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. Bright Idea

    What if to show support for the poorest and most helpless among us, the occupiers would volunteer in food kitchens and doing other charitable work? Think of the difference large numbers of people working to help others would make! This should also generate positive news coverage.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  2. BriteStudent

    Why is CNN featuring an article in its religious section written by the president of the Family Research Council, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled as a hate group?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  3. kitsuneshin

    Soooooo wrong. If you thing Jesus is with Wall Street you need to read Luke (especially 16:13) BTW that parable isn't about greed it is about saving souls as Jesus wasn't interested in the material world, but the coming kingdom of God.
    I love how they get to take out all of that camel through a needle and blessed are the poor parables and only use the one that can be slightly manipulated to suit their agenda. Seems to me that Jesus spoke more about mammon in the negative than every in the positive. I think Jesus would have called Mr. Perkins a "Brood of viper" -It's ok Mr. Perkins -Jesus may forgive you... The rest of us think you are an ass!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  4. Ike

    Jesus wasn't endorsing capitalism, but using the subject of making a profit as an example of not being lazy and doing what you can with what you have been given, but the real application was in being Godly and not making money.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dan W

      I don't know what your standards for laziness are, but camping out and occupying isn't lazy. It's a lot of hard work. These people are braving brutal conditions to have their voices heard. Companies are dumping employees like cattle to increase profit margins. How is being fired because a CEO wants more money, lazy?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Dan W

      Too many of these people commenting about how lazy the working class are have placed themselves on pedestals seemingly hoping that the populace will worship them and work like slaves to make them happy. Take a step down or I'll happily kick the pedestal out from underneath you.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  5. mikel

    If you think Jesus is just like you, regardless of whether you are conservative or liberal, then you are a fool. Instead, think about how much less you are compared to Him and you might start to get a better picture....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  6. maine liberal

    Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  7. Balls McGhee

    thou shalt lobby congress and payeth them to make laws in thy favor!! – Jesus (who is also God...and his son...well, sort of..you see, he is well...you know what i am saying...right?)

    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  8. publicus1776

    I so love the Bible. You can justify most anything. Did the writer miss the whole sequence about giving the poor the clothes off your back? Or food to eat. While he argues, "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." he forgets the parable (which he is so fond of cherry picking) about the workers in the vineyard who get paid the SAME thing, though one worked an hour and others worked a day. And the ones that complained were rebuked!

    If anything, Jesus was more of a socialist than capitalist because I fundamentally believe the teaching in the two commandments (love God, love your neighbor) and the belief that everyone was part of a community larger than just themselves. Shame on you Tony for perverting a wonderful religion into every man for himself as long as they obey the rules that you want falsely believe in.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      Thou shalt useth my nameth when talking politics in the future on a website! – Jesus

      December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  9. John

    This is all assuming Jesus Christ existed, and Christ's existence is not supported by any valid historical evidence. The only references to Jesus by historians is made by Tacitus and Josephus, and both of these references are made many years after the supposed death of Christ. And even if these references are valid, it only validates the existence of Christ. It doesn't validate his supposed miracles such as his Resurrection. Christians use the Bible to support the works of Christ when in fact it is full of contradictory principles and several historical contradictions. For example, according to Matthew Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. In Luke, we also learn that during the birth of Christ, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. However, Quirinius became governor of Syria 10 years after the reign of Herod the Great. Thus, the 2000 year old texts we call the Bible are of no historical significance. It is irrational to the point of asininity to not only be convicted of Jesus's existence but to also be 100% convicted of his miracles. Any extraordinary claim, such as a man being the son of god and resurrecting after dying for our sins, comes with a heavy burden of proof. This burden of proof is not even remotely satisfied with the Bible. Thus, it is irrational to believe in Christ yet alone ins his divinity.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      Thou shalt preacheth my words and make millions of dollars while starting a bank that will get government funding after bad business practices. – Jesus

      December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Skinsfan66

      I don't know where you're getting your information but you are wrong. It is a historical fact that Jesus Christ existed. Now whether you believe he is the Son of God or not is up to your faith but his is a proven historical figure.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • John

      How is it a historical fact? where is the evidence for it?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  10. RodBInNC

    Perkins and his gang of evil are considered to be a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fact that he even attempts to "quote" Jesus is unconscionable. Jesus was probably not an "occupier" as the Romans woul;d not allow any demonstrations. Jesus was in fact a martyr for the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Jesus believed in fairness and helped the poor. He did not spread hate and bile and violence like Perkins and his band of Klansmen.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  11. Curt


    We seriously do not care about your opinion on anything. You have a horrible track record, so why should anyone care about your little thoughts?

    Get a real job.


    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  12. Darth Cheney

    This article is not worth CNN; let Fox News pass along this drivel. Anyone stupid enough to believe that the teachings of Jesus are even remotely consistent with no-holds-barred capitalism is, well, stupid. CNN should not provide a forum for legitimizing such balderdash.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  13. Bolaji09

    It's the same Family Research Council representation in their pharisaical all-knowing awareness of the Lord that said Obama's unprecedented outdoor rally in Oregon 2008 would be rained out. Tons of surprise in store for the selfish, arrogant, rubbish-spewing people. Matthew 7:22.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  14. antbrother

    Wow, what a completely missed point by someone that is responsible for helping families. i think Mr. Perkins is more of a liaison between the political arena and faith-based groups and churches. Unfortunately he speaks from the side of politics and attempts to make the spiritual walk fit into the world. Sorry, they are enmity with one another. What i heard in the article is that Mr. Perkins does not understand scripture. Jesus spoke in parables so that the average person could understand His point in relation to the physical world, but the underlying message is always about the spirit.

    This scripture is about Spiritual gifts and what we do with them while we are here on earth. From those that have (spiritual understanding and a relationship with Jesus) more will be given and from them that do not have, even that which they possess will be taken away and they will be tossed into utter darkness. "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

    As far establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus stated: "The Kingdom of God is within." meaning, you can't see it, it is first established in the hearts and minds of God's children.

    Have a blessed day.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • sheep

      Thanks for your comment finally somone has an ear to hear.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  15. Skinsfan66

    @Shane G No I do not believe in predestination. But God knows what's going to happen. If we choose to accept Christ he does not make it happen because it is your choice, but he know it was going to happen. If you choose not to – same thing.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  16. Balls McGhee

    i should rake in millions by preaching something i really dont believe in.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  17. Jared Hamline

    Jesus could care less about money. What he was refering to is love. Love was the monetary possesion he was refering to. If you give love, you will ultimately gain more in return. If you keep it to yourself, then you are essentially "poor". Why is this guy taking only the money aspect literally and every other part metaphorically? John 13:34, Love everyone the way I loved you.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Skinsfan66

      I agree but also Jesus would not approve of those who don't work but demand others pay there way in life. "If a man doesn't provide for his family he's worse than and infidel". We have to act responsibly.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Nonimus

      But didn't the king want a return on his mina, i.e. the servant/slave didn't do anything with his mina.
      How does that fit with a love metaphor?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  18. Robin Crandall

    The first thing Jesus did when he got to Jerusalem was visit the synagog where he found it occupied by money changers. In a rare fit of anger he kicked over their tables and basically said "This is the house of God not a bank" So that's how the Son of God feels about banks and their relationship to the banking industry. Tony what's your face, Christ would doom you to a long and painful death. Actually, since you claim to be a Christian, you will probably suffer one anyway.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      Now go back and read that passage in context. In fact, go read it also in the other gospels.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Skinsfan66

      No it was not how Jesus felt about banks, it was how he felt about people desicrating the temple. They were doing buiness inside the temple. Jesus did not approve of that. He also said we should render to Cysar the things of Cysar and to God the things of God.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  19. maine liberal

    Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

    To break even today is a major accomplishment.
    The banks today service charge you for inactivity and would take all your money

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      Your bringing up a useless point. The rest of that parable is so much more important. Also, I make interest on my money in a bank. So according to my personal experience, that part in the parable is still true.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Jason

    Just as a side note, the Greek word that the KJV translates as "occupy" is much more commonly translated as having to do with trade and productivity not "occupy" which has a military semantic value. Perkins uses a poor translation of the Greek to form a non-existent connection between the word "occupy" and "trade".

    As for abuses not being intrinsic to free-market enterprise I only have one thing to say. Conservative Protestant theology is pretty clear about human perfectibility: Not going to happen. So as long as people are still in control of business, we'll continue to see these abuses. It is odd that Perkins is unfamiliar with this or not made this connection. This is a fundamental flaw in free market theory, just as power corrupts, so does money (which is just another expression of power). Thus government is not the only one who needs checks and balances. The implication of "if we're ethical we won't have any problems" ignores the underlying problem.

    We're not ethical.

    This might be why we should welcome our robot overlords. 😉

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Dave

      ^This. Assuming humans will be ethical in any way that doesn't further their own self-interest somehow is the same basic mistake Communism makes. Funny how the two extremes are alike in that respect, and in that they're doomed to fail.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:45 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.