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. Voodoo Idol

    Wow, you really don't understand the Occupy movement, do you? The money lenders are in the temple, and Occupy wants to kick them out. This is EXACTLY what Jesus did.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  2. Paul Smith

    The only thing Jesus was clear about was banks. Jesus physically attacked the money exchangers (old name for banks) and threw the money exchangers and their shops out of the market square.
    So the only chrystian question is if the occupy movement should remain peacefull. Or if all of us are not doing enough and should join in and "throw the banksters out".

    December 7, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • braxton

      i bet jesus didnt own that cross he was crucified on... does that mean he was taking over and trashing public property??? sure did occupy that cross... what a dirty 99 percenter....

      December 7, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  3. Scribbleslab

    Really? I seem to remember a different Jesus, who turned over the tables in anger of the merchants in Gods temples:

    "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
    Matthew 21:13

    This is the same Jesus who said how it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven... the same one who blesses the one woman who gives her last penny... I'm sorry, but using him for your own accord is just... unchristian!

    December 7, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  4. Tom

    Why do republicans always have to mix perfectly logical philosophy like Free Market with religious BS that makes no sense?
    The only conclusion I can make out of this is that you sir are a moron.

    CNN you should stop publishing random ramblings of any average nutjob on your website.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:04 am |
    • Rand337

      I know, right?! Even Tom is being published today.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:17 am |
  5. Karon

    A carnal mind is an enmity to God. The man hasn't a clue what Jesus was talking about in that parable.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  6. Steve

    What garbage. Jesus wouldn't throw people in the street after bait and switching them. Jesus would not have his goal to just acquire wealth. Jesus wouldn't hire a bunch of thugs to relocate homeless people when they became inconvenient living in the park. Jesus would have compassion for those returning from the military as broken men and women. What a misrepresentation of Jesus.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • Texas Coyote

      And the people said,......AMEN! SUPPORT OCCUPY!

      December 7, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  7. Parishfan

    How does he know? What a jerk?

    December 7, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • braxton

      jesus gave each servant one mina each huh? sounds like he was redistributing his wealth. what a dirty socialist....

      December 7, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  8. SCDad

    Jesus was not even real.
    The myth of Jesus was based on an old Egyptian mythological figure called Horus. Google it.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:53 am |
    • SCSon


      December 7, 2011 at 6:04 am |
  9. Purple

    Seems to me Jesus occupied the Temple when he drove out the greedy, cheating money changers, who were defiling God's house, just like Republicans today are defiling Congress and bankers are trashing the poor and middle class by their policies.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:49 am |
    • Dylan

      Hit it right on the head !!!! Assuming The Book to be accurate...something that is highly questionable !! Amazing isn't it that people cling so desperately to 2000+ year old fables.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Adam

      I see purple you have not been paying attention to whom lined obama's pockets in his presidential race, Bankers thats who. Wake up to reality does not matter if they are republican or democrat, corruption comes from each side.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Kenny

      LOL @ SCDad. That's the funniest comment on here yet.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  10. patrick doyen

    I truly detest people who spend all their efforts telling us that what we know to be true is just a lie. Jesus was the leader of the occupy human rights movement his entire life, and yet here's this 21st century ultra-conservative, right wing bigot telling us he was really an entrepreneur. What some people will do for a sound bite is just incredible.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  11. fx61

    Why are morons like this one associated with NRA? Jesus loved guns, too?

    December 7, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  12. Greg Hare

    Jesus focused his entire career on helping the poor. NOT supporting the free market system. No wonder more and more people look on Christians today as hypocrite who really worship Mammon.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:32 am |
    • Purple

      This guy is no Christian, just look at the garbage he's trying pass off onto Jesus.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  13. bluemax77

    He was also prone to random violence, ask any money lenders...

    December 7, 2011 at 5:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      No, not just any money lenders. Only those who set up shop in the Temple. His objection was based on location, not occupation.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  14. JFKman

    What a load! Just. Go. Away.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:26 am |
  15. Jake

    What an incorrigible moron. Tony's on his way to hell.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  16. Raidan Soma

    Does this guy even know what a parable is? You don’t tell a parable about money using money as an example!

    Jesus is saying that, regardless of the passage of time, the faith that is placed in him will be immeasurably increased to those who have faith and even greater to those who go so far as to promote his message. And for those who lack faith, not only will their lack of faith be shattered by the “truth” but what little faith they may have had will be insufficient to save them. Any rational thinker doubting his supernatural authority will be justifiably tortured and murdered.

    However, what isn’t written as a parable, and just to show you what a deceitful fraud Tony Perkins is, in the next few lines after this last mythological anecdote Jesus commands two disciples to steal a horse for his personal pleasure and to mock the owner should he stands up to protect his private property.

    Thanks CNN. I’ve just wasted my time reading about a mythological charlatan who delivers veiled threats and enjoins in thievery.

    Occupy Reason!

    December 7, 2011 at 5:25 am |
    • Texas Coyote

      I agree with everyone who has pointed out how hypocritical and ignorant this man is (Perkins). I guess Jesus would have dispatched the Roman soldiers to brutalize, pepper-spray, and arrest peaceful protesters too, Huh? When I saw American lawmen attack and dismantle a group of peaceful protesters, I thought I was watching the crackdown in Syria! Whatever happened to the right of assembly/speech in America! Wake up America! SUPPORT OCCUPY!!

      December 7, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  17. Reality Check

    IIs he talking about the same Jesus who "occupied" the mount to give his sermon, performed a "miracle" by asking people to give the little they each had so everyone could enjoy a bounty (sounds a little like collectivism), and who praised the poor? The same Jesus who said to treat others as you would be treated?

    II don't know what Bible this guy reads, but every one I have seen elevates humility, service, and the common good not individual greed

    December 7, 2011 at 5:20 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      The collectivism experienced by the church in the first century was chosen, not forced upon them by the government. The free market system allows people the choice to use their wealth to help the common good or for greed.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • Moses

      The bible he reads is the Republican bible. You know, that new one with special passages for the 1%

      December 7, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  18. Jeez

    And with this idiotic article, Mr. Tony Perkins just made my life a little harder in having people truly realize who Jesus is. Isaiah 6 states, "‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving." This parable has NOTHING to do about capitalism, but now people think Christianity is to blame when it is just some man's nonsense.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:17 am |
  19. Capn

    What a trash article. Using the bible to justify anything logically or rationally is a loser from the get-go.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  20. Tell the Truth

    This is the same guy who defile's Jesus' name by declaring any business who doesn't use His name as part of their ads around this time of year stand against Jesus. Good luck with passing through eye of the needle.

    Now he says Mother Theresa stood against Jesus because she didn't use her life for riches.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:05 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.