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. A

    This has to be one of the worst religion blog posts ever.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • ashrakay

      You probably didn't see the one about how the Twilight series shouldn't offend christians.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • ashrakay

      For your reference, it's hard to get worse than this: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/18/my-take-jesus-loves-twilight-or-at-least-5-reasons-christians-should/?iref=allsearch

      December 7, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  2. Lee Chao

    Yea that may be your take on it Mr. Perkins but where is the "My Take" on the people suffering through unemployment, working multiple jobs just to pay the rent? Where are the people saying Jesus would occupy with the rest of the protestors because of all the greed going on by cruel people who care nothing about the common man?

    December 7, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  3. popseal

    "Thou shall not steal" is the basis of God's ethical capitalistic economy. "False balances are an abomination to the Lord", and other Scripture verses too numerous to list make the point. "If a man doesn't work, neither shall he eat!" Biblical illiteracy across America including her pulpits is breath taking. Jesus' admonitions to help the poor never were an endorsement of a permanent welfare state of existance. Any Christian worth he word will help the poor, but not be used for a facilitator of laziness. The world owes no body a living. It must be scratched out of the ground.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Dan

      He didn't say "help" the poor, he said give everything you own to the poor and follow him. Perhaps he misspoke and meant to say give a small percentage of your yearly income to the poor? You tell me you're the expert, we're all just illiterate.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Craig Dossman

      Jesus said. "The poor you will have with you always." This was never an excuse to help them like most so-called Christian don't, but rather an invitation to join Him in ministry in addressing those needs." Jesus said: "As you have done it to the least of them my brethren; you have also done it until me"....

      December 7, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Ray

      The book of James references what you say as it says that the rich are to have woe as they waxed rich off the labors of the poor like now when one has to work for minimum wages and even the government admits it by giving food stamp allotments to make up for the low end poverty rates paid while the "wealthfare" workers whom are bosses in every field of work enslave the welfare workers. Think before you pluck the eye of another for it might come someday to you and you suffer worse by saying things about poor people whom do work but work for nothing and never will have anything but subsistence from the government due to being enslaved but at the least they work and it is sad to have nothing only to be given food like the Egyptians did the Hebrews.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Ray

      Plus, a real Christian would never ask any man to work for less money than he makes. To give you an example, one man worked for GNC for 45 dollars an hour but one day he asked a man to paint his house and the man said i need 45 dollars an hour and you do not have to pay me any benefits so the GMC Chuch going Christian harked and spit out that before he would give that man 45 dollars an hour he would go an hire an illegal Mexican for 5 dollars an hour. Now, I think you need to rethink what you say about real Christians and poor people. Is there a difference in their work as both sweated the same.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  4. J

    What's next for CNN, asking a Klan leader to provide an editorial?

    December 7, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  5. Jeshua

    31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

    32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

    33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

    35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

    37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

    38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

    39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

    40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  6. Ray

    What would Jesus said to the man if the man said "I did put the money in the bank but the bank failed and i lost all the money?" Now, eat that one.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  7. ashrakay

    Jesus was a home wrecker. He demanded people leave their families to follow him. Why would any movement want a jerk like that to join them?

    December 7, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Bobs Friend

      Keep mocking Jesus, and don't let eternal damnation bother you too much! You're going to be real hot for a real long time!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • ashrakay

      @Bobs friend, better to burn than have to be associated with the child-killer god of the bible. I'll burn in moral superiority.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Ray

      I also have a problem trying to decipher what he meant saying that if anyone would not leave his family that they would not be worthy of him. It sounds like to me that He being the Son of God requires total love and commitment to the Son of God. God even tempted Abraham to offer his own son up on a sacrificial altar like the Aztecs and so forth did but yet this was only to see if Abraham could give up his son being a human thus God Himself actually gave His son up in a more horrendous fashion. Who is right in their mind to allow any form of murder? Even King Solomon, beloved of God, ordered people murdered but when Christ came then it all was fulfilled-no more killing–only love, forgiveness, repentance for wrongs as He stated He was the last sacrifice and there is to be nor more. Would i do what He said do? Yes, only if i knew it from His mouth for sure.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  8. Jeshua

    "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
    John 18 37

    December 7, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • News Flash

      Which is really funny, because that is not what the other gospels say he said to Pilate.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  9. Jean

    We can't know for certain whether this parable can actually be attributed to Jesus because it seems to be in direct opposition to his other teachings.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Bobs Friend

      You CAN know for sure if you surrender your mind to God. Submission doesn't seem like your strong point.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • News Flash

      No. Submission is just giving up trying to figure it out. It's the ultimate cop out.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Ray

      To Bob, would you commit to murder or the taking of human blood to the death if you were a real Christian? Would Christ advocate killing someone or having them to die by capital punishment? I would like to know how Christ felt about our capital punishment laws and how all the Church members in the name of being Christians and having their Saviour being Christ advocate any form of punishment given the law Christ taught on forgiveness, turning the other cheek, etc. It is either He said do not do it or do it, which is it?

      December 7, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  10. Bobs Friend

    God will never leave you. When they accused me of doing those things to those boys, people left me. God never left me!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  11. Michael

    I have lost all respect for CNN allowing the leader if a hate organization to be paraded as someone who has a clue to what Jesus would do. Can someone please tell me just one thing Perkins has done that's sole purpose was not to demonize the LGBT community?

    December 7, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Bobs Friend

      You can be with your LTBG community in hell!

      December 7, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  12. Thomas

    That interpretation is in contradiction with everything Jesus taught, and is very far off the true meaning. That particular parable is about rewarding those who remain faithful to Jesus and punishing those who loose faith. The kings departure represents Jesus' death and his return represents Jesus' return to earth. He told this parable just before travailing to Jerusalem where he was crucified

    "The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked." Free market system?! Are you high? Yeah... because when I read a bible story with kings, noblemen, and servants residing in a kingdom I automatically think free market system.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Ray

      I agree Thomas, He was talking about the ones that were part of their system. Render unto Caesar what belongs to him and unto God what belongs to HIm. Look how he felt about the traders in the temple. His anger was human with the Spirit of God fueling his anger to those financial gainers. I think He did not like money at all and tried to create a different way of livelihood but that seemed to have failed. The Book of Acts shows how the original church was to be set up with finances. Far from it now ain't it?"

      December 7, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  13. Mojo Jojo

    It's funny what people post in regards to what Jesus would do. Was Jesus a capitalist or communist? So what exactly does this have to do with religion since we are talking economics!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  14. Peter

    Like all "Christians" you have no clue what Jesus stood for. You perform the worst possible blessfemy, which is to twist Jesus's words and intentions for your gain. The people you accuse of trashing public property don't care anymore about that THEY DON'T HAVE JOBS. You do. It's easy for you to criticize them, their desperation, when you get up every morning to a cushy job. Would you care about "public property" if you didn't know how you were going to feed your family tomorrow? Insensitive, uncaring, cruel, evil, hypocrite.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • dzaffina

      he didn't mention bp and haliburton destroying the gulf of mexico

      December 7, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  15. cmcle

    According to Perkins: 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."

    First, Perkins interprets the statement "To everyone who has . . . " in financial terms, which leads me to believe that he has a fundamentally distorted view not only of Jesus and the Bible, but also of religion in general. Perkins - it's not all about money. Except to conservatives, I suppose.

    Perkins, with his bizarre interpretation of this parable, is worthy of this slam, and I quote Bugs Bunny, which is fitting for this farce of an article: "What a maroon!"

    December 7, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Bobs Friend

      One day you will stop your mockin' and start your walkin'–with God!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  16. Bobs Friend

    I drink sometimes. I think God forgives me for that.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  17. Kelly Frost

    I'm sorry, but I just can't give a whole lot of credence to anything written by a man who is the head of an organization on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups. Jesus sure didn't preach hate; I'm not going to listen to someone who acts opposite of Christ's words tell me what Jesus would or would not have done.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • George

      The SPLC is a liberal organization. The only reason that they classified the FRC as a hate group is because the FRC organizes against ho.mo.s.e.x.ual marriage. And liberals can't stand that.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  18. Kyle

    Sounds more like socialism to me, the King was spreading the wealth. On top of that Jesus also explicitly said to get to heaven you should sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  19. Wanderer81


    Jesus would have condemned these people!...thank God for a man like T.R.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Wanderer81

      Man needs to get back to real Republican, and real Christian roots and change his tune. The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor! Psalm 34

      December 7, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  20. NateFromIndiana

    I have a feeling that Tony Perkins isn't just "special to CNN". This guy has special needs written all over him.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:13 am |
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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.