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. Poughkeepsie Pirate

    Hmmm.. Now what was it that Jesus did with the money changers in the temple?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  2. cnnpropaganda

    "even though it is occasionally abused" – More like frequently abused. Not a week goes by without another corporation either breaking privacy laws, fleecing government incentives, not paying taxes, or taking their customers for all they're worth. It's endemic, that's why we're here, that why Jesus would have supported Occupy because sure, in a perfect world the system is fine, but in reality it's anything but, it's straight corrupt.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  3. Buddhism > Christianity

    Jesus also said that earth is flat and sun revolves around the earth.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Gabe

      No he didn't. That concept doesn't appear in the Bible.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  4. Alan

    Spare us your fundamentalist BS.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  5. sbilly

    Poor tony he will burn in hell.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  6. rob

    You can just look at his plastic hair and pointed face and see exactly what kind of person he is. A charlatan.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  7. SDB

    I have a hard time believing that Mr. Perkins misses the entire point of the parable. If the king is a stand in for Christ, then the money he gave to his servants is not literal. (or if it is, I still haven't gotten MY check from Jesus, have you Tony?), Christ is very simply telling us to make the most of what He HAS given us and not waste our spiritual gifts. How you can take that as a pro-free market parable is beyond me.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Gabe

    This article is absolutely disgusting. If you're going to quote the Bible, you need to take the whole counsel of God, not just the parts that suit your own sick opinion. Jesus is not speaking of a free market here. Rather, Jesus frequently condemns those who focus on monetary gain. He is instead of making the most of what God has given us. In choosing to occupy, the protestors are making a difference and doing something worthwhile with their time.

    If anything, the Bible teaches anything BUT the sick form of capitalism that you're twisting the Bible to support:

    "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." Acts 2:43-46

    That sounds more like it supports what the occupiers stand for.

    How dare you twist the Bible to suit your own teachings. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Anne S

      Yes, you can quote that. But the occupiers are not doing that. The early Christians did care for one another and pool their goods commonly. But they did not – and I repeat did not – go out and demand that the government take care of their problems for them.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • cnnpropaganda

      @ Anne S : "go out and demand that the government take care of their problems for them." I thought asking for ethical business practices and an end to the fleecing of Americans for corporate profit was a fair demand. I didn't know that Jesus supported those things and insisted people, the poor, and the sick just suck it up and take care of their own darn selves. I hope you're not a parent, you'd probably tell your kid to man up and set his broken arm for himself because you don't want some hospital to solve that problem for him, less he become a liberal or something, lol.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Gabe

      I work right by the protestors. Given its nebulous nature, there are a minority of protestors demanding those things. Most of them, however, are demanding a government free from corruption by Wall Street. They are not demanding handouts, but rather demanding that the government free itself from the bankers and end tax cuts for the rich.

      Once this happens, everyone will benefit as a result. That sounds pretty Biblical to me.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Jerry

    How much did you $ to publish this article? You are really the bottom of the bottom Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  10. open400

    Wall Street worships money, not God and is an affront to the First Commandment and the spirit of the New Testament. Jesus did not represent the 1% and there are many passages in the New Testament that confirm that. It is hypocritical for the GOP to say they represent conservative Christian values when they do everything they can to make life more miserable for the poor, sick, elderly and afflicted.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  11. Paul

    Why does CNN give this guy a platform to spew his vile? He is the leader of a designated hate group. Would CNN give the same space to the leader of the KKK (which Perkins supported) or Neo-Nazis? Just because he hides behind the Bible doesn't mean he is capable of intelligent thought. We have all seen several example of religious nuts and he is just another hate filled monster.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  12. Rock Eater

    Jesus was a capitalist now? Do Christian conservatives have no shame that they're willing to completely pervert the teachings of their own religion in order to further their personal political views?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • NCGirl77

      not so much capitalism vs socialism here. Read the book of Acts and learn the history of the early church and you will see that those who had shared equally with those who did not. the church took care of the orphans and the widows equitably with funds given in love to be shared. This is Christianity. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other parables that show rewards for diligence and obedience to God's word, and rightly so, I just think this author may have taken this parable out of context. I don't belive it was Christ's intent to put a plug in for capitalism, but rather to show eternal rewards for faithfulness on the part of the servants.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  13. NCGirl77

    Not a huge fan of CNN, and honestly, fully expected some biased rant in this article. But what I took away from this was that Christ would not have been an occupier because his life and teachings instructed us to live along side of the rest of the world, be honest, hard working and diligent in our dealings with others for the furtherance of HIS kingdom. I can't control what others do, think or say, but I can control what I do. That is what I think the author is trying to say here.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • saab28

      Well, actually no–that is not what Jesus taught–you may want to spend a little more time on that–and no, that is not close to what this writer is trying to say. In spite of your commendable effort to hope everyone can "just get along" sometimes you have to accept the fact that when some people open their mouths Bulls**t fills the room. And that some people think they have some unique channel to the mind of God. They should be either feared or ignored, depending on their influence.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Sandy Ferguson

      If it had been as easy as getting along in the life, Jesus wouldn't have been nailed to a cross by the Romans. The problem that the Romans and Tony Perkins have with Jesus is that the Good News of the Kingdom of God is a direct challenge of our systems of exploitation and injustice. When you refuse to 'just go along' but instead believe that there must be a better way of doing things, then as Jesus himself makes clear be ready to face the consequences of such a path, because the powers of this world have so much as stake, and don't want to loose the power they have taken from the rest of us.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • NCGirl77

      That obviously didn't come out quite the way I intended it. . . . Look at the life of Daniel. He was high up the the hierarchy of the kingdom of Babylon. Did he agree with all of the edicts of the kings of Babylon? No. Yes I know he was taken into slavery there, but he chose to serve under the king. He could have revolted, taken his own life to keep from serving under such a ruthless dictator . . . instead he was obedient to God. God put him there for a reason. He stood up when it mattered, when he was being ordered to no longer worship the one true God. What I am trying to get across is that as a Christian, I am required to love God and love others. Yes, stand up for what is right, but I can not make someone embrace this belief as well, no more than I can make a milionaire understand and empathize with how the other 99% live.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  14. RichM

    What an outragious opinion! Free market is not the issue here, pillaging the public treasury is the issue. The free market died with the bailouts.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  15. GOP is killing the middle class

    Did Jesus say "The 99% have to suffer so that the 1% can be happier"?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Shawn

    This man would have bee one of the pharisees that Christ denounced. His take on this his based on his inclusion in the evangelical network, and is skewed by political posturing. I'm not saying his intentions aren't good, or that he does not do good in his ministry. However, Jesus was a proponent for the "outsiders", the disenfranchised. His stance is clearly pro establishment, which really runs counter to Christ's example.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  17. Mike Walsh

    He lost me at paragraph 7 when instead of sticking to facts, he started injecting more of the right's BS broad-stroke stereotyping.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  18. Kat

    Why is CNN posting this? Please give us the news and not opinions. If I wanted opinions presented as news, I would go to FOX.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  19. AmericanSam

    Occupy with business means to work and be productive. It doesn't mean using a system to force millions into poverty. Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth. Jesus was an advocate for the poor. Jesus said it is easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into Heaven. I think Jesus is pretty clear in these regards.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Anne S

      How incredibly stupid. Jesus does talk about the poor – and says we are to take care of them. WE – not the government. So what have you done to do that? I'm infuriated by liberals who demand their government do something quoting scripture or some moral principle because they are too lazy to get out and do it themselves. Get off your duffs, go feed someone. And stop expecting the government to fix your problems.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • cnnpropaganda

      @Anne S: what's the difference between directly helping the poor or organizing a structure with your peers that can reach out and help MORE poor than you could do alone? What you're arguing is semantics, and your semantics are arguing against teamwork and togetherness, the foundation of a good government. You're totally missing the point. By your own explanation I shouldn't give to the Red Cross because it's a business helping people, and rather I should "get off your duffs" and do it myself, otherwise it's pointless. You're a hypocrite.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  20. TJ

    While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:56 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.