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. carol

    Yes, that is why Young Jesus was angry at the merchant on the temple steps. It is why he helped all type of poor, sick and people who weren't the top of society. Get real, that is the problem with looking at the teachingof others and not the example of Christ. He feed the hungry and didn't say get a job, you should have planned and brought your our fish and loaves????????????

    December 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Did they eat Sashimi in 4 b.c.?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • nwatcher

      He didn't say a word – he probably just shook His head and thought "here they are again looking for free food and a couple miracles". Sounds familiar...

      December 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      May I have fish Jesus? And for me second wish, how about some Sake?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  2. yeah

    This is totally and utterly ridiculous and bordering on sacrilege. Jesus was not a free-marketer in any way, it made it a point, in all of his teachings, that you are responsible to help your fellow man who is suffering. The purpose of this parable is about initiative, and about one who hoarded and hunkered down out of fear and jealousy rather than trusting his master and working to better the master's plight. It has absolutely nothing to do with the free market. Shame on this man for bending Jesus' teachings to suit his own benefit.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Sacrilege is not possible.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  3. scott

    Looks like this is going to be Tony Perkins " Katrina" moment. Perkins and the Family Research Counsil are showing thier true colors; thier absolute corruption of the principles of Christianity. About time people saw these bigots and hypocrites for who they really are.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Christianity has principles?? LOL

      December 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  4. Rob Dinsmore

    Religious opinion is ridiculous. My opinion is that Moses was not a republican and that Mohammed was a really, really poor chess player.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • nwatcher

      ..quickest self-contradiction I've come across in a long time...so if religious opinion is ridiculous...and you have one......oh wait...you were kidding!!!


      December 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  5. nwatcher

    Go Tony! Great explanation of a Biblical parable. By the looks of it, you have quite a following here!! You are right – Jesus probably would have said – go do something productive – give your tent to someone who needs it. Feed someone at the soup kitchen. He did not tell them to "occupy" the temple – he personally cleaned out the lawbreakers who set up shop there to take advantage of those who wished to truly worship.

    Surprising how many unbelievers feel they have something to contribute to a discussion they can't comprehend as possibly having validity.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • peter out

      The problem with your view is the question of what Jesus considered "productive." He did not have a job. He did not contribute to an econimic system. He owned nothing during his ministry. He preached against personal wealth (he told the rich man to get rid of all of his possesions). He focused all of his time on taking care of the sick, the young, and the down trodden. He did not promote greed. He did not support any political system (he commanded to give unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's and give unto God what is God's, therefore seperating Christian belief from political belief). His "productivity" was far removed from the greed of capitolism and its selfish requirments. Your assumption that all those who disagree with Mr Perkins are unbelievers is pretintious and short sighted. People who believe the way you and Mr Perkins do are of that belief for your own purposes, not those Jesus would be proud of.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I feel I have something to contribute to a discussion that I can't comprehend as possibly having validity.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • nwatcher

      just to clarify for you Peter – I was talking about unbelievers as those not believing in God -Jesus – the Bible. Be a waste of time to "believe" in some other human – even if he and I agree once in a while...

      December 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • nwatcher

      @ungodly discipline...I wait with great anticipation....!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      @peter out
      First of all, everything you said is speculation handed down to you as part of your indoctrination into Christianity. Nobody knows what Jesus was really like and I would wager he did have a job. Not as a "carpenter" but more likely as handy-man working for his father before his spiritual journey. During which time he collected Pagan and Eastern Philosophies and likely formed a cult which became a political threat to the powers that be. He was most likely illiterate and he and his disciples were most certainly primitive men, as evidenced by how poorly the Bible is written and it's many contradictions. At any rate, no one knows anything about this man other then guesses we can make based on archeology and a limited history. He may have been just fine with wealth if he had the means to obtain it.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  6. Bob

    fred, how's that goat sacrifice going today? Got that fire flesh-burning hot yet? Better get on it. Your nasty egomaniac Christian god and his bas-tard son Jesus will be angry with you if you haven't followed their animal sacrifice orders. Yes, Jesus said the OT rules still apply.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  7. dave

    I don't know what this guy is smoking but Jesus was the original occupier. Throwing the money changers and merchants out of the Royal Stoa, storming the gates of the Temple. Jesus was ALL occupier.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  8. peter out

    The truly pure souls of this earth are not those who would do good for reward, but those who would do good for nothing at all. The problem with many Christians is that they are Christian for selfish purposes. How many Christians pray for God to give them things or bless their lives with this or that? The true Christians out there (very few) are those who think not of Heaven, Hell, or reward, but only of being good.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There are pure souls on this Earth? First what is a soul? And second name one that is pure.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Che

      AAAAAAAAAAmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnn to that!
      Whew, you made my day!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  9. Craig Dossman

    "Rather we are to occupy by using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve." Does this biblical lightweight actually propose that Jesus catered to Wall Street while giving the proverbial back hand to Main Street? This is a clear case of a Wolf in Sheep's clothing! I guess he wants us to believe that Jesus doesn't want us to enjoy our right to Free Speech and Assembly. He would have us believe that the Tea Party are the modern disciples. Give me a gospel break.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  10. Aaron Feinberg

    A very interesting list of quotes "by" Jesus or coming from the bible regarding money and the such:


    December 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There are no quotes from Jesus in the Bible. He did not write anything down.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • nwatcher

      u.d – can I quote you on that?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Nope sorry, copyrighted.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  11. tr

    It's a good thing we live in the 21st century and no longer need a 2000 year-old myth to find meaning.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  12. Woofka

    This is offensive to any Christian who actually reads the Bible – you know the one that denounces greed, tells us (repeatedly) to care for the poor and to stand against the hypocrisy of men like this.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why do you read the Bible? It is a horrible book. Nonsense.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  13. .la

    While I appreciate his passionate claims and clear argument, I find Mr. Perkin's interpretation of the parable of the "occupiers," unilluminating, and built on a weak exegetical foundation.

    Primarily, I question the author's assumption that Jesus intended his hearers to understand him to be the ruler in the story. Jesus' hearers would have known well the rabbinic teachings against usury (charging interest, e.g., Exodus 22:25 or Psalm 15:5 among others), which the parable's ruler explicitly condones. To connect this practice with a rabbi would not have been a logical step.

    Additionally, in Luke's account, this parable is sandwiched between the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, and that of the triumphal entry. That is, Jesus has just praised a first century finance industry worker for liquidating his personal assets to repay all those from whom he had stolen, and he's about to ride a donkey into the capital city – a decidedly undignified entry in contrast to the image of a king returning on a warhorse. It seems much more likely that the take-home message for his followers that day would have been closer to "those who live by the sword, die by the sword" writ economic. (Particularly given that this ruler murders all of his dissidents shortly after taking his servant's one mina.)

    For these reasons, while Mr. Perkins no doubt did his own research in writing this prominently published article, when set in its historical context, I find his reading of the scriptures both unconvincing to the careful listener and misleading to the rest.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  14. Rich

    If people paid as much attention to what the rich are doing to them and less on jesus BS they would get somewhere.Worry about this life not some bs story to suck what little money you have left.These preachers are all blood suckers...

    December 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  15. peter out

    People confuse God's reward for those who serve him with riches of this earth. Those who think Jesus will reward them with riches for following him have a huge misunderstanding of his teachings.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I think Jesus will reward me with riches for following him.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  16. Mark

    Wow, did i really read that right? using the bible to justify his own warped view of Occupy? I was not much of an OWS supporter but this is just ridiculous – I'm sure he'll be popular with the Tea Party.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  17. Seriously?

    "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." He was talking about preaching the gospel and reaching the masses and sharing the knowledge of the truth they had been given. Sure the bible speaks of good work ethics in many places but I am afraid you are incorrect here.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  18. nominal1969

    How about a follow up piece about how Satan is a socialist that wants to redistribute the wealth?

    December 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  19. Rich

    Start paying your taxes Perkins like everybody else.Churches need to be taxed but won't as they keep the people of this country on an even keel so they get to be tax free....crooks vand BSers

    December 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Cedax

      Very true.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  20. Faith should not be blind

    Very well written... taken totally out of context. While Jesus does say this, he is referring to judgment from God to get into Heaven, NOT how we should treat one another on Earth. So, while, yes, Jesus does ask us to be responsible for all we do, I believe he would also support those on the occupy movement who are only asking for the chance to do exactly that. If businesses are not creating jobs, but posting huge profits, then, yes, we should be calling them to task. I believe many more people want work than don't. Unfortunately the right would have you believe that everyone who is not rich is there by choice. In Matthew 25:40 (also a parable), Jesus says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Would this not also apply equally to the occupy movement vs big business?

    Don't let the actions of a few influence you opinion of all (lest we should assume that the few unscrupulous CEOs represent all CEOs).

    December 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
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