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. Me99

    Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and mammon. Tony Perkins is living proof. He's serving mammon and perverting the gospel of Christ to suit his master.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  2. Fr33th1nk3r

    Nice to see that at least some of the writers at CCN have their head screwed on straight and can see the big picture...I am encouraged that there might be hope for this news network.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  3. EnjaySea

    Nice. The white-supremecist speaks, and CNN gives him air-time. Gotta admit, this article is gonna bring in loads of ad dollars.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      So you are imlicitly stating that all the faliures in society are not white? How else can you figure racism falls into the whole Occupy movement? You didn't think about that one for long before posting, did you?

      December 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  4. fideauxdon

    Oh, really? Do you remember when jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple? If that wasn't an occupation, what is? Tony, you have no idea what you're talking about!

    December 6, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  5. Raj Alexander

    Absolutely well written article.As much as greed in Wall Street by a few is true the people who fell in to this trap cannot be discounted either.Moreover laziness is an abomination in the sight of God.I migrated from India ,got my college degree and thru hardwork grew to a decent job, not stating this because of pride but this country still offers great rewards for those who are willing to work hard.That basic principle my friends does not change as noted from the teaching of the Christ.Blessings...

    December 6, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Pretty sad when a foreigner/new arrival with a fresh perspective shows more patriotism, determination to succeed, and respect for our system than the stupid stoners and bums in the OWS movement.....

      December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Ian

    So... Jesus would never walk into a public space filled with money-lenders and start trashing it?

    December 6, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  7. Scott peek

    Another interesting fact worth noting: If a hypothetical presidential campaign is waged between Newt Gingrich and Obama, I gaurantee Mr Perkins and his family values bretherend would endorse the former... It's not about religion as much as it is political leverage touted as spirituality. The hypocrisy of the religious right and the endless pursuit to throw the wool over the public's eyes is endangering our political discourse.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  8. Steve Phillips

    this piece is absolutely devoid of any hint of spirituality, mysticism or even philosophical profundity. also: i have heard many interpretations of this parable that make the ruler a stand in for God. but I have never heard any that didn't then make the "talents" metaphorical. is it too cynical to suggest that this is a self aware attempt at appropriating Christ's message in order to manipulate people for personal gain? who is moved by a "banker Christ?"

    December 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  9. Jerry

    Was that really "Free Market" Jesus who threw the vendors and money changers out of the temple? Sounds like more of an Occupier to me.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  10. David

    One of the worst opinions I have ever read.

    This guy has no idea what his is talking about. His knowledge of the bible is fine, but to equate Jesus to a macro-US- economic-ideology is just non-sense. He is using Jesus to justify greed and corruption by saying Jesus was a free marketer, a capitalist.

    That's a big leap of faith?

    "While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise."

    Not inevitable or intrinsic? Enron, World Com, Tyco, just to name a few cherries of US compaines. Savings and loan scandal of the late 80's? Just recently. You can go back along way and find that abuses are inevitable and intrinsic.

    If it weren't for regulations, we as a country would have more recessions and more scandals.

    Corruption and greed are part of the free market process. No true capitalist wants a truly free market. A true capitalist wants to control the market they are in. If not for anti-trust laws what do you think would happen? Just look before the Great Depression for those answers.

    Now you're probably saying to yourself, "This guy is a commie-occupy guy?" WRONG. I'm day trader. I am the epitome of capitalism. I make money on speculation. Off other peoples work. I reap the gains or take the losses.

    The one thing I am not is a person who is going to say the white is black and black is white. I actually like capitalism. I think the government gets in the way a bit much now a days.

    What I'm not going to do is use Jesus as why to justify greed and corruption. I going to tell that's just the way it is. Grow up and deal with like a man.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • David

      Sorry, about some the spelling.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Why is automaticaly classified as "greed", when others are succeeding where you may not be? if those millionaries worked hard for, and made wise business decisions that enabled them to make those fortunes people like you are so bitter about– who are you to tell people how they can spend their profits and enjoy their success? What you are promoting is SOCIALISM.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • David

      I'm not bitter. Other people maybe bitter. I live in the hills, in a big house, in Los Angeles. And I can afford it. I LOVE IT. I make A LOT of money doing what I do. And no one is complaining about anyone or company running a business without greed or corruption. At least I'm not. I'm just calling out the article for its horrible correlation between and Jesus and financial ideology. And the writers complete lack of historic sense.

      Also, I'm not promoting SOCIALISM. I'm promoting regulation of markets that if anyone has lived in the USA since the 30's has benefited from, i.e. anti-trust regulations. Its funny because every financial crisis was preceded by a a deregulator act. For example, Glass-Stegal Act was repealed in 1999, Bank crisis 2008.

      You on the other can not read, but that's OK cause I can not spell.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  11. sickofit

    So let me get this straight. Given the chance to take sides, Jesus is going to side with the bankers? Really? Did this guy ever go to church?

    December 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Not religious myself, but from what I have read and understand in the Bible– God rewards those who work hard. He has NEVER been known to reward mediocrity in the Bible or side with stoners and anarchists.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • sickofit

      Ok Fr33th1nk3r, whatever. So all the OWS people are anarchists and stoners? I guess since that's all the media shows you then that's what you must believe.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  12. NPRJim

    Here is hte truth of the slime ball Perkins:
    In 2010, the Family Research Council—under Perkins' leadership—was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[10][11] FRC President Tony Perkins dismissed the hate group designation as the result of a political attack by a "liberal organization" and "the left's smear campaign of conservatives".[12]

    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 7:50 pm |
  13. Dakota

    If he knows what Jesus would say, then I guess Jesus must of just called him on the phone. Dude: That wasn't Jesus, it was a prank caller yanking your chain!

    December 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  14. Ronnie Harper

    Tony Perkins, you know less about people living in 1st century Judea than does a rock. You are a horrible bigot and a most hateful, dreadful person – a pox on you and yours.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Because he believes in people working hard to attain success? Because he believes in the capitalist system?

      December 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  15. Jamie Lennon

    Dear Tony Perkins,

    This is not my Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  16. Judy

    I I sure as heck hope Jesus wouldn't be a follower of Tony Perkins and his band of narrow minded clowns either!

    December 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  17. NPRJim

    What a pants load this dude delivered here. To use Jesus to push conservative idelogy against the movment in such a manner is basically engaging in lying and is proof that this jagoff doesn't beleive in what he preaches. If Jesus was alive today, he would be throwing out money changers in Wall St. and DC.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Gonzo

    A hippy, an activist, and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Hello, Jesus."

    December 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Converted

      LOL... Thanks I needed that.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      It is easy to mistake hippies, activists, and liberals for Jesus– they both have the same unshaven appearance.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  19. Fred

    I'm so livid after reading it that my words aren't forming intelligible sentences. Everything about this interpretation is designed to manipulate the reader. Seriously, I can't stand it when people either say "the Greek says" or "the Hebrew says" as a way to gain authority. To make matters worse, the author pulls from the parable, attributing it to "the Bible." The author of the blog writes:

    "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."

    December 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Laughable, FRED– as if OWS isn't trying to "manipulate readers".... If the article spun you up that badly, I suggest there is probably a very uncomfortable ring of truth to what the author states.

      I cannot see past his blatant use of the Bible to try and sell his viewpoint (clear that he is trying to appeal to Christians), but I have to agree with his basic position in this article.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  20. Becca

    Wow! No wonder I find myself more ashamed to use the word Christian but now to completely misinterpret Jesus' very words and deeds is a new low for the Christian faith! We as believers should be crying out the truth not just shaking our heads about it! Jesus came and sent His followers to work not with the intent to make money but to spread love and light and joy! Where are the fruits of the Spirit? If we are the boday then why are we moving to share the reality Jesus not the selfishness of man.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:43 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.