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. john

    You are so wrong in so many ways in this article that it's hard to know where to begin. First-Jesus was not a conservative as his teaching flew in the face of the established Jewish religion in many ways. His thought and teachings were very progressive in that they taught folks a true spiritual meaning and certainly NOT a capitalistic one. Spiritual and not Material. Did you catch that? He was not going about wanting everyone to build up a material bank account but a spiritual God like bank account of helping and doing good for others. Or did you miss that too? Go back to the New testament and re-read it slowly this time with a humble heart and listen to what God tells you not what the bankers do.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Understand your bible history. Just about every patriarch mentioned in the old testament were extremely wealthy: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. God is definitely not against us having money and wealth. In fact the bible promises this. The problems begin when our hearts get filled with greed.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      "“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24

      It really doesn't get any clearer than that.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      @Carol: So were all the patriarchs mentioned in the bible ungodly because they were wealthy? I think not. They were not serving money. They feared and served God. And as a result they were very blessed and multiplied the resources they were given some of which happened to be money.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      1 Tim. 6:10 – "The love of money is the root of all evil..." aka. greed, lust for power and control, etc. Money itself is not evil. But what money can do to one's heart is the real issue.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      WrshipWarior - if you are now trying to argue with me that the Wall Street multi-millionaires are somehow "serving God", I will have to laugh at and pity you.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Oh definitely not, Carol! Though there may be a few exceptions...
      But then again biblical principals when applied diligently work for both the godly and the ungodly.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      WrshipWarior - but you see, this is where Mr. Perkins' article falls down - the Occupiers are, in fact, protesting actions which are decidely unbiblical (in terms of Christ's teachings). What OWS is protesting is NOT wealth, or even great wealth - it is protesting the amassing of great wealth AT THE EXPENSE of one's brother/sister - something Christ was very specific about: "‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      December 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Carol – I can definitely agree with you on that. When one's wealth is gained at the expense of others that is plain wrong. Cain was in the wrong when he slew Abel to try to gain God's acceptance. And one should not bear false witness against his/her neighbor in the interests of greedy gain.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      Then I encourage you to reconsider what the Occupy movement is all about. Far from trashing places, they are cleaning up, giving medical treatment, and feeding people they don't even know, and standing up against a huge system that discards, neglects, or downright harms people without a thought. Just as Jesus did.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Carol – definitely. I think I may have got a little off on a tangent. I was so shocked to read a half decent explanation of a parable of Jesus on CNN that I missed the alleged correlation he was trying to make between it and OWS. Shalom.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  2. Rev. Clay Thomas

    Q: " 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?"
    A: Yes, sounds a lot like Jesus to me. His behavior upset cultural norms. He associated with the lowly. Maybe some described this as "antisocial". (OWS is antisocial? seems like a social bunch to me) Back to Jesus, his life was a critique of unjust political/economic/religious systems. I would, however, say he was productive.

    OWS thank you for your commitment to a more just society. Resist and reform. Pax.

    Q for Tony: Is this the "good news to the poor" (Luke 4) that Jesus was talking about?
    A: ???

    December 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  3. nepawoods

    Forget everything he says of a religious nature. His big clueless blunder is suggesting the Occupiers are "railing against a free market system that rewards diligence". Was the savings and loan bailout "rewarding diligence"? Quite the opposite – it was rewarding gross negligence, irresponsibility, incompetence, which is not something a free market would ever do.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  4. Alex

    classic example of the devil quoting the scripture 🙂

    December 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      While I hesitate to call anyone "the devil", I agree with the overall sentiment in the strongest terms.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  5. Frank Shifreen

    To read the specious rationalizations of Mr.Perkins-I am disgusted more than shocked. Jesus, before his religious calling, was a carpenter. He was not a businessman. He was a worker, a craftsman. His philosophy was based on compassion, equality. inclusion, forgiveness, tolerance, peace, love. How these Capitalists, cold warriors, crusaders, Catholic pedants can call themselves followers of Jesus,with s straight face is funny, as funny as "1984" Perkins, you are a no account scalawag, with the arrogance to say "Black is white".

    December 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • O.S. Bird

      Who are YOU to call yourself Christian? "Judge not" and all that, you know.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Ned

      Spare us your mock literary abominations, Frank.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  6. Seldona

    Not only did he throw the money changers (businessmen) out of the temple, he flat out stated that no rich man will enjoy the comforts of heaven. In other words, the rich are heading straight to hell. At least according to your own bible.

    Just goes to show that any lunatic, with any extremist ideology, can 'interpret' the bible to mean whatever he or she wants it to mean. Looks like you will be leading the pack.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      @Seldona: That is an often misunderstood moment. Jesus said in that same situation that His Father's house was to be a house of prayer for ALL nations. He was addressing the racism and bigotry of the religious leaders who had set up a court for the gentiles outside of their holy temple. Gentiles who wanted to worship the God of the Jews were not allowed into the temple. This is what Jesus was addressing.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Rob

      You clearly didn't 'get' the moral of the story, even the rich man held on to the money and did nothing, just like the servant who put it in his mattress. The Lord just gave him substantially more that he gave the servant.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Rob

      When I said 'rich man' I mean the rich men of today..

      December 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Jesus wasn't an occupier. He was the figure head of a blood worshiping Jewish cult.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Oh, how original. Go troll somewhere else.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  8. Carol Steinel

    I'd like to point out that the passage Perkins is citing (from Matthew Chapter 25) specifically uses the word "doulos" in aramaic - this is quite different from "servant" (diakanos) - doulos means "slave" - someone who is literally owned by someone else. So, Mr. Perkins - are you advocating slavery, too? If you're going to stretch some absurd meaning of "occupy" from aramaic, you'd better research the rest of the words, too.

    And a question to CNN - why in the world are you giving space to this drivel? Mr. Perkins has every right to speak as he pleases, but in my opinion, his expressions in this piece are a waste of space.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      I thought this was the "belief blog" where this man's expressions were most appropriate.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      He's not expressing his beliefs as his own - he's claiming this is what Christ said - and his information isn't even correct (translations are faulty).

      Point me to a single place where Perkins says "I believe" or "this is my interpretation/opinion" - he states what he states as fact, and he doesn't even have his facts right.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  9. cb

    My Take: CNN will let their opinion writers post anything as long as it will get hits.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  10. ben

    Jesus saw money as reflections of a corrupt and pagan Roman society. Capitalism as a concept didn't exist. He railed against the commercialism he witnessed in the Temple. He is quoted as saying: "You cannot serve two masters, G-d and money." If Jesus came back today, he'd probably criticize the Occupiers and Wall Street. Both groups focus on money and define justice as economic equality. Jesus saw this life as irrelevant except insofar as one does good to enter the Kingdom. That means not merely giving money to the poor. It means devoting your life to doing the work of G-d. Remember what he told the rich man who wanted eternal life: "Giving everything you have to the poor. THEN COME AND FOLLOW ME."

    Therefore, giving money is nice, but the key is to see that money should not dominate one's life. That being said, it's very hard to know what Jesus would say in today's society. Probably impossible, so everything I said above is as useless as what the article pontificates. So saying Jesus would choose a side here by taking one parable out of context creates a kaleidoscopic Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  11. WrshipWarior

    Thank you Tony Perkins. Wow! Was this really published on CNN? This is actually a fairly decent rendering of a parable of Jesus and His teachings of our responsibilities here on earth while we await His ultimate return. If only the whole Body of Christ had this revelation. The Kingdom of God would be properly represented on earth rather than shamed, mocked, and ridiculed all the time due to the liberal media representation of the church.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Ron

      I too was moved by this story's power and depth.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      Mr. Perkins is citing a parable (the talents) that specifically refers to SLAVES. Please read your bible better - even better - learn Aramaic.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Wanderer81

      My take on Jesus...let the Man speak for Himself. Many a table flipped in his time.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Even better you should understand what it means to be purchased by the Blood of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is that – a kingdom with the King of kings in rule. It's not a democracy.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Carol Steinel

      Really WrshipWarior? Then why do people like Perkins keep saying that our democracy was based on Christian principles? If what you say is true, then wouldn't the ideal Christian kingdom on Earth be modeled on monarchy?

      December 6, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  12. cmcle

    Where to begin? This “religious” guy has woven a tangled spaghetti web of contradiction, nonsense, and absurdity. It’s so twisted, it’s hard to point directly at the stinking rubbish scattered among the crap. But I’ll try, I’ll try to be brief, and I’ll use mostly his own words.

    In talking about this parable, Perkins says: “As with all parables, Jesus uses a common activity such as fishing or farming to provide a word picture with a deeper spiritual meaning.”

    What is the “deeper spiritual meaning” of this parable. According to Perkins: “The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.”

    That’s the gist of it: “the principles of business and the free market” = “deeper spiritual meaning.”

    Perkins noted that “Parables generally have a twist near the end.” He provided his own little twist to his interpretation of this parable. While initially acknowledging that parables are, in effect, extended metaphors, he closes by interpreting this one very literally.

    Perhaps a deeper spiritual meaning would actually incorporate the spirituality of Jesus, with Jesus asking his supporters to act as he would. For example: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). Not fishers of money, as Perkins would have us believe.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • cosmicsnoop

      You know, I was thinking of how to respond to this load of crap too, but I don't have time so yours will do. Thanks. And where did these dudes get money? Sounds like Socialism to me with the harshness of redistribution of wealth up the ladder. Nice twist evil rich guy pretending to be all Godly and all knowing of the proper interpretation of the White Mytholog... I mean Bible.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • cmcle

      cosmicsnoop - You make a good point about Perkins saying wealth is redistributed from the poor to the wealthy. Some know Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Perkins sees Jesus as the Prince of Profits.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  13. trainwreck

    distill the teachings of Jesus down and youve basically got a mutual aid anarchist set of beliefs, he tells us to give a coat when asked for a shirt, to not fight back when struck...sadly the best (only notable) example of a world leader following the example of Christ was Hindu named Gandhi. And to all those slamming Christianity, there are a lot of good Christians out there, theyre just not the ones in power
    look up Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement or the Society Of Friends / Quakers for some good Christian values, not the worshippers of money... the bible is a collection of stories of inspiration and people seeking God, not the words of God, some people realize this, these other pick and choose but dont choose the teachings of Jesus and thats a shame

    December 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Bob

      you are absolutely right!!!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  14. Mr. Christos

    I don't really buy that the free market aspect of the parable was the purpose of the parable. I'm no left winger, but the whole point of the parable was that He was going away, and he expected us to be productive for His kingdom while He was gone.
    I don't think Jesus was stating a policy on capitalism/communism socialism. Nevertheless, the Bible is clearly in favor of personal property "Though shalt not Steal" AND in favor of great charity "God loves a cheerful giver"

    Where the left goes off the rails is the forced element they place in charity. Forcing people to be "Charitable" through government creates what we see in the Occupy movement: Generations of people who somehow believe that somebody outside of themselves owes them some standard of living.
    The wealthy and the poor are both guilty, the wealthy of greed, and the poor of envy. It's two sides of the same coin. Those same people who are clamoring for others to provide for them would be greedy rich people refusing to be charitable, though they would deny it.

    robs it of all of its value and creates more harm than good.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  15. Trigster

    No, sorry. Jesus was an anarchist. Period. But keep believing your nonsense.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  16. Disappointed

    Opinion or not, CNN should be ashamed foe publishing this cult mumbo jumbo.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  17. Dirk W Shade

    There's more than one meaning of the word occupy. Going to the bible for the definition is woefully misguided. It seems anyone who disagrees with the occupy movement doesn't want to acknowledge what it's really all about: economic disparity and corporate greed. These protesters are calling on their government to make things right. They are not people looking for a hand-out.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  18. laughitup

    Jesus? a free marketer??? lol... Jesus walked into the church where the merchants had set up a gallery of greed and destroyed all of their property... forgot that parable, eh? I guess it doesn't really matter what Jesus did since Jesus is simply some crazy guy that lived a couple thousand years ago and whose stories where exploited by the powerful so that the future generations of these powerful could sit atop a mass population of easily manipulated cows that go to work and pay their taxes to fund murderous wars without asking the basic questions that might shake their faith like, "should I support a government of murderous imperialists just because they keep my sunday school class safe???"

    December 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  19. Ayo

    Well said Tony Perkins – that is an accurate interpretation of the parable – except that you did not add that the Lord not only took what was in the hand of the lazy servant but he sent him to be punished for his laziness. God loves diligent hands as the proverb says "dligent hands make great wealth"

    December 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  20. ruemorgue

    Only a dullard Christian-Fundie-with-No-Undies would connect the word *occupy* from today with the ramblings in the Wholey Babble. Then he would deduce, Big Surprise, that Jesus would not be a member of the Occupy movement. How coould he? Jesus was *obviously* a Republican !!!

    December 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
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