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. Dave

    His disciples probably thought the kingdom of heaven was upon them because they were told it would be by Jesus. I'm not sure where you get off saying that Jesus was trying to brace them for thousands of years before his return but it simply isn't so. They were told that before their current generation of lives had passed, Jesus would return. Matt 16:28

    December 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Top 10 cults:
      1. Christians / Jesues
      2. The Manson Family / Charles Manson
      3. Aum Shinrikyo / Shoko Asahara
      4. Forever Family / Stewart Traill
      5. Islam / Mohammad
      6. Raëlism / Claude Vorilhon
      7. The Branch Davidians / Koresh
      8. Heaven’s Gate / Do
      9. Morman / Joseph Smith
      10. Unification Church / Moon

      Feel free to add your own!

      Scientology / L Ron Hubbard
      Mormanism / Joseph Smith
      Heaven’s Gate / Do
      Branch Davidians / Koresh

      December 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • GodPot

      And maybe it did. Any Christians ever think that maybe when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and that those Jew's who were faithful went to heaven and the rest of mankind gets to duke it out on earth for the rest of eternity? That is just as likely as the God of the Jews abandoning them in favor of ex-pagan priests of Rome who hijacked the religion under Constantine.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Goody Rod

      Top 1 Cu*t

      1.) Atheist (stinky)!

      December 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  2. Guitar

    Tony Perkins – MILLIONAIRE!!! Nuff Said! (part of the 1%, and a sleazeball scammer as well with his hypocritical views) I can guarantee Jesus would not be a millionaire living in a mansion if he were around today! Those who invoke his name while they reap in record profits are the most evil of all!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Yaron Gita

    Amazingly twisted!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  4. jplusmc

    Why would I care what jesus would think.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Many feel the same way about the law and the rights and feelings and needs of others. They say: Why should I care about anyone other than myself.

      I say this to your shame.

      Jesus spent his entire life helping and caring for those who were suffering and in need.

      Who do you worship?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Almost

      Because even if you don't believe in him as a deity or prophet, billions do and you're more likely to persuade a Christian to embrace your views if you can convince them Christ would have. Seriously, disbelief in religion is not proportional to intelligence. Using religion to sway the religious is much more intelligent and effective than posting statements of disbelief and ridicule will ever be.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • ?

      Because it's not a crime to use me sometimes.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  5. blinky

    "There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual."

    I repeat this is the stupidest article I've ever read on CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Not always.

      There is trouble and evil that is beyond our control, like warfare and massive earthquakes and storms.

      Evil does happen to good people.

      As Job once said to his friends: For you silence would be wisdom.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • blinky

      Add to the calamities the deregulated greed which led to the market collapse in 2008.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Barry G.


      I agree with your last comment. That falls under the heading of greed and corruption, however; and, we all know how God and Jesus feel about this.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  6. Barry G.


    I suggest you open your Bible and do your homework.

    Didn't the Sadducees run the temple?

    And didn't the temple serve a center and source of commerce?

    And did not the corruption of the priesthood create suffering for the people, who were trying to draw near to God, despite the greed and obstacles laid before them by the rich?

    And didn't the Pharisees present a different challenge?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Charity

      Nah, I am good.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  7. manoj

    Money lendors occupied the temple and Jesus drove them out. It seems jesus is against both monney lending and occupying

    December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  8. GodPot

    After having read the bible several times and knowing the scripture the author forcibly r a p e s very well and the meaning behind it, this article made me throw up a little in my mouth.

    "Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused."

    Right, Christ taught not to fight against the money changers in the temple just because a few of them were abusing the system, but to work your way up through the ranks and eventually you won't have to sell sick and lame sheep and doves to make a profit... right?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  9. Linda

    Why is this article on the CNN website? I thought this was a news website, not a forum for the highly personal religious views of Tony Perkins. But maybe Jesus came down from the heavens to tell CNN that Tony's interpretation of the bible is factual and correct? If so, then sorry, my mistake.... 😉

    December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  10. Zeflik

    Yes. And don't forget that the Sermon on the Mount was actually an attack on illegal immigrants.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • GodPot

      Did you forget "Blessed are the North American born white anglo-saxon protestants, who's skin color is closer to mine, at least, thats what you might think if you look at any European depictions of me for the last 2000 years..."


      "Blessed are the rich, for theirs is the kingdom of Beverly Hills and the Hamptons, for they have taken whats theirs, and sometimes whats not theirs, and blessed themselves, over and over, often in the back of limousines, and capitalised on the backs of the poor who are just to stupid to screw over their neighbor to make a profit..."

      December 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  11. gera

    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 5:35 pm |
  12. Jayson

    I wonder if this guy has even read the bible:

    Mark 10:25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

    Proverbs 11:28 "Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf."

    Let's not forget that the one time Jesus was actually violent was with money lenders in the temple. I mean, really.. how much of the bible do you have to ignore to be able to justify Jesus as a hard capitalist? Come on, CNN.. just because someone has an opinion doesn't mean it deserves to be published on your website.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      NFL SD 38 : JAC 14

      December 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Well done. Well said.

      There are still those who read their Bibles and love righteousness and God.

      Thank God.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  13. Charity

    I I must of read the Bible wrong, greed is good as long as you are "job creator."

    December 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Barry G.

      The Apostle Paul wrote in his New Testament epistle: Greed is idolatry.

      And Idolatry was the number one sin in the Bible, because it was essentially unfaithfulness to God and was rebellion towards God.

      Read your Bible again.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Charity

      Barry, you either missed the sarcasm or you did not read my post properly. No clue, don't care. The reality is you cannot justify greed and evil no matter what verse you are reading.

      I know people who read the Bible every day and they use it to manipulate people in the name of God. I could find nothing more sinful. We could debate the bible all day long, but in the end we are probably both wrong.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  14. Ted

    Oh my Jesus! Boxed in and Marginalized to stroke the ego of a small minded proponent of elitism.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  15. Chuck88888

    Jesus stated that "the poor will always be among you". In other words, any attempts to create a socialist utopia that somehow eliminates poverty will be destructive. Jesus was much closer to a moral capitalist than a socalist, communist, marxist.

    P.S. If you have the means to read this post, you are part of the rich1% of human history. When speaking of the rich, Jesus is talking about YOU!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • chrissy333

      By far the most ignorant thing I've read all day, except the article!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Jesus wasn't talking about me.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Barry G.


      I suggest you read that verse again–and this time read it in its context.

      I also suggest that you consider the totality of what Jesus said about riches and about the poor.

      Incidentally your comment betrays your ignorance.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  16. Q102rocks

    So what did Jesus do to the money changers in the Temple? And how about "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's. And how about "Love of money is the root of all evil."

    December 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Chuck88888

      Jesus throw out the money-handlers in the temple because they were like modern televangetists who exploit poor people while promising salvation thru donations. This does not mean that Jesus was anti-capitalist.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – he didn't care for the money changers because of their presence in the Temple – NOT because of their trade. There were similar mercantile bazaars set up all over the landscape at the time, and only this one gets a mention, and only then because of its location, not its activity.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Duh

      Jesus tipped over the money changers in the temple because......they were selling in a holy place..

      December 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Problimaticable

    Glad to see this jerk is being taken to task for this pack of lies. Yup, Jesus was all about protecting the moneyed class, right?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Jesus was most likely a simple uneducated man who could not count. I don't think money was a big priorty.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Almost

      As opposed to a smug self-important egomaniac who thinks they can "cure" the world of religion... *eye roll*

      December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  18. 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 5:31 pm |
    • Chuck88888

      Since you have the means to post on this website, you are among the rich 1% of human history that Jesus was directly refering to. Why to condemn yourself?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  19. Tyler

    "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's"

    Jesus spent far more time feeding the poor, clothing the poor, and teaching us to do the same than he did advocate for making money. Read the Bible for what it says, not what you can twist it to say.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      That isn't at all clear. The actual life events of Jesus recorded in the New Testament only cover a few hours, at most a few days, of his activities. He could well have spent the bulk of his time selling custom-made myrrh boxes and racking up a tidy fortune, but that falls outside the Biblical narrative and simply didn't get mentioned.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  20. BVN

    The hubris of mankind knows no bounds.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:31 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.