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. Sebastian

    This is perhaps the most perverse and insane argument I have ever encountered. Jesus as a free market capitalist? Most of the New Testament involves Jesus railing against materialism- he was crucified for turning over the moneylenders tables in the Temple. He spoke of not laying treasures on the earth where moths and rust doth corrupt. He spoke of rendering unto Caesar that which was Caesar's. He said a rich man had as much chance of entering heaven as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. He spoke endlessly of the meek inheriting the earth (i.e. society's "losers"). He told people to pray in their closets. This analysis is laughable. And the idea that golden calf worshipping Wall Street executives will ever be bridled by morality- when all evidence runs counter to that is either completely naive or a cynical lie.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  2. Syman Pons

    Jesus was in fact not talking about people managing money. This parable is referring to each individual being careful to manage the spiritual gifts and opportunities given to them as they labor to conform their own spirit to the spiritual image of Jesus.

    Worldly minded people who do not understand the true spiritual purposes of Jesus and God our Father do not correctly interpret the parables that include the mention money or other valuables. Jesus was in fact, the most pure communist in history. John the baptist said,"You who have two coats, give to him who has none." This is the correct advice from Jesus Christ, through John, concerning material wealth. Those with great wealth should take these words to heart. When they have died, their wealth will stay behind. There is a good reason for this. Those who understand why this is so, will understand the true will of the Lord concerning how wealth should be distributed among the world's people. P.S. Jesus said, " The wages stolen from your servants will give testimony against you on the day of judgment!"

    December 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  3. Ungodly Discipline

    Nobody knows how life started. But we do know it did, and it evolved and humans are one of the results of that evolution and humans have been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. If there is a God, it is not anything like the silly superst itious Gods of religion. It would perhaps be some force that creates rules, but not always the same rules. The rules could be different from one universe to the next. Hence there could be many Gods. As many Gods as there are realities. It should not come as a surprise that we exist given that these "rules" would eventually over the course of billions, perhaps trillions, perhaps for infinity produce every possibility. We are a possibility so naturally, we are here. See?

    Too bad we can't put religion to rest at this point in our growth as a species. We should all be of the same belief system relative to the realities of science. No war, no bigotry, no poor decisions or foolish politics getting in the way of progress. But alas, religion continues to hold us back and will most likely be the death of our species and many others. Traveling to other worlds to survive as a species will never be possible until all people and nations combine their resources.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Not impressed

      Wow you wrote more than one sentece troll. Way to go!!

      December 6, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      You hurt me with your words.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Cheers. Not to mention, if there is a god, he did a pi-ss poor job on his creation, and he's severely lacking in basic morality. Even most of prisoners we keep in jail have better morals than the god of the bible. Most would not demand people to kill their own child, or order the murder of women and children. When will christians get over their battered-wife syndrome and walk away from their abusive overlord?

      December 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  4. Raphael

    Jesus was not supportive of money lending to say the least. Another point is at that time in history, there were slaves. Lastly, I think Jesus would absolutely be left wing in today's market driven society. The rich sure have a hard time getting in heaven in the Bible. Anyway, I don't think religion should be mixed with politics or with science. When religion gets mixed with politics. What have the 1% done anyway to merit the free ticket to heaven that Perkins thinks they have?
    In my book, it doesn't really matter if you rich or poor, you should do what is right for society, so we have better lives for future generations. People like Perkins would like to see the Occupy Movement crushed through acts of violence. All I can say is that he has a sick, twisted vision of religion in my view. I guess he believes blessed are the poor as long as they remain poor. This is the American caste system at its worst.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Religion is already sick and twisted.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  5. VB

    This guy is just ridiculous and absurd. What does religion have to do with this issue? In a sense I am glad this was written because religion is responsible for many great evils in the world. RELIGION IS ALL ABOUT CONTROL. Religion made up hell in order to scare people into control. There has been much suffering and destruction in the name of God and religion. If anything Jesus would be appalled into what their wealthy preachers and churches have done! What did Jesus do when he saw the markets everywhere at the temple? Didn't he destroy them?

    December 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  6. John Milton

    When I consider how my light is spent
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent, which is death to hide,
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He, returning, chide

    -John Milton

    December 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Great Parable

      Tony-This parable speaks to 'accountablity' that rests with every individual.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  7. Ungodly Discipline

    Would Jesus legalize pot?

    Do life forms on other worlds throughout the Cosmos also believe in Jesus and the God of Christian, Muslim and Judaism?

    If not, why don't they, if God is the one true God?

    December 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  8. ashrakay

    Isn't this the guy from "Psycho"? http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000578/

    December 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  9. Robert Kennedy

    It is so sad that a man who was apolitical, and was simply trying to teach us all to love and respect one another can be turned into a political figure by anyone. Jesus always wanted us to put others first, and forgive those who hurt us.
    That was his message, and it is apolitical. Listen to it and practice it, and all this division and hate will be exposed for what it is: unforgiving egotism.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Well that is one thing that has not changed. He has always been a political figure, in both life and in death.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  10. Chuck88888

    If you have the means to read this post (i.e. you have electricity, own a computer, a roof over your head, freetime on your hands), you are part of the richest 1% of human history. When speaking of the rich, Jesus is talking about YOU! So, be careful not to condemn the rich so flippantly, because you maybe condeming yourself!!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Relativism, and insulting to intelligent people. Try again, unless you think jesus was suggesting there should be limits to compassion and generosity. Surely by the standard presented, jesus would have been part of the richest 1% of the preceding 10,000 years as he had food readily provided as well as clothes and shoes.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  11. James

    Actually, I'm pretty sure that Jesus would advocate his own unique form of socialism, were he alive today.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  12. andrew


    December 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  13. Chris

    Christians are typically the tools of the republican party because they can usually be easily led into supporting people who act against their best interests based on intangible moral issues that don't actually effect their day to day lives. So what if we're allowing corporate America to wreak havoc on the middle class, so long as my senator is pro life I don't really care about anything else. This sort of mentality will see mankind go the way of the dinosaur....

    December 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Christians are tools. Agreed.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  14. Rob

    Mr. Perkins, if Jesus does come back, you better be very afraid. Very afraid!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  15. JerryB

    Jesus ministered not to the rich, but to the "least of these." The Bible speaks very clearly on money, the love of it, and the "haves and have nots."

    Mark 4:19
    But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

    Mark 8:36
    For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

    1 Timothy 6:9-11
    But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

    James 5:1-6
    Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist

    Matthew 19:21-26
    Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    Acts 4:32-35, NIV
    32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • So

      You realize that much of what was written about Jesus was done 30-50 years after he died. So what you are quoting is what other people made up about him, just like they did with Santa Claus.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Dave

      Nice, JerryB. As a Christian who's been very involved with Occupy, I can say that this article hurt my heart. To used the parable of the talents as an underwriting of the justification for self-righteous profiteering seems to be a gross mis-read on Perkins' part.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  16. Patrick

    It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Chuck88888

      If you have the means to read this post (i.e. you have electricity, own a computer, a roof over your head, freetime on your hands), you are part of the richest 1% of of the 400 billion humans of 5,000 years of history. When speaking of the rich, Jesus is talking about YOU! So, be careful not to condemn the rich so flippantly, because you maybe condeming yourself!!

      December 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  17. Bible Reader

    Matthew 19:24 "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."
    Safe to say Jesus would not have been a fan of free-market capitalism.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  18. Faith and Peace

    This whole article is pagan garbage and anti-Christ. I expect better from a supposed Christian leader. Sham shame shame.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  19. aaron.

    dear sir,
    please read the stuff i am putting on this list for you.
    1. books on logical fallacies. it will help you identify things like strawmans and other things that make your writing so border on intollerable.
    2. george orwell's article on political language. its short.
    3. some kierkegaard to help you out with your inauthentic christianity. this one is real important, i think.

    thanks a bunch,

    wait, were you serious about this part below? its just funny because you are such a dishonest person. maybe that is your transvaluation of transcendent morality. it's eiher an awesome nietzschian move, or you are just a hypocrite. (i think it is the second one)

    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.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  20. Kay

    Bravo Mr. Perkins ! ...but are you sure you are employed by CNN ? still ?
    It makes a perfect sense to any normal intelligent person that Jesus was Free market and not collectivism !

    December 6, 2011 at 6:52 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.