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. Mark

    If we're bringing religion into politics, let's think about what Jesus would say about tax breaks for the wealthy or even kicking out immigrants. Kind of contrasts what the supposedly Christian right wants to enact into laws.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  2. RobotJohn

    I like this blatant bit of pro one-percent propaganda in that it is supposed to...do what, exactly? Sway us towards the plight of the poor multi-billionaires? Poorly thought out, poorly executed, shameless attempt to appeal to the 99 percent. It would be funny if real life people hadn't had their lives taken away from this lot.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Bob

    Tony Perkins is a snivelling punk. Just goes to show the stupidity of people that ANYONE listens to that weasel.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  4. Rufus T. Firefly

    Should they follow Christ's example and chase the moneylenders out with a whip?

    Really – "Jesus chose the free market system" is the dumbest thing I've read in some time, and I spend a lot of time on Fark.

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

      He chased them from the temple.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  5. Michael Balzer

    But doesn't Acts4:32 through 5:11 tell us to sell all of our possessions and give them to the church so that they may be given to all according to their needs (i.e. communism)? It even describes the tale of Ananias and Sapphira who did not follow the word of God on this?

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

      It wasn't forced... it was something that was done voluntarily

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Aaron


      Also, the coins in the parable represent the word and saving souls. Living your life under grace and INVESTING that grace/salvation into others. It was not instruction for capitalism. Yet again, the family research council makes stuff up in order to push their NON SPIRITUAL agenda...

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  6. eric

    This is why I don't go to church anymore.

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

      Not like you going there would have made any difference either.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  7. tb

    What a load of crap! This guy must be a rich Repuklican. "Blessed are the poor."

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  8. Jim

    This is poor exegesis through and through.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  9. chiarrai

    Does Tony Perkins know Jesus personally? I think not! He has no more insight as to how Jesus would react to this movement than you or I. If we are to believe that Jesus was a loving and caring man, and I believe he was, it would seem to me that he might be standing amongst the protesters. Just my opinion Tony.

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

      That's just your opinion. He wouldn't have joined Occupy... We'll know by looking at His life. From His life, He had his own thing going on and people joined Him.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Rick

    It seems to me that Mr. Perkins is reading a first century parable through a 21st century lens. This article will no doubt please many conservatives who are more than happy to read economic liberalism into the Gospels. Any such reading, however, must account for other biblical passages such as the ones in the Epistle of James where the apostle warns against coddling the wealthy few who take mistreat their employees. Sadly, poor hermeneutics can make for deceptive politics.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  11. Beth

    The Occupy movement is not anti-free market. It is pro free-market and anti-people getting swindled by corrupt banks and politicians. I guess anyone can twist anything to make it mean what they want but the author is stretching things greatly to support his view. HIs view would certainly change rapidly if he were out of work and homeless, I would imagine.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  12. steve killough

    Biggest bunch of Bull chips I have read in a long time.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  13. MattAZ

    This article was ridiculous. Does Perkins actually believe that Jesus was supporting usury in this parable? The obvious answer is no, and every educated person knows it. I can assume only that Perkins is a complete moron or that he is deliberately lying to trick his flock. The fact that he doesn't give the real reason that the third slave hid the money suggests that Perkins is simply lying here.

    In the parable, the king was simply saying that if the slave actually thought that the king was such a terrible man then he should have put the mina in the bank to collect interest. He was NOT saying that people should put put their money in the bank to collect interest. That's why we call this a parable. You'd think that someone who proclaims so stridently that he is a Christian might realize this. Mr. Perkins, you might want to ask the Jews whether early Christians were in favor of usury. You'd also better pray that there is no Jesus, Mr. Perkins, lest he ask you someday why you lied in his name for political gain.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  14. Zakk from Corbelone

    He's absolutely right! Jesus also promoted total quality management, six sigma, action item lists, team building, outsourcing, downsizing, and elimination of human resource redundancies to increase cash flow.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  15. Ned Flanders

    Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother."And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For 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.”

    Luke 18-25, King James Version

    December 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Ned Flanders

      Luke 18:18-25 King James Version

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

      Well read.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  16. Ken

    Why are conservatives so all right with completely distorting reality? This isn't a conservative view of Jesus, but someone who is distorting the image of Jesus in order to apply it to conservatism. This is so bad

    December 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Snow

      But no different from how every religinut pushes their agenda.. look republicans.. look teapartiers.. look westboro.. look at that church about interracial couple.. Truth is that it happens every where and people notice only when they get effected. Complacent sheep..

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  17. Joan Curtiss

    I too am disappointed with this article. Devisive....ruins politics and religion and a few moments of my day.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  18. David

    I can't believe that this Perkins character Said "Jesus is a free Marketer" What a load of crap. These guys would have persicuted Jesus, if he existed, as a radical, left wing , hippy freak, who needed to get a job and take a shower. Baal have mercy on their ignorant souls.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  19. FowlAM

    This "Family Research Council" sounds like modern-day Pharoahs or Nimrods protecting the conservative status quo. Their "research" isn't worth the time of a kindergartener.
    I suggest Tony and his rabble reread the Bible and learn to read more carefully, and use a more insightful technique.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  20. XtianNation

    Amen brother!!!! You are TRULY wise and Godly!!!! Jesus would have condemned these lazy leeches that only know how to steal from hard-working Americans!!!!!

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

      XtianNation – Shouldn't your name be Talibanation?

      That is exactly what you are acting like, Xtian Taliban Extremists.

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

      How do you know that any of them have stolen anything?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
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