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. Jimmy Limo

    SHAME on CNN ! SHAME !!! ...for giving this "holier-than-thou" hack a forum for his drivel... Anyone who claims to know what "Jesus would do" is a blasphemer. The bible says Jesus turned over the tables of the money-changers and drove them from the temple... Seems he would be leading the Occupy movement today. Tony Perkins is a hack... always was, always will be.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  2. Predictable

    So Jesus was all about prosperity for some at the expense of others? Haha. Better watch out – a TRUE Christian would Jihad you for that. 😉

    December 7, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  3. Tim Webster

    This is, without hyperbole, the most ridiculous thing I've ever read in my 31 years of life.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Dave

      I have to say, then, that you've led a very sheltered life my friend.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  4. upsidedownkingdom

    Perkins states, "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."

    But halfway through the article he states, "The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed."

    Which one is it Tony? I'm all confused now. Is it a parable or a lecture on economic principles?

    December 7, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  5. zeb

    Interesting analysis. A bit different from my own, of course, but to each his own.

    (a) it's a story that some people looked for deeper meaning into, and made it into an allegory. OK, I buy that; after all, the people back then weren't too swift and couldn't understand basic messages. People like T P are way smarter and can understand he clear meaning and context of everything the J said.
    (b) if it's a story (an allegory) then it could be just as plausible that the servant who turned his 1 mina into 10 cheated his buddies and made his money that way a la Bernie
    (c) i find it interesting that folks like T P have no problem with the notion of a place run by a pseudo-g od, yet keep talking about individual rights, the free market, etc. Does he see the fundamental contradiction? The only thing I see is a bunch of laws passed by a very small coterie of men with no representation by the masses, and no opportunity for the masses to make it to that top tier. Imagine what would happen if Joe Schmo decided to run for High Priest!

    December 7, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  6. MaryM

    Perkins is NOT a man of GOD, Perkins is a man of the GOP/TP

    December 7, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  7. robbiecriss

    I am not at all convinced the parable quoted was a mandate for capitalism as much as it was a challenge to Christ followers to be about the "business" of spreading the good news about Christ to the nations until He returns.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Michael Leonardo

      I believe the parable was about the concept of moving on with one's own life. These people loved Jesus and he was going away. Simply put, don't stand around waiting for me to return, instead be good and go on with your lives being considerate and helpful to your fellow man. Nothing mystical about it.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  8. Hilarious

    So, let me get this straight. Trying to figure out the position of some of these comments.

    We're mad at the Christian guy for pointing out that Jesus would probably be more inclined to reward people for their hard work, and that he wouldn't appreciate a freeloading a$$hat who didn't pull his own weight (recognizing that there are people in the rich sphere who are corrupt and didn't earn their keep either).

    In fact many of the responses here talk about how Jesus hates rich people and wouldn't let them into heaven anyway.

    We hate the Christian guy because he's a Christian and making a Christian point, but we know more about Christ than the people who actually follow the Christian religion.

    And even though we know Jesus better than the Christian guy and know that he doesn't like rich people – we're "occupying" because we want what the rich people have, except we don't want to earn it, it just needs to be given to us.

    Y'all are dumb.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • Michael Leonardo

      The point being made by most people here is that Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, demanded that a rich man put more value in faith and good works than in wealth. Second, Tony has twisted the words of the Bible to meet his own agenda. Third, although people have their own views, there are some basic tenants in the Bible that anyone can get. Rather then trying to weed through the BS and see that, you call everyone a derogatory name. Look in the Mirror.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • Dave

      Hilarious, I agree 100%. Folks like Leonardo typify the "open minded" liberal...they're open minded and everyone has the freedom to speak their mind, unless and until it differs from their own. I find it incredibly hypocritical and patently ridiculous that people are assuming a greater knowledge and better interpretation of scripture than the author...but of course, that's not all that surprising given liberal arrogance...because after all they're the party of "We Know What's Best."

      Leonardo, the author was simply suggesting that Jesus would probably NOT be squatting in a park somewhere, but would be working toward change (and would have been suggesting to his followers that they work toward change). But again, disagree with a liberal at your peril, I guess...

      December 7, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Mighty7

      No, we hate him because he is using a very twisted and bizarre reading of the BIble to excuse the most vicious and heartless capitalistic position in the world.

      But I would not expect a Southerner to understand any of that.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  9. Creaturz

    This article takes short buss to a new level. Grats to whomever the editor was that allowed this junk to fill space beyond the retard that wrote it.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  10. Hal

    This "opinion" and the majority of the discussion here should make the "Ridiculist." This Perkins cat makes a living writing this drivel, it has nothing to do with Christians or Christ. It's a matter of getting the spin that fits politically. This kind of baloney is disgusting, and the writer's integrity should be on the block, not the content.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • Michael Leonardo

      I beg to differ. This man and his content should be axed.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Rufus the GREAT

      Thanks for the reference to the occupy computer on the mission to find the monolith HAL.

      December 7, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  11. mcp123

    "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)"

    Hmmm... different "versions"... of an alleged account of something someone supposedly saw over 2000 years ago. Or was it just written by men to control men (and women). I am objective enough to believe there probably was a teacher named Jesus or some great personality a legend developed around but the true account of events in that time is already lost to history.

    Oh... even though I haven't studied the bible didn't Jesus overturn the tables of the money counters? What exactly do you think Occupy Wall Street is trying to do?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  12. Fred Garvin

    You cannot serve God and mammon. Occupiers are fighting against those who serve the latter.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  13. Byrd

    And you're an idiot, not a scholar.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  14. Jerry

    This is what CNN has became, with all the Jews running CNN this is what you can expect to see on a daily basis from CNN one or two ridiculous articles like this.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Michael Leonardo

      Oh hell, the Jew haters are here. Who lifted your rock to set you free. Bigot

      December 7, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  15. JP

    Who gives a damn what a fool like Tony Perkins thinks????

    December 7, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Michael Leonardo

      Apparently the morons at CNN care. :>

      December 7, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Rufus the GREAT

      Posted again...because it was removed three days past. The 50 people LAID OFF last week due to the increase in "free reporting" the market provided has inspired this article. Yep, occupy and get noticed at the CNN headquarters in Altanta?

      December 7, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  16. Rationalintn

    It's amazing to read the words of someone who claims to know what Jesus was thinking and what he really meant. It's especially interesting to watch as they weave and twist the meaning to suit their own world view. Tony Perkins can make Jesus become whatever he'd like him to be. A free market capitalist, Jesus, really??? How convenient for all of you who don't want to follow anything Jesus actually represented. And wwjd about OWS, of course he would call them lazy , freeloading, slugs who destroy other peoples property. He'd tell them to stop dressing like hippies, cut their hair, and get a job!!!! Carpentry is a good skill..............

    December 7, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  17. Laura


    Jesus wasn't a bigot and a hater either. So why are you?

    December 7, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  18. Rufus the GREAT

    Christmas is early this year. It is a spinning top on a spinning tire watched by the spinning water going down the toilet.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  19. Michael Leonardo

    So this man Tony goes to the pearly gates and asks Peter to let him pass. Upon which, Peter glance back at Jesus, pauses, then turns back to Tony and... Says... TALK TO THE HAND lmao

    December 7, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  20. Hilarious

    You have to admit that it is kinda funny that there are so many people that sit on here and tear down Christians, but then pretend that they have a better understanding of Jesus's message than the people who follow his religion.

    I am not a particularly religious person, I just find it humorous.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:45 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.