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. sarah

    I sincerely doubt Jesus sided with capitalism. I'm sorry, but "steal from the hard-working taxpayer" and give to the banks can't be found anywhere in scripture and people need to stand up to that. I'm sorry the occupiers are such a hassle for you. But you need to grow up and understand that these people are angry for good reason. If you could address it in a rational way and acknowledge their grievances, everyone's problems might be solved.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  2. Adam

    "Jesus wasn't an occupier".

    Jesus also wasn't real... so theres that.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Almost

      Where do you get your drivel from? There's no argument that, historically, a Jew named Jesus of Nazareth was an actual person. Whether or not he was a divine Being or not is the only thing that is questioned.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • fred

      Jesus was very real. If you are speaking from a historical sense virtually all reputable historians agree Jesus at a minimum was a rabble rousing Jewish preacher, executed by Pilate.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Yo!

      "Jesus was very real. If you are speaking from a historical sense virtually all reputable historians agree Jesus at a minimum was a rabble rousing Jewish preacher, executed by Pilate."

      And definitely NOT the son of a god.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  3. Robin Crandall

    Ok Truth72
    I read Mark, Luke, John and Mathew. Seems I was wrong. Jesus said it is "a house of prayer" and not a "market place" or a "den of robbers". Sorry, I got a bank and den of robbers confused. So in this country Wall Street prays in the Church of the Almighty Dollar. What would Jesus do on Wall street? A lot more than the "occupiers are.
    So the point this jerk is making is still "out there" based on the reading in context in all the gospels.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  4. Matt

    "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?"

    Hmmm... sounds exactly like when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.

    Free-market boosters often claim, as this author has, that "in a free-market system there are winners and there are losers, as it should be," But they often forget that the losers in a free-market system are not simply kicking a pebble and sulking "Aw shucks! I lost!" No. They end up homeless on the streets before they die from starvation and exposure. That punishment does not fit the crime of "failing to turn a suitable profit."

    I never like this parable. It never mentions what happens to the servants who tried to turn a profit but failed because of bad luck, and instead ended up homeless for their efforts. Did THEY get a reward?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • sarah

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

      December 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bannister

      There is NOBODY in America who is starving or dying from exposure unless they are mentally ill and CHOOSE not to take shelter that is provided to them, free of charge, by taxpayers, churches and volunteer organizations.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  5. HappyAgnostic

    Pathetic by even the agenda-driven selective right-wing interpetation of the Bible standards this bigot usually subscribes to. Jesus was a free-marketer? I'm not even a Christian and I can point to a dozen quotes from the Bible that would refute that.
    Fortunately, our political and economic system also gives Mr. Perkins the right to lie about Jesus's teachings, and to continue telling us that he wanted us all to be rich, white and Republican.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • chrissy333

      Yes, and his organization is a PAC that lobbies politicians and puts them in power over the rest of us.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Bannister

      The free market is the most moral – AND EQUITABLE- economic system designed by man. Countries that have it flourish and eat well – countries that don't, suffer and starve.

      Your choice.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • chrissy333

      That's great if it is truly a free market, which it no longer is. Small business has been gobbled up by large corporations backed by PACs and politicians and our markets have been globalized for cheaper labor. Therefore, one day we will be homeless. Thomas Jefferson warned us.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  6. Joe B-b-b-b-bob

    No, Jesus was a revolutionary, overturning the money-changers tables. We should follow His example and do what would be similarly appropriate in today's society. Wall Street, corporations, evangelists - all dens of thieves.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  7. christianbrother

    Jesus of the Bible –
    'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' matt 25:40

    Conservative Jesus –
    'The poor are poor because they are lazy, hippies or stupid. The rich deserve their riches because they earned it without the assistance of their country, fellow citizens, educational system, etc. The rich need their unlimited luxuries while the poor starve even if this slowly destroys the country. Go forth and slay brown skinned people in my name on a new crusade!'

    December 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Loren

      SOME of the "poor" are poor because they choose to whine and complain about life, rather than embrace it and use their talents to earn a living. Did I mention they like credit cards too? And before you hypocritically criticize conservatives for their views, bear in mind the liberal viewpoint on abortion i.e. killing an unborn baby. Would your (liberal) Jesus agree with that?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • sarah

      "Woe unto you: that are rich! for ye have received your consolation". Means no heaven for you. Feel better? This is it. This is all, according to the bible the rich will ever receive. That's how God rewards those who are rich. It's pretty clear where Jesus stood on this issue. He may not had told people to occupy wallstreet, but he certainly didn't condone gathering more wealth than you'll ever need either. In more ways than one, he's said the rich aren't going to heaven. He didn't mince words, Jesus said it quite clearly. People like Tony Perkins really need to think about that. You might even say all those occupiers were trying to save your soul. Thank them. lol.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  8. chrissy333

    The Family Research Council is an ultra-conservative lobbying PAC. Their interests lie in twisting and distorting the Bible and our views to further their own agenda. They've been listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups. They actively denounce any rights of the gay community and state that bullying of gay teens does not cause suicide. Although The Washington Post posted an article that their co-founder Mr. Rekers was caught with a "rentboy" on a European vacation. He claimed that he didn't know that the man was an escort and that he only hired him to carry his luggage!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  9. Kiel

    The free market's "moral principles" –
    "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."

    Our free market system works when bridled by morality? BY DEFINITION no transcendent morality exists in a free market!

    Managers are OBLIGATED to produce MAXIMUM PROFITS for shareholders. It is as simple as that, a cruel and elegant rubric of dollars.

    That is the universe. If any manager will choose to act in a way that is consistent with morality but does not increase SHORT TERM profits, their behavior is maladaptive and they will simply be outcompeted.

    Consumers need to take morality upon themselves to shun exploitative corporations. This will be accelerated by the dismantling of the corporate state, which is slowly beginning.

    THE CORPORATE STATE COMMODITIZES EVERYTHING. This is where humans need to intervene, turn the tables of the moneychangers, and preserve life.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  10. JustMe

    Now thats some real "SPIN" there!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  11. mouse

    It sucks to equate how much money someone has with winners and losers.........Jesus did not keep massive amounts of money tucked away somewhere but rather said to seek nurishment from those you meet and if they refuse wipe your shoes/feet on the way out of that city. SO, would Jesus occupy and demand that the meek and the poor be taken care of or would he side with the 1%? Hummm.........

    December 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  12. lolwut

    It seems to me Mr. Perkins missed a slightly more direct statement from Jesus, when he said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” Which is curious, since it shows up in the New Testament three times, reported by Luke, Mark, and Matthew.

    But it's far easier to argue and rationalize down your God's standards than it is to live up to them.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • gera

      You are absolutely right! Jesus is talking about being greedy. Anybody that confesses his/her sins and believes that Jesus is the son of God, died for our sins and rose again will be saved. If a rich man does that he or she will be saved, then his or her mind and heart will be changed by the Holy Spirit to do good things to others without becoming poor.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  13. Pastafaria

    Mr. Perkins is right, Jesus probably wouldn't participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Instead, as the most successful con-artist in history, Jesus would likely serve as the public relations director for Bank of America if he were resurrected.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  14. mark

    Um, was that before or after he said this...?

    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

    Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

    And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"

    December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Loren

      Do you think Jesus was speaking about the "poor" – those who would rather sit around all day defacing public property and complaining to anyone who would listen....or the "poor" – those who are physically sick, mentally ill, homebound due to no fault of their own, etc.

      Just because you are monetarily "poor" doesn't mean you are "poor" in the context of which Jesus was speaking. We have a moral obligation to help the less fortunate – not to help those people who can help themselves, but choose not to.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Jon

      Loren, just as monetarily poor does not mean humble, it also does not mean proud. Why are you so much in denial about the existence of many poor people who are poor not by their own fault, and in spite of hard work? In fact, most poor are that way. Do not forget what happened to the rich who ignored Lazarus day after day at the city gate, excusing themselves by saying it was Lazarus' own fault. Jesus' most harsh judgement was precisely against such rich.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Loren

      In my line of work...I see far too many "poor" people every day who frivolously spend their money and then complain that they have none. It is sickening. I don't disagree that many of our nation's poor are in that situation due to no fault of their own. But let's not be blind here. There are plenty out there who are poor because of their own decisions...decisions they made, but do not see as their fault.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Loren

      Also, I dont think we should judge whether someone is poor due to their own fault or not...but if the facts are out there and it is obvious what the situation is, it can be hard to ignore those facts.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      The issue Loren is people like you label ALL those claiming 'poor' as lazy and unwilling to help themselves. You never, not once, accept that any of the people you see or hear about might actually classify as 'bibilical poor'.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • sarah

      "Woe unto you: that are rich! for ye have received your consolation." " 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." ... It always amazes me how often the bible tells the rich that they can't go to heaven and yet the "rich" still quote the bible. It doesn't seem to be in their best interest to keep bringing it up over and over again.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  15. Slight of Hand

    Want to have some fun!! Read about who wrote the Gospel of Luke and, more importantly, when the Gospel of Luke was written. If people only realized that they were reading material that was either plagiarized, gathered from unknown sources, or completely made up, they wouldn't feel the need to try and (mis)interpret it in the first place. There are a lot of great, objective, archeologically based texts out there that show how likely it is that the majority of religious texts are simply ancient marketing materials for religious power structures, AND NOTHING ELSE!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Ben LaBédaine

    Wasn't it also Jesus that said "Let them eat cake"?...Oh...no...wait....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  17. Jer G

    What is basically being said here is that the servants were rewarded for having money regardless of how they obtained the money. There is nothing here stating the servants worked honestly for their money; they were just rewarded for having more money. The first guy could have scammed the other 9 into giving him their minas, through "free market" and the outcome for him would have been the same. I could be missing some meat in this story, but then again a good story should be like a good joke; you shouldn't have to re-explain.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  18. Church of Suicidal

    Jesus on the Mount: "Blessed are the strikebreakers..."

    December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  19. KP

    Since the mid-90s, the ratio of executive pay to the average worker has increased by about a factor of 5. That is not because of their diligence. That is not because of their hard work. That is not morality. That is greed, and it continues to increase exponentially among the top 1%.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Burbank

      I agree, this article is just sickening preaching and political spin/propaganda. How does he know anything about Jesus, was he there??? No?? Didn't think so! Christians! Gotta hate all that arrogance!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  20. CGeek2k

    In every system there must be winners and losers. It sucks to be a loser.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
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