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. Jeb

    If you were beginning to wonder if modern Christianity is becoming a church of Pharisees, Charlatans, and Hypocrites, Tony Perkins has come to remove all doubt.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  2. Cast Iron Chef

    'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
    (Matthew 25.35-40 ESV)

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Emperor Norton

    This is the kind of thing that pushes otherwise bright, intelligent, faithful people out of and away from Christianity. Jesus being used as a mouthpiece for your flavor-of-the-moment brand of neoconservatism makes you look foolish and demeans his message.

    Mr. Perkins, I do hope your God exists so that you and he can have a nice long talk at some point in the future. I'd imagine that conversation will not go as you'd prefer.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  4. EnjaySea

    Isn't it a coincidence that no matter what one believes, somehow god and jesus (and probably the tooth fairy as well) always seem to be in complete agreement!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  5. larryb

    yes...jesus was a capitalist and told peter to go forth and form a hedge fund

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  6. Christian whacko

    Yeah I think this guy is off his rocker, Jesus was for sure either a pure communist or a hippie, certainly not the person crazy right wing whacko's portray him as. Family research council, give me break, should be called the blind faith team.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  7. FRC hater

    Matthew 25:

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    That is Jesus' message. Not "Do business while I'm off getting my crown fitted." Stupid shill.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  8. Christian Taliban

    "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."

    –Jesus Christ, as quoted in Matthew 19:24

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  9. Brandon

    pretty amazing how Conservatives try and twist reality to make Jesus into something other than what he is clearly described as

    December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  10. PhillyMark

    Really? You have the tenacity to bring Jesus in on your side? Tony, your mind is polluted with garbage. My favorite part of your absurd piece is how you characterize the Wall Street types as diligent hard-working folk. Just how hard is it to manipulate a market to the extent that it nearly ruins our entire economy? Is it as hard as scrubbing buttholes for $9.75 an hour at the local hospital? Because they have people who actually do that for a living. The fact is that Wall Street types are the least hard working people in America. And you are about the least sensible person in America. The very idea that Jesus would be in favor of the rich creating ridiculous financial instruments – none of which actually capitalize anything – is positively insane.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  11. LeeCMH

    Tony Perkins is a hateful Christian and heads a certified hate group. Ironically, most of the time, Mr. Perkins is spewing hatred against gays.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  12. Kevin Giles

    somebody axe him! Ted?!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Ruth

    So glad Mr. Perkins has the inside track on what Jesus would or would not think about this situation. Personally, I prefer to read my Bible myself.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Dustin

    And this is how you minimize a valid movement. You depict the Occupiers as dirty hippies who are destroying public property because they want money for doing nothing. That is not the point. The system in America is broken. People are no longer simply rewarded for their hard work and smart investing. Their 401K accounts are victim to a Wall Street system that gambled heavily with their money. Those investors still made millions, while a teacher who dedicated his/her life to service saw her life savings cut in half. So Jesus would give a thumbs up to that system? BS Perkins. Go sit on your thrown of money and hypocrisy and if there isa judgement we will see how it turns out for you.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  15. Jon

    Last time I checked the Bible, Jesus occupied the hell out of a Temple when it was turned into a market place.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Very good point!

      December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      That only applied to the greedy Jews, smacking their thick lips and rubbing their hands in anticipation of their next abomination. Jews are ugly, skulking apes.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  16. Jake

    And this ass hat knows all this how? Did he have lunch with Jesus last week? Did Jesus ask him for a stock tip and declare that he is a free market capitalist? Did Jesus proclaim that the masses should eat cake? Whenever anyone says what Jesus would or would not is basically declaring for all the world that they in fact have absolutely no idea what it is they are talking about and therefore should be completely ignored.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  17. Eric B

    Some "Christians" are quite adept at interpreting scripture to reinforce their own beliefs. Don't forget about the importance of illumination when it comes to scripture, Mr. Perkins. It is just as important as inspiration.

    Did you search the bible for a passage that you could use for your purpose? Or did you allow scripture to speak to you and then relay that message. Were you actually seeking God's spirit and direction in your life or simply trying to convince others believe what you believe. Scriptural abuse is definitely not Jesus-like.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  18. blf83

    Perkins is a greedy miscreant who takes from his poor parishioners.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  19. Nate

    I saw "Family Research Council" in the lead into this article and immediately knew I could ignore the rest.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  20. Gyna

    Wow...this guy is REACHING!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:58 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.