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. Loren

    I hate to say this again, but let's take money out of the equation. How can it be seen as a positive thing, if people refuse to work for themselves and rely only on others to help them? I understand there are people out there who are truly unable to help themselves and better their lives. Morally, I think we have an obligation to help those less fortunate. However, if you are poor and less fortunate as a result of your own bad decisions (which you don't recognize were bad decisions) and contnue to "want, want, want" – how is that not being greedy? If you are able to help yourself, then you should. And in those cases – it should not be the government's job to assist you.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      So you're automatically assuming that the majority of people accepting public assistance are "gaming the system?"

      December 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Paul

      Thank you Loren, right on.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • CNN


      Do me a favor, before talking about how it's the fault of the poor that they're poor, take a walk in their shoes, see what they have to deal with on a daily basis, chat with most of the poor people there and listen to their stories. I can pretty much guarantee that the people you're talking about are only a small minority of the escalating gap between rich and poor.

      Not to mention, if you are really a christian then shouldn't you forgive everyone, I mean a couple of bad decisions should lead to punishment for the rest of their earthbound lives......thats what the afterlife is for

      December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  2. John N. Seattle, WA

    Nope, Jesus wasn't an Occupier. He was a fictional character created in a 2000 year old collection of writings. Since fictional characters are fictional, you can put him for or against any position you want to. Theologians have been twisting scripture for thousands of years...why should this author be any different?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Sarah

    This is the most ignorant load of BS. I don't consider myself a Christian but I'm mad for all the Christians out there who are smarter than this dude and have to suffer through hearing him twist Jesus' words around. Laziness is allowing corporations and individuals to continue with their corrupt practices and sitting on your behind and doing nothing. Would Jesus sit around while corporations and the wealthy lobby congress to get special tax breaks and privileges? I think not. It angers me that so many people are ignorant about what OW really stands for. They're not out trying to get something they didn't earn. They're trying to stop the corruption that has been going on in government and Wall Street for a very long time.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  4. cbg

    Anyone with enough free time on his hands can come up with a story from the Bible that shows Jesus in any number of ways. He can be a fierce butt kicking fighter or a sweet gentle peacelover. A militant free market preacher or a passive guy who wants people to respect each other and refrain from using their power for ill against each other. In this case, the OWS are provoking Reverend Tony into reacting, which he did with a completely specious argument. His reaction makes him look stupid. It makes me wonder why he has enough free time to be writing detailed rebuttals to a rowdy bunch of protestors who are all over the map with their message.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Sarah

      well said!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  5. Derek

    Why is this in the Belief section? This should be in the politics or business section. Every parable I can remember of Jesus' teachings was about taking care of the poor, but because this jack@ss takes a multiply translated version of a few verses and twists them into what he's paid to say, it all of a sudden is belief? Give me a break.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  6. CNN...Really?

    Editorial FAIL.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  7. stephen

    As a Southern Baptist and someone who grew up in the home of medical missionaries, I am appalled by Mr. Perkin's recent commentary and the opinions he stated, To describe Jesus as a "free marketer" distorts his message to clearly promote his own right wing agenda. Jesus did not expect us to sit by while others were suffering during difficult economic times. In his attempt to criticize others , Mr. Perkins only aligns himself with the Pharisees and we know they were no fan of Jesus. God has allowed us to make choices. Mr. Perkins believes in using his "talents" to capitalize on the sufferings of others and I have chosen to use my talents to assist those in need. Maybe Mr. Perkins should go back and reread the Sermon on the Mount.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  8. Mike

    I was not aware that free market economies existed during Christ's time. Then again as God is all knowing I suppose he sent Christ to earth to foreshadow the coming of the infallable invisible hand of the free market though the noted parable.
    I presume one also has to ignore the entire bibilcal passage showing Christ to be antisocial and destructive of private property when he threw the "moneychangers" out of the temple to buy into this theological drivel!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  9. Quid Malmborg

    "Occupy till I come."


    December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  10. Daniel in Canada

    Jesus is an INVENTION people. Deal with it!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    Perkins "parable" is perfect for someone focused on the .01%. At the beginning of the parable "A man of noble birth" wants to be King. But, "his subjects hated him and sent a delagation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our King'". When he returns he does reward those who made him richer but to every one else he says, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bringt them here and KILL THEM IN FRONT OF ME"

    If this is a "Free market" call by Jesus, then give me socialism. Perkins is Nuts!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  12. Dan W

    Jesus was a socialist. Not a communist mind you because he probably didn't want to wipe religion off the map, but certainly he would have been the member of a union trying to get big government to give to the people and not back to other rich folks and corporations.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  13. William Marlowe

    This is the type of person that considerst himself a leader and a policy advisor to our elected officials. Someone who shows very little compassion to others, that characterizes the Occupy movement as those that "take over and trash public property", and "engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?"

    Whoa Mr. Perkins. The Occupy movement is simply exercising their right to particpate in the democratic process and first ammendment right of Free Speach and for that they are considered "antisocial"

    You sir are a twisted, egocentric greedy and lacking compassion person and quite franlky a waste of life.

    You do not have the ability to feel shame or you would for your comments.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Phillygrl

    I don't know what Jesus would do...and neither does Tony Perkins. Let's be real about this. All we can do as people, is guess what past leaders and God (in my case) would do. All I can go on is what I know about the man/God Jesus. He believed in paying the government what taxes were rightfully due. He had no problem with business people, but He disliked CHEATERS. Selling in the temple was the norm, but these men were cheating people, essentially price gouging. That's what he despised. Wall St. and many financial instutions are cheating people - I don't think He would or does approve! Just my two cents.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  15. Wayne1701

    I'm not a religious scholar but I do understand the story of Jesus in the Temple. In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 Jesus accuses the Temple authorities of thieving and this time names poor widows as their victims. Hmmm, this does draw some parallels to corporate greed? Yes, Jesus was also upset that the Temple, being a house of prayer, was no place for the money-changers, calling them a 'den of thieves.' It's a shame Mr Perkins is misusing the Bible on behalf of the 'money-changers' and against the poor. This is also the only example in Gospels of Jesus using physial force, "he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables", so if by example, he was pretty ticked. To say that Jesus would not be a supporter of a pacifistic Occupy Movement, well, Mr. Perkins shows his true colors.
    "And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free." John 8:32

    December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  16. Jesus mission is being a savior..

    of all mankind!

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

      Amen, and his kingdom clearly was of God and not markets.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  17. Jane

    And why, precisely, should we *care* what Jesus would have said, thought, or done in this situation? Historically – assuming there was an historical Jesus – he was a left-wing, anti-establishment radical who may or may not have supported the Occupy movement (or any other movement – right-wing or left-wing), but it doesn't really matter either way. Assuming he existed, he lived over 2000 years ago in a completely different part of the world and with a completely different political and social climate – how could what he would say about this one political movement possibly be applicable to the world we live in now or the lives we lead? It's just this sort of absurd and pointless argument that makes me have no respect for organizations like the Family Research Council.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  18. general

    kill this idiot....please someone just take one for the team and take him down

    December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      You're the "general" so why don't you do it?

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

    So many idiots use Jesus for their own partisan political beliefs! This Tony Perkins is a charlatan anyway.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Winkzilla

    Tony Perkins portrays the sick thinking of the 1%. They are the new world order ordain by God and Jesus, and this flies in the face that the USA has been a great country for so long having a combined Capitalism and Socialism system. Health Care and Education are the responsibility of the nation and its entire people. Pure Capitalism outside of individualistic concerns is as extreme and dangerous as pure Socialism is. Tony Perkins thinking is the flip side of the same evil coin, Stalin and Lennon on one side, Hayek and Friedman on the other.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
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About this blog

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.