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. ashrakay

    Honestly though, would we really want another cult leader to join the OWS movement? We're trying to attract intelligent reasoning people with realistic solutions to real problems. If fantasy and prayer worked, we'd all be living in castles and riding golden unicorns.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  2. Javier Mendoza

    With all due respect you have grossly misinterpreted the parable as so many of those Christians that follow the gospel of prosperity have. The talents or coins refer to the gifts that God gave us to serve him and his people. It had nothing to do about supporting business or the free market system. The first two servants that used their gifts were rewarded for their efforts while the last servant did not use any of his gifts for the benefit of God or his people. So that servant was punished. Before you use scripture to support your agenda please consult a biblical scholar to get the interpretation of it right.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  3. Dan, TX

    This is one good reason to consider giving up faith in God. God's word is whatever this person's interpretation is and it turns out, it's an interpretation that gives him more power and his allies more power. I don't believe in God, but even if God existed, he is being used and perverted by humans like this. It is disgusting. God has no power to stop this, God has no power to help us. God has no power. So, it really doesn't matter if God exists or not, we have to make the rules for ourselves without God. You don't have to believe in God to love or care. You don't have to believe in God to know a flower is beautiful or that a child's smile is precious.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • JBob

      The bible says there is no scripture that is of private interpretation. Please remember that confusion is tool of the adversary. Although god does not have the authority of this world we do need to stay faithful to his word as we will be necessary to defeat the prince of this world.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  4. AT

    This guy is a nut.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  5. David Grams

    Wow! I've seldom EVER read such a convoluted "take" on a Biblical parable. This article makes all the hackneyed assumptions of the "rich man" in another parable-I'm sure the rich guy thought of Lazarus as just another lazy bum who wouldn't get out and work, just like this guy describes the Occupiers. And then to say that Ya, there was a bad apple here and there in the system, but morality usually rules Wall Street is like going to the leopard cage at the zoo and proclaiming that indeed one just needs to weed out the "bad ones" and get rid of the cages (regulations) 'cause most leopards are really nice kitty cats and don't need any government oversight. Again, Brent, What an article! It's the perfect "Cain answer" to the classic question: Am I my brothers keeper? According to our Family Research guy I guess we're not! (Cause anybody who falls on hard times must have brought it on, all by their lazy little selves...yesssirrreee!)

    December 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  6. ObjectiveOpinion

    There is no god, no jesus christ, no holy spirit. Religion is a tool to manipulate the masses like cattle. Only those who need guidance to go thru life believe in religion.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  7. Post Evangelical

    The problem with Christians is our ability to find excuses to not love our neighbor tangibly. The Gospel is used as a call to inaction, because faith not deeds will allegedly save us. Because God is coming back soon basic human caring and stewardship of the earth are unnecessary. Thus the behavior of Born Again Christians is still-born in the area of social justice. Thus we can be brazen enough to theologically justify not loving our neighbors as ourselves.

    The Occupy Movement is the gentlest imaginable outcome in response to willful alienation of the common man by the Manifest Destiny capitalist achiever. Historically we've seen much stronger revolts against economic tyranny. These movements and counter-movements have been, and are now, in the Lord's name.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      People have been saying "god is coming back soon" for how many thousand years now?

      December 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  8. Tom

    If people truly believed in Jesus and his message, we wouldn't need an OCCUPY. After 2000 years people STILL don't believe in His benevolent, loving message. They'd rather march to Bush's war drum beat and take everything they can away from their neighbors. That is exactly why the Lord said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Basically, because to them money is more important than anything else, even their neighbor's health. This country needs to actually follow the Lord or this country will very shortly be just a memory.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      And let us not forget that Bush said that "god" told him to strike at al-Qaeda and Saddam, which he [Bush] did. David Berkowitz, the serial killer, gets locked up for hearing voices telling him to kill, and Bush goes free.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  9. Clyde Farris

    Wasn't it capitalist who Jesus threw out of the temple? Seems like the only difference was that Jesus didn't stay to face the music – he just hit and ran.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  10. Historically interested

    Find a DVD copy of "the Gospel According to St. Matthew" by Pasolini. Look at that "angry" Jesus who has no patience with the money lenders, pharisees and exploiters. You'll recognize the passages in the bible and Matthew's gospel.
    I think good ol' Family Research Tony Perkins would have a hard time if he met the real Jesus.

    Jesus the freemarket promoter in a society that treated women and slaves as property? Ah yes, those 'servants' under their Lords would be called ehmmm "corporate employees" nowadays? Rich man, eye of the needle? Tony, is that not in your bible? You must have the revised GOP -screw the rest of the world -version of the good book. Not sure that you will impress Jesus when you stand by the gates of hell. He'll point you straight to the heat... Let's have us a Perkley roast...

    December 6, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Very well put! The smug Republicans taut being "Christian" with God and Prayer and born again, yet their wicked Greed and thirst of material wealth has blinded them, the Beast of Wall Street has seduced them and now they do the bidding of corruption and greed and explotation of the poor, ignorant and elderly.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      Yes, He threw them out, but not because they were buying and selling, but because they were buying and selling IN THE TEMPLE, His "House of prayer.": He also calls them "Robbers", presumably because they were defrauding people also, although the text is not specific. There was of course commerce and fraud all over Jerusalem, but Jesus was acting out the Old Testament Prophecy "Zeal for your House will consume me" (Psalm 69)
      Jn 2:17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

      15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:

      “‘My house will be called
      a house of prayer for all nations’?
      But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

      December 6, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  11. manhandler1

    We are to occupy as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve?????? HUH????? We are NOT a Theocracy! There is not "ONE" we serve. I don't serve anybody because I have a brain..This guy has totally corrupted the supposed purpose of Christianity. He's turned it into a message of hate and intolerance in order to advance his own nasty agenda. Throughout history, organized religion has used one God or another to excuse all kinds of heinous activity. And this guy and his nasty little organizaition is no different.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  12. BDSpencer

    I'm reminded of two quotes. I think Mr. Perkins has mastered this one: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

    The second is by Charles Dickens...we seem to be returning to it's spirit: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses" Dickens

    December 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  13. andycraig

    I am not sure what this has to do with anything.
    Eric Henry Cromartie

    December 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  14. Ben Martinez

    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 9:54 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Sounds like a good Christian to me.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  15. smdahl

    Mark4:10-12 "When he [Jesus] was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, "'they may be ever seeing but not perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.'"
    Apparently, Tony Perkins is "on the outside". Not surprising considering he works for a LOBBYING FIRM in Babylon, DC. Pray for the lost souls who worship the free market golden calf of Wall Street...they sorely need it.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      You understand that that phrase can be condensed to: "Other people don't have the same views as we do," right? It's just worded in such a way as to make people like you think that it's magic proof that there is a "god" and that you have the one and only key to that "god". You see that right?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I know this, in the OT, if God gets pis sed off about golden idols he will go genecide on everyone's A ss!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  16. Patricksday

    Jesus may not of been an occupier, but he wasnt a Child Molester either or a man who had to wear Elegant Tailored Suits, Prada slippers and beautiful jewelry and live in a Palace like the Pope. Jesus wasnt worried about hording money and material wealth either.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      He might have been a child molester.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  17. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Jeezus was a long-haired hippie type with some nice catch phrases that contained some decent common sense. Gee, yeah, I would like others to be nice to me, so gee, yeah, I guess I'd better be nice to others if I want the same.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why do you assume he had long hair? That is unlikely.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Yeah but he has long hair in every picture I've ever seen. ha ha

      December 6, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Historically interested

      and, and, and he had those lovely blazing white teeth in his mouth, and blazing BLUE Eyes. Just like everybody else in the middle east.
      See, proof that before Obamacare everything was better. Longer live expectancies, no dental problems, no leprosy, no scurvy, plenty of virgin births, everybody a happy free market capitalist. The Romans hardly had any impact on things, they were on their yachts and in their beach houses. Slaves were really full time employees with great benefits, 8 weeks paid vacation, and they worked happily, not like those OWS commies...

      December 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  18. indyfan2

    People burn in hell for lying.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There is no Hell.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      The Jews ripped off the concept of "hell" from Greece (Hades) or from Persia (Zoroastrianism).

      December 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  19. Michael G.

    It's funny how some people need religion like an addict needs drugs. Christianity, Islam, Scientology and Voodoo magic are all brought about by this need. If Jesus really did exist he probably was a regular guy with a cult following like Jimmy Swaggart.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  20. Idiots

    I love how the people rebuking this article only mention the very first part of the story when the focus is obviously about what the servants did with the minas they received. And businesses need profit to create jobs in the first place. So I wouldn't be complaining about businesses making huge profits, means they're running their business right. The rant by Adam Carolla about OWS just about covers how I feel about it. As for the religous aspect here I feel that people interpret the Bible and its stories differently. Regardless of what it is, people can all read the same thing and all have different interpretations...even if it's only slight. So not any one person has the correct interpretation of the Bible or its teachings, sorry you're not that special or intelligent.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:43 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.