ever play the game Monopoly? Would you agree to sit out the game for 2 hours while other play and buy up all the property? Then, would you take your $1,500 and join the game? Obviously, you get what everyone else got. You're playing by the same rules, right? So you have an "equal opportunity" to win, right? Now consider 300 years of slavery. Can't vote. Can't own land. Can only use "Colored Only" businesses, restaurants, neighborhoods, schools, colleges, jobs, etc. Yeah, that's equal opportunity - and it lasted into the 1960's. So now they have all the rights we have, right? $1,500 and play by the same rules... just like a 2 hour delay in the game Monopoloy.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  15. t.marino

    This guy cannot actually believe his crap. He had better go back and read the bible. Jesus was a free marketer...now that is rich. Next we are going to be told he hates certain races and the poor. Is this guy out of his mind or a political tool? I think that we all the answer to that.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  16. Spinach

    Good for CNN for offering a non-liberal point of view!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • t.marino

      Yes...a political view from a right wing tool. Thank goodness!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Agnes

      I guess the business of full time bashing gay adolescents is over. The Family Research Council is expanding its horizons. Gay bashing ain't what it used to be. Those darn new generation of gays just keep standing up for themselves and telling us where to stick it where the sun don't shine. Let's dabble in free market ideologies for a while.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  17. Aletheya

    Why is CNN publishing commentary from the leader of an identified hate group?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Mr. Real

      It is only hate if it is under the umbrella of Mohammad. If it is under the umbrella of Jesus it is free speech.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  18. Shaheen

    this is absolutely ridicules. i am a strict atheist and even I know that Jesus was a socialist, NEVER EVER a capitalist. HE HATED THEM. HE CALLED THEM EVIL.
    come on. this is PATHETIC that its on the front page of cnn. Seriously editors, think it through, don't let any garbage on.

    im waiting for this joker to tell me that Noah's flood was actually just an accident by god, or that parting of the red sea was god's fart.

    in essence you can't distort a GLOBALLY known story/character to fit your political beliefs. it is pathetic, sad, and obviously exposes your manipulative mentality.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jesus H. Christ

      Jesus never existed. Early Christians did not even believe in him for the first few years. His stories are borrowed and created for teaching purposes. As time went on they became regarded as factual by people.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  19. Andrew Jones

    I am a biblical scholar, and with all due respect, Tony Perkins is contorting the Word of the Lord to fit his personal world view. This op ed is filled with personal right-wing (I purposely choose not to use the word "conservative") bias and Mr. Perkins makes absolutely no attempt to mask them. It saddens me that this op ed may be chosen as representative of Christian values.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jesus H. Christ

      Personally my favorite book to study is a dictionary. Purely defined and not abused.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Rich

      People tend to name Jesus to their cause without doing what he told them to do. I will ask here, which is one more likely going to need to follow the commands of Jesus, living a normal middle class life, or working with the homeless in parks, trying to feed and cloth people, and speak out against corruption?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Les

      Agreed. I find many passages that encourage and instruct believers to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, provide shelter to the homeless and lay the responsibility of ministry to those in prison squarely on the shoulders of the widows. Not to mention the fact that it is extremely hard if not impossible for the wealthy to enter heaven. It also condemns the doing of public "good works" for personal recognition and commands women to be silent in the churches and to always "obey" their husbands. And much more.

      If Xtians were to concentrate on the things that they are ordered to do by God they would have far less time and money to spread their vile hate filled and oppressive religion. And they would have little time to worry about anyone except their fellow psychopaths..

      December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  20. Jesus H. Christ

    Please STOP reading so much into the Bible. It's driving me nuts up here they way you people read a collection of stories and draw various meaning and validate your own choices good or bad. KNOCK IT OFF! ..or I may send Zeus back to Earth and blow your minds!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 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.