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. Claude

    "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."

    ok look, this isn't about money: it's about love and wisdom. you give love and more love you can give. there's no limit to love. there's a limit to how much capitalism can grow, though, do you recognize that? take too much, the well runs dry: like aquifers emptied faster than they can replenish. material is all limited. spiritual - love, wisdom, consciousness - isn't.

    maybe this is only one reading. but i'm sorry, this isn't praising the free market system. you've twisted it to your political ends.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  2. westward40

    The guy is supposed to be a Bible expert? Ever since I was a child, I was taught that the parable of the king and servants rewarded for how they handled the money given to them was a parable (hence not literal story) for what we should do with our faith or belief. It is supposed to relate that the more belief we generate through the sharing of our faith, the greater reward we will receive. But hey, let's just twist the words to mean whatever we want.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Claude

      word, westward: we said about the same thing at about the same time. i like that

      December 7, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  3. Andrew of Arkansas

    As a Christian, I'm annoyed and bored of people constantly trying to figure out whether Jesus was a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or some other nonsense. Was Jesus a free marketer and a fan of greediness as the way to a great civilization? Probably not considering he tells people to leave their possessions behind and give to the poor. But obviously the way Jesus wanted us to live is to pursue material riches as much as possible.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  4. Aviate

    I guess Mr. Perkins' Bible must be missing the part where Jesus drives the money changers out of the Temple.

    Let's see–Jesus tells a man to sell all his possessions if he wants to follow him. Jesus says that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. In Acts the apostles & other followers of Jesus are described as having all their goods "in common." And to top it off, Jesus is put to death for, basically, criticizing the corruption and immorality of the elites (sound familiar?). I guess Mr. Perkins must have a special, long-lost edition of the Gospels in which Jesus is actually a venture capitalist who doesn't feed people by multiplying loaves and fishes, but by speculating in derivatives and investing huge sums in javelin-making factories supplying the Roman legions....

    Mr Perkins, you are perfect example of what Gandhi was talking about when he said–"I do not like your Christians, for they are so unlike your Christ"...

    December 7, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  5. Carl Thomason

    Tony Perkins is a racist that sold David Duke's (the KKK's former Grand Dragon) election contacts to former Republican Frist who was fined for election fund violations. Why does CNN give bigots and racists a voice on national television. I don't respect CNN any longer! Why does CNN continually have the same right wing bigots on as political experts? Amazing. Is there anyone at CNN with a college degree that knows what real journalism is?

    December 7, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • Claude

      thanks, carl. pretty sure cnn is part of the mass media propagandha full of distractions to keep us from realizing what is really going on. like slavery in brazil charcoal industry, for example. like bin laden an excuse to build up the military even more. like saddam was someone the us supported, through all the gassings, until the day he stopped taking orders.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  6. focusonjobs1

    Is. 10:1-3. "Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who continually record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights... Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar?"
    Prov. 29:7. The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern.
    He needs to read more because the Bible is full of verses that condemn many Republican talking points.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  7. DEEJ

    First, if there was a Jesus the author did not know him. Second, therefore, the author has no clue what Jesus was or was not.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  8. focusonjobs1

    Mt. 19:20ff. The young man said to Him, "All these commands I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

    December 7, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • noncentric

      Shhh. That verse is so... inconvenient.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • jon

      People love to quote that verse. Funny thing is 1). How did he get his money in the first place? 2). Once he gives away all his money he will would then become part of the poor, who will take care of him? Answer: those who are working. Have you considered that Christ was calling that man to make Christ his God since the man had made his money his God? Note that someone has to take care of those who serve the community and a Paul advised it is those in the community that are being served. Certainly that is those who are workers or owners of capital. The point is don't let money own you and be about the Kingdom. The early church even lived communally per their own decision and NOT through government mandate. Nothing that Tony said in this article contradicts these principles.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  9. Margaret

    Check out tony Perkins on Wikipedia...He is a racist. I am questioning why CNN wold allow him to use them to spread his hate and opinions.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  10. max

    this article is one of the most poorly written pieces of trash i have read on cnn, which is really something. i am surprised this made it past any kind of editorial review. the facts presented have little bearing on the premise of the article. the context of the facts are simplistic nonsense that lends no additional credence to the facts and the author is writing it to spawn a emotional response with little intellectual thought.

    someone fire the author please. do cnn a service.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  11. tljnsd

    I don't think even Satan could do a better job of turning people off of Christianity than Mr. Perkins. Maybe his Jesus will join the Republican field and make a "second coming" appearance at the Trump debate and tell us how the other candidates too liberal. Think of the ratings!

    December 7, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  12. Aaron

    For those interested, I have posted a critique of this article on my blog at http://aaronofdenver.blogspot.com/2011/12/occupy-wall-street-and-tony-perkins.html

    December 7, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  13. Brian Peterson

    Perkins, "Jesus was a Free Marketer".
    Yet Jesus threw out merchants within the temple.
    Also, the Bible is full of versus telling his followers to take care of the poor, elderly and the weak. The Bible also teaches against greed and dishonesty. I have yet to hear Perkins make a major statement regarding the Bible's major mentions of these concerns. No but he loudly proclaims that Jesus was a Free Marketer. And this is a man of God?

    December 7, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  14. James

    Jesus opposed collectivism, eh? He must have been pretty steamed at the church established in the book of Acts, then. You know, Acts, that cherished piece of Christian canon that describes very matter of factly how the early church ran as a collectivist community? How about the bit where the couple are struck dead because they didn't contribute their fair share to the church community? Yeah, sure sounds like the work of a god who opposes collectivism.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  15. B. L. Spencer

    Not only that but jesus is also a myth.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • fred

      According to all reliable historians Jesus at a minimum was a Jewish rabble rousing preacher that was executed by Pilate. Might be better to start off something that sounds like it has a little truth to it. You can reject Jesus or argue that he was not who he claimed to be, but, a myth is way out there and taints anything else you may want to say.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Aviate

      There almost certainly was a historical Jesus. The Roman historian Tacitus makes a passing reference to him and his execution by Pilate, for instance. The "real" Jesus was probably the leader of a dissident movement within 1st century Judaism that criticized the religious elites for their moral laxity, religious hypocrisy, and cooperation with the Romans. In other words, not only would the historical Jesus have been part of the Occupy movement, he would have been leading it. And Tony Perkins–free-enterpriser that he is–would have sold that Jesus out for 29 pieces of silver and nailed him to the cross himself.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  16. Ward

    Jesus was a free-marketer. Riiiight. I'm sure he'd LOVE how the rich just squeeze the common person in this country like an old sponge.

    I'm so tired of liars and dirtbags like this loser.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  17. jdc

    maybe if family research council bothered to research the reasons why so many parents of so many families are out of a job, or making so little that they can't afford to feed their children, they wouldn't write articles telling them to eat cake. But their not poor and desperate, so what do they care?

    December 7, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  18. AdmrlAckbar

    Politics and Religion in a single story.. You good sir are nearing true webtrafic gold!

    December 7, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  19. James

    Tony Perkins should also study this verse a bit more closely Matthew 6:24 “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."

    December 7, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  20. Bobs Friend (counterfeit)

    Well, that's enough trolling for tonight. Time for a shower and bed. I think the real Bobs Friend ran screaming from this site about a half hour ago. I'll be back with a brand new persona tomorrow. Remember: When you least expect it, "Your Being Trolled." Good night everyone!

    *Your Being Trolled was filmed before a live studio audience.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • ashrakay

      I think you mean, "you're" for your future trolling.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:21 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.