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. Shari

    Anyone who thinks the Family Research Council REALLY cares about anything other than their own power base obviously has not done any real research.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  2. Converted

    Here is a thought... Who did Jesus put in charge of the money bag? Judas Iscariot the betrayer. Read the scriptures as you like... Eternity (heaven or hell) is for ever brothers and sisters. Don't let your greed in these few moments of time damn your soul.

    Come unto Christ He is the bread of the world.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  3. HisNoodlyAppendage

    Jesus may have existed, but he was most certainly not 'the son of some supernatural deity'!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Scott

      Hahahahaha. Only someone like you could turn what is supposed to be a hand book to be a better person and how to care for other with love and dedication into a some sort of business analogy. As an atheist, I think you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking you are just in any of the words you wrote.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • HisNoodlyAppendage

      Your simplistic, vapid response means nothing. Besides, I am not an atheist as you so stupidly assume.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  4. MrData

    Jesus would march into the stock exchange, flip over their computers, and expose them as the thieves they are, and peter will cut off a cop's ear who tries to arrest jesus in his moment of protest.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  5. farmerjeani

    Just checked out my post and I was so incensed I made a lot of grammatical errors and also forgot to mention that in this world we don't all start even! Now if he wants to press for a world where children are not allowed to inherit from their parents, that all schools teach on exactly the same level and that all job hiring be done by 'blind' interviews where the persons looks, weight, age ethnicity and education background are all secret, then maybe he can claim we're all equal to start.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  6. Jack Smith

    Jesus just called. He told me to tell you he's thinking about flooding the earth for next 1000 years based on this article alone and that he should have executed the good dam money lenders instead of just throwing them out. He's really upset.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Brilliant how this author twists a completely economically irrelevant parable, and put an socio-economic interpretation behind it. Tony Perkins just so you know, in first century Palestine, banks for the peasant class didn't exist. Jesus also wanted to tear down the socio-economic barriers that had been plaguing first century Palestine. If you want to talk socio-economics with Jesus, here's a parable that you might want to read from the same book Perkin's is trying to quote. Luke 13:24-30. The First at the door are the last ones in, just as the Rich are on top, they will be on the bottom social and economic justification for their policies and transactions.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Paul

    I'm a Christian. And as a Christian, I just have to say: Tony Perkins, and the Family Research Council, are offensive to me in almost every way possible. They are absolute trash.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  9. Seth

    Tony Perkins is dead wrong, and borderline blasphemous. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

    December 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  10. Bucky

    Jesus wasn't any of the things people on here are saying because Jesus never really existed. It is like debating what Frodo Baggins would do in a situation. Argue all you want but you are contemplating a fictional character. Go look up Horus and talk about what he would have done. Same thing.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Almost

      Any credible scholar and any intelligent person knows Jesus of Nazareth did, in fact, exist. The only real debate is between Christians and others as to whether Jesus was a deity, a prophet or a philosopher.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Bucky

      Not true. There is nothing to point to outside of religious doctrines to prove anything. If you look at the history of how Christianity started it becomes clear they took the story of Horus and put their own twists on it. There wasn't even that many twists done to the original story. Even kept a lot of the same names.

      If Jesus existed than there would have been more evidence of it. Somewhere someone would have written in their diary or some sort of evidence of it but outside of religious doctrines it can't be found.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Almost

      You are in profound denial. Fact is that most credible scholars refute your allegation. I don't care what you believe beyond that point, but your ridiculous assertion is a discredit to intelligent discourse.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Converted

      I sense a conversion... like that of Saul into Paul.

      The spirit is real... very real. Read the gospels... seek withness and you to can start to preach the gospel.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Emerald

      "Fact is that most credible scholars refute your allegation. I don't care what you believe beyond that point, but your ridiculous assertion is a discredit to intelligent discourse."

      You understand that the reason researchers do not consider the Bible to be a credible source is because it is neither objective, nor contemporary? It has nothing to do with the actual religion, but rather because it is a compellation put together much time after by a people attempting to accomplish a very specific effect. Whether a report comes from the Bible or external sources, it still has to be both contemporary and verifiable before being considered credible.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Almost

      The credible scholars I refer to do not use the Bible to verify the existance of Jesus. There are numerous contemporary and secular texts that make reference to Jesus the Nazarene. His historical existence is only denied by the most loathing and unintelligent of atheists. And even if I were to concede the point, attempting to convince billions of people they're wrong without compelling proof he didn't exist is foolish. In this case, the burden of proof is definitively Bucky's.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Emerald

      "There are numerous contemporary and secular texts that make reference to Jesus the Nazarene. His historical existence is only denied by the most loathing and unintelligent of atheists."

      Most of those can be shown not to be true, but only a Christian listens to one side of the argument denying that it can be proven untrue. My God exists because I have faith without proof. Quote your scholars and I'll tear each one apart. Come on now don't be a coward.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Almost

      Tempting, but that block of hubris makes me realize the futility of the exercise. Anyone who thinks they can "tear apart" any number of scholars has an ego to dangerous to reason with. Not a fan of the bait you're using either. I'd rather be a coward than acquiesce to come down to your level.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Emerald

      "Tempting, but that block of hubris makes me realize the futility of the exercise. Anyone who thinks they can "tear apart" any number of scholars has an ego to dangerous to reason with. Not a fan of the bait you're using either. I'd rather be a coward than acquiesce to come down to your level."

      The fact you replied the way you did shows your level is far lower than mine. 😉
      You just can't back yourself up so you choose the Christian way out, using lies and bogus facts.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • GodPot

      Bucky is right. And anyone who claims something different is accepting something other than first hand accounts as evidence, such as Josephus's writings which were written at best three decades after Jesus supposedly died, and the writings have no first hand accounts of anything related to Jesus.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • GodPot

      "You are in profound denial. Fact is that most credible scholars refute your allegation." – Almost

      I like that "most credible scholars" part. It's like when FOX news says "Some people have said..." as if that gives any credence to anything they spout. Try using phrases like "Norman Gottwald claims..." or "Dr. Ed Hindson believes..." if you want anyone to take you seriously, but even then, they are just more peoples opinions about second and third hand accounts from two thousand years ago, so to buy in to it you already need to be pretty heavily invested.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  11. pat carr

    Tony, what about Lazarus and the Rich man?

    December 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  12. Rev. Kenneth R. Storck

    Opp! Sorry, Tony, but you were using St. Luke's version of the parable. Well, Jesus began his ministry in the Gospel fo Luke with the following statement:

    18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to let the oppressed go free,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
    20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

    We don't have to wait for Jesus to 'come back' to be for social justice. Luke and Jesus calls us to stand up for the most vulnerable and to speak out for the Year of Jubilee when all debts are forgiven...and the land returns to the original owners.

    Now that is Biblical!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  13. KC

    Why is it that liberals want to make Jesus a socialist when the Bible teaches that "he who does not work neither should he eat"?

    December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • xysea1971

      Why do conservatives deny that Jesus told his followers to give up their riches and follow him, that one cannot serve two masters God and Mammon (money), that rich people are less likely to enter Heaven than a camel pass through the eye of a needle, or that how you treat the least among you is how you treat Him?

      December 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Kevin

      Let me actually... work can be loosely defined here... they are working by occupying in a sense, they aren't getting payed or they are getting payed very little, just like the peasants in ancient times.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Sam

      KC: The phrase you quote is directly quoted by Lenin as a necessary principle under socialism (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_who_does_not_work,_neither_shall_he_eat). So (even though Jesus never said it), it actually goes to support the idea that Jesus was a socialist.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • BuzzMann

      Does that also apply to old people,cripples and the mentally disabled?

      December 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • fedup99

      Wait a minute. i thought the agreement here was that there was no Jesus.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  14. farmerjeani

    This person has no concept of what Jesus was here for and what he was about! This story is not about money or investments. It was about spreading Gods word. That is where the value was, not in cash. He was indicating it isn't enough to just be a Christian and not tell others the good news. There are countless other stories that negate the clueless individual that wrote this. The story that he tells that the birds toil not in the fields but still their father in heaven provides for them, that the widows mite was more valuable than all the gold the pharisees donated and yes, he drove the 'entrepreneurs' and 'capitalists' from the steps of the temple. He called James, John and Peter away from their fishing operations to travel the country with him and live off the donations of others. He told his disciples to go out to the villages and spread his word, eating and sleeping with people he met there. This writer needs to do a lot of reading before he puts his finger to another key!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  15. Seth

    Wow. Tony Perkins has really gone off the deep end here, trying to kiss up to the 1%. Jesus said it's easier for a rich man to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Occupy movement, which peacefully makes their voices heard are on par with the non-violent resistance that was the early church. Tony perkins sounds more like Pilate than Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  16. Jesus

    For your information, I am occupying the hell out of heaven.

    Is this a joke? How is this news? I can cure leprosy but not idiocy.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  17. Marlin Perkins

    So I get it, Jesus was a member of the Chamber of Commerce...
    Thanks, Tony. I was confused about Jesus' role in history as a middle of the road myopically-market minded Wily Lowman type.
    As the son of god, his only mission was to ensure we all meet our respective sales quotas, each according to his or her abilities. So wise....

    December 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  18. 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/she will be saved, then his/her mind and heart will be changed by the Holy Spirit to do good things to others without becoming poor.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  19. Water to Whine

    Perkins will burn in hell for his grotesque misinterpretation of Christianity. He is a servant of money, not God.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  20. Mike

    Mr. Perkins: you clearly do not understand, or practice, what you preach.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
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