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. EdB

    Before this parable, Zacchaeus gives half his possesions to the poor. After this parapble, Jesus throws the money changers out of the temple in fairly violent fashion.

    You can't build your entire economic view from one parable. Pretty weak for a supposed religious leader.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      Tony Perkins is a joke.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Senor Ed

      Tony is right. It is right here in the New American Standard Bible (Teabagger Version):
      One day, while on his way to give a speech at the local Moneychangers convention, Jesus passed by a temple. Outside there were a number of poor and sick. Jesus walked up to them, spat upon them and kicked several of the weakest. He said unto them: "Get off your lazy asses, pull yourselves up by the sandal straps, and get jobs. And if you can't afford health insurance they just do society a favor and die. You poor and sick people are all a disgrace to those of us who pay taxes and earn our money."

      December 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  2. Santa Fean

    What a stooge! For religion and big business!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  3. Don F.

    Several points:

    1) In the stated parable and in his teachings, Jesus did not intend that the better capitalized should use their advantage to the detriment of the less well capitalized. Each was to use their capitalization without impinging on the other. I think that it is also likely that Jesus would not have approved of unethical or dishonest use of the granted funds.

    2) "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." But Jesus also gave "jonny-come-latelys" treatment/standing approximating that of those who had been it for the long haul. This was the beef of the elder son towards his profligate younger brother in the parable of the prodigal son – where the elder had been prudent and respectful and the younger reckless and challenging.

    3) If Jesus was not an "occupier" then how would you describe his performance in the "cleansing of the temple" scene which had lots to do with unevenhandedness/cheating/exploitation.

    The issue with the so called 1% is not that they have lots of money or that the 99% have not. It is that they have exploited their position of wealth and power to the detriment of those who have little and often that exploitation is abetted by the political/legal sector. THIS is a situation was anathema for Jesus (some of his harshest words to the Pharisees relate to this) and is denounced in the Old Testament prophets as well.

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

      Thank you very much for taking the time to point this out.
      I refuse to believe that the exploitation of the less fortunate
      is an acceptable way to conduct yourself in this life.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. Hmmm

    Interesting interpretation of Jesus' instructions and think that the word "occupy" is rather loosely translated and disagree with the assumption Jesus would have been a capitalist? And is everyone really surprised with the background of this author? Thought it was pretty blatantly obvious from the reading and lacks the need for snide comments as he's just offering an opinion and his interpretation, be it accurate or inaccurate.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  5. Scholar

    Matthew 6:6 shows that Jesus was against organized religion where the pious prominently paraded their piety publicly.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  6. DVD

    I think Tony Perkins needs to look up the story in the Bible about how Jesus walked in and threw the money changers out of the temple. That's a far more appropriate analogy to what the Occupy Movement is doing. Funny how he conveniently overlooked that one.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      I think you'll find that people like Tony Perkins have a very easy time overlooking a lot of things, and just making things up where there is nothing there. All of his babbling is just ex post facto justifications for greed and bigotry. If you want a human being who is analogous to the biblical snake in the garden of Eden, Perkins is a pretty darn good example.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  7. Andrew

    If the free market system really rewarded diligence he might have a case, but as employee productivity has been on the rise for the past 40 years, but worker compensation has not, while CEO compensation has flat out skyrocketed... we are clearly not operating on a level playing field where work is rewarded. I'm pretty sure jesus would have been appalled by the greed exhibited the very richest in the country.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  8. tiky

    I think what most people here do not understand is that Republicans are for donating their own money and making their own decision as to how to help the less fortunate. Not to give it to a bureaucratic and wasteful government that people can leach off of. The government can be to easily used and manipulated.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Yo!

      "The government can be to easily used and manipulated."

      So can the banks, the churches, real estate brokers, etc... Let's not forget wall street now. LMAO!

      December 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Andrew

      ... That's like saying 'we want communism', it's a nice idea in theory, but in practice, when has it ever worked? Please point to a single country where the poor aren't suffering because the rich tend to give their money to help social equality out of their own free will. It's a nice thing to say "we should give to charity instead", but the richest 1%, aside from Buffett and Gates, are notoriously non-philanthropic. Out of the multi-billions Koch industry maintains, the Koch brothers have donated about a billion dollars to charity. The yearly revenue of the company is 100 billion dollars, the net worth of Charles alone is over 20 billion dollars, but their entire charitable donations from the foundation (which doesn't even necessarily come out of his own pockets) amounts about a 20th of that. (This, compared to Gates and Buffett who have already given about half their fortunes)

      Put simply, even rich who give a lot (Even with it being a rather small part of their fortune, the Koch brothers still rank in the top 50 philanthropists) seem to never let their charitable contributions amount to much more of a dent in their total wealth. Those with money seem to care about hanging onto it a lot more than giving it away to charity. So if they don't give money in charity, and we say 'screw taxes', should we also just say 'screw the poor, let them die?'

      December 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Brett

      Oh yes, and ALL corporations are honest! No corruption there. LOL What an idiot you are.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Chuck88888

      Good post tiky

      December 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      It's sad to see someone who still uses the 'government bad' mantra in 2011. This nonsense should have died with Ronald Reagan's skyrocketing deficit.

      The federal government is what protects people from being ripped off and exploited by the greedy. This is why there is so much money spent on trying to trick people into believing that government should only occur at the state level, and be as minimal as possible. If it did, then corporations would basically just carve up the states in easy pickings. It's federal law that protects us – or is supposed to (it's doing a bad job lately precisely because of all that lobbying) – from rampant greed.

      People who repeat the 'government bad' mantra really need to wake up to the fact that they've been brainwashed all this time by the 1%. If you want to defend yourself from the 1% destroying your life, you NEED federal law. And you need strong well-funded federal law. There's no way around it.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  9. peter

    CNN loses what little credibility they have by publishing this trash. YOu have to love that Jesus was walking around with $2,500 dollars. And the fact the HE GAVE THE MONEY AWAY and did not make them earn PROVES THAT HE IS AT LEAST A SOCIALIST.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  10. Senor Ed

    Actually, Jesus has returned to Earth. Unfortunately he came back and decided to go to to Wall Street during OWS and see what all the fuss was about. After about a dozen brokers and hedge fund managers had walked up to him and said "Get a job and have a bath you dirty hippie" he said screw this and went back home.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  11. Dude

    I am not a Christian. So, can some one who is please tell me where these quotes come from? They clear show that Jesus was against the occupy movement.

    "Blessed are they who manipulate markets, for the theft of others' savings is blessed."
    "Render onto Ceaser that which is Ceaser's, unless you are very rich, then let the working people pay your share."

    December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  12. Li Tai Fang

    Right.... and look what happened to him.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Joe G


      December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  13. Chris

    You failed to note that the parable does NOT say, "the kingdom of God is like..." And it is followed by "and the Pharisees, who loved money, sneered at this."

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

      good point!

      December 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  14. Neverknownquestions

    It's funny because the wall street protesters are living more Christ-like lives than Perkins could ever imagine. Naturally he sees them as a threat to his (complete lack of) credibility – is it any surprise that he's lashing out at the protesters with such vile evil venom? Hey Perkins, stick that forked tongue back in your mouth and go back to the FRC hate group with your tail between your legs, mmkay?

    December 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  15. MrData

    Jesus healed the sick..made the lame walk, and the blind see...never asked for a dime..Jesus was for universal healthcare!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Jesus makes me sick, he was lame and blind to the truth. He was for universal Bull Sh it

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

      "Jesus healed the sick..made the lame walk, and the blind see...never asked for a dime"

      There's no actual proof of that.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • MrData

      emrals...wheather it is true or not is not the point. the point is that Jesus was a healer who didn't take money in exchange for his services. if that isn't socialised medicine I don't know what is.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • MrData

      that's some nice trolling there ungodly..keep up the good work.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Truth

      Jesus did not call in the doctors or send them to the hospital he used faith to heal not universal health care, private of public insurance or moneys.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Emerald

      "Jesus did not call in the doctors or send them to the hospital he used faith to heal "

      He did not heal anything do you have proof not using the bible to prove otherwise, of course not. It's all lies.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  16. The Dancer

    Jesus Christ was a communist, an anti-capitalist, a pacifist and revolutionary who would categorically reject everything the so-called evangelical Christian Republican neo-conman in Amerika stands for. The way pagans like Tony Perkins distort, lie and abuse his Truth convinces me that their mission is pure unadulterated evil. God bless the Occupiers for defying the sordid heathens like Perkins and his satanic ilk.

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

      There is no Satan.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Senor Ed

      There is no Satan. Only Santa.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  17. Senor Ed

    The Bible is such a wonderful book. You can find something in it to support whatever position you want to take.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      You can also just plain make things up if they're not in there. See: The 'justification' of being able to kill muslims in the crusades, slavery/segregation in the US south, and Mr. Perkins's example of 'prosperity doctrine' Christianity. (which is, basically, the idea that greedy rich people are more heavenly cause god rewards success with worldly possessions...in spite of the Jesus of the bible basically going against this idea at every turn.)

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

      Ask yourself this simple question: Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe?

      hy doesn't a book written by an omniscient being leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement? If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn't you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight? Wouldn't you expect the author to tell us things that scientists have not been able to discover yet?

      Yet, when we open the Bible and actually read it, we find it is nothing like that at all. Instead of leaving us in awe, it leaves us dumbfounded by all of the nonsense and backwardness that it contains. If you read what the Bible actually says, you find that the Bible is ridiculous. If we are honest with ourselves, it is obvious that an "all-knowing" God had absolutely nothing to do with this book.

      The reason why the Bible contains so much nonsense is because God is imaginary. The Bible is a book written thousands of years ago by primitive men. A book that advocates senseless murder, slavery and the oppression of women has no place in our society today.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Parrot

      @Ungodly Discipline

      Are you talking to me? How did you learn to talk like me? Quack! Quack! Quack! (LOL!)

      December 6, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Reality

      @Ungodly Discipline

      Minding you that copy and paste is patented under my name. You must refrain from doing so, or I'll sue you with Trademark infringement.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      If you can I can Reality! lol

      December 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • David Johnson


      BACK OFF!!!

      Ungodly Discipline was NOT doing copy and paste. What he did was, RECYCLING and I own that right in here! NOT you! Intiende?!


      December 6, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Fine, well I claim redundancy. So there.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  18. daveinla

    The Pharisees were worried that Jesus would cause just such a march on the Temple.So they had him killed...and we are all the richer because of it.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  19. Jayson

    Mr Perkins, you misrepresent Jesus for your own agenda. You take one parable and twist it to support your warped view even though your interpretation is in contradiction to the larger Christian message that is spelled out in the New Testament. I have one thing to say to you: Jesus is watching! Good luck with that.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Jesus is dead so it it not possible for him to be watching.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Hmmm

      I agree that this is also a contorted interpretation for the purpose of furthering a particular agenda in which this author takes. Unfortunately, he might be convincing a lot of people that this is actually what it says and advocates, as it is just merely based on conjecture and a wrongful contextualized quote here and there.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  20. Penny Dupree

    This is a load of crap. Jesus would have opposed virtually 100 percent of the Republican agenda. Perkins does not speak like a Christian. He speaks like a Republican operative who's co-opted Jesus for political advantage. I read CNN's Belief Blog from time to time, but I have to confess, they make some really weird decisions about the voices they choose to espouse Christian viewpoints. Perkins is one such liar.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:32 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.