Judas Loves Money

JudasJudas has always presented a problem for movie-makers. How do you create a believable character who carries out the greatest betrayal of all time? Some movies use a political motivation – this usually has Judas “accidentally” betraying Jesus in an attempt help Him politically. Others puzzle with him in other ways. The Scriptures are quite clear about the nature of Judas betrayal: he was a thief and he did it for money.

Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. (Joh 12:4-6 NKJ)

It’s fairly banal and prosaic. People do bad stuff for money all the time. The most common motive for betrayal of one’s country is – money. We often compromise our beliefs and practices for money, whether it is at work or elsewhere. If values cost us money, they quickly become too expensive for our taste. Righteousness is a luxury for most – one they can ill afford.

I also think that it goes far to explain Judas. No one usually starts out with full-blown betrayal – we have to work our way up to it. Every act of pilfering from the common fund was an act of betrayal, but easily justified. “It’s not much…I deserve it…I’ll put it back…”

A hymn from the Bridegroom Matins of Holy Week says, “Judas loved money with his mind (nous).” This declares a relationship that goes beyond the mere yielding to temptation. Judas became obsessed with money. Mammon was his God.

Thus, when the extravagance of the woman’s gift of an alabaster box of ointment poured over the feet of Jesus provokes Judas’ wrath, he was protesting on behalf of his God.

“Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

It is very striking throughout the gospels how often the question of money comes up. Christ offers very little comfort on the topic. He generally says one of two things: share, or give it away.

He warns that we cannot serve God and mammon (money). We see the example of the Rich Young Ruler for whom money becomes a stumbling block – he cannot follow Jesus if in doing so he must give away his money.

What did Judas need money for? He traveled with Christ and the other disciples. From what we can tell, they bought almost nothing, living hand to mouth. Did Judas have a retirement plan? Was he building up his portfolio? But as the Church sings, “Judas loved money with his mind.” It’s a spiritual disease.

Who doesn’t love money? Perhaps our attitude towards money would change if we noted that the fingerprints of Judas are on every penny. Caesar (in all his guises) has his face displayed – but Judas goes to the very heart of it all. If you search your heart for the place where the desire for money resides – then you’ll find the face of Judas staring back.

Money is the anti-Eucharist. Like the Eucharist, it is a way of life. The Eucharist is the way of giving thanks. Money can only be marked by thanksgiving when it is shared or given away. Unless shared, it always becomes an end in itself – the opposite of giving thanks. And unless money is shared, becoming eucharistic, then it becomes the currency of betrayal, spent in the Gardens of our lives (Eden, Gethsemane).

Christ gives His disciples the Eucharist on the “night in which He was betrayed.” Judas loves money. Christ loves the Father – and all that the Father has given to Him. The bread that Christ gives is life, and life more abundantly. The bread of Judas is money – and it is death. God give us life!

Comments

  1. Margaret says

    I’ve always wondered why Christ chose Judas to be one of his disciples. Did He hope Judas’ heart would change? Was it merely expedient in terms of knowing that He had to die? If so, wouldn’t it be awkward to have Judas always with you? And why would Judas choose to follow Christ if he didn’t believe in his heart?

  2. Ann K says

    “Money is the anti-Eucharist. Like the Eucharist, it is a way of life.”
    Profound. Thank you!

  3. fatherstephen says

    Margaret,
    I think Judas believed. I also think that he loved money. He believed enough that he despaired us his life when we saw the consequences of his actions. Judas’ ultimate disposition is known to God. I trust that.

  4. Michael Bauman says

    Living the created thing more does not mean you don’t love God. It just means the order is reversed.

  5. Henry says

    I am not a theologian. I am not even an Orthodox Christian. However I was sufficiently moved by this post to consider all the ways I betray our Lord.

    In the course of my job, I received security awareness training from counterespionage officers. In one of these classes I was introduced to the acronym MISE. The speaker told us there were four basic motivations that led people to betray their country and the oath they swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic:

    Money, Ideology (including nationalism), Sex, and unmet Ego needs.

    Money is just a tool. It is neither good nor evil. It is just a convenient means of exchanging value. That said, it is a very dangerous tool. There are plenty of admonitions in scripture about its correct use and its misuse.

    People do leave the faith for other ideologies. This is more common than it was when I was a child. Our nation is far more tolerate of diversity in belief than it was in the 1950s. I think the greater danger is mixing other things, like nationalism, into our faith. I like to think of my country as the Scriptural city of the hill. It isn’t. Russians like to think their country is the third Rome. It isn’t. Although there are reasons to take pride in our countries, we are citizens of a different kind of kingdom.

    We live in a culture inescapably saturated in sex. While this temptation is easier for a 65 year old married man than a 19 year old single man, as long as I live in a body of flesh I am in danger. The availability of inexpensive, highly effective contraception has changed everything. The Church is losing a generation to sex. Even some of our finest young couples cohabitate for a couple of years before deciding to get married and start a family. These people do not attend church when “living in sin.” Some of them return to the church when children enter the equation, but I fear many of them will be lost forever.

    As I have watched people join and leave the church over 40 years, I have come to the conclusion that unmet ego needs are our greatest temptation to sin. After all, isn’t that what led to Lucifer’s fall? The ego is inextricably intertwined with the love of money and sexual sin. Pride in a false faith, ethnicity, or a nation state has been at the root of the most atrocious horrors of the last century.

    Although love of money is clearly at the heart of Judas’s betrayal of our Lord, I can’t help but think there were other psychological forces at play when he committed the most execrable act of treason in history of the world. Mark seems to indicate that Judas was ready to turn Jesus over to the Sanhedrin before he was offered a bribe. Were there unmet ego needs that might have contributed to the acts of Simon’s son?

    Now, I must ask the Lord to reveal what is in my heart. May God have mercy on my soul.

  6. Martin says

    I think Judas illustrates how God gave us free will. We was a follower of Christ – as we try to be – but then at the last he betrayed Him. We too have that potential, however good we are now in our following of Him. Modern Christians say “I am saved”. It is the question they ask when they knock on your door at inconvenient times – “Good afternoon – Are you saved?”
    I prefer the Orthodox notion that we are *being saved* – it is the process of Theosis from which, because of our free will, we can turn away at any time, even at the hour of our death.
    So Judas went and hanged himself.
    He never got to witness the resurrection!
    That is a tragedy in itself.
    As you say Father, the disposition of Judas is down to God – and He is infinitely merciful – so there is much hope for us all.

  7. fatherstephen says

    Christ’s statement, “It were better for that man that he were never born…” I take to be a statement of the terrible consequences of the moment, and not a statement regarding Judas’ eternal state. Many take it in this other fashion and begin to make very disturbing and perverse conclusions.

  8. MaryH says

    thank you for saying that last statement Father Stephen, I find it disturbing when people make assumptions that they know the place where certain individuals will spend eternity. I find it disturbing as well.

  9. says

    The proper risposte to Matthew 26:24 is provided in the Liturgy of St. Basil on Holy Thursday. Judas the son of Simon was the only disciple to not have seen the glorious Resurrection.

  10. says

    Henry,

    Perhaps this is not the right time to share this (there again, perhaps it is), researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities have suggested that the US political system including, its judicial system (cf. the Roe vrs Wade ruling) is oligarchic, meaning it represents the interests of corporations and business and professional associations, not all of which are benevolent (see news report on the Telegraph by Zachary Davies Boren published on 16 Apr 2014)

    It is the same sort of cultural milieu that drove the early Church desert fathers and mothers to seek the face of the Lord in simplicity. Not really news, but there you have it!

    Christ is Risen!

  11. Michael Bauman says

    The classic definition of money: a store if value and a medium of exchange leads into the treasure in heaven instruction. Money is entirely of the flesh and of this world. It is when we succumb to the idea of scarcity that love if money overtakes us and fear sets in. Yet when all that we experience seems to support the scarcity myth it is difficult to live abundantly.

    The admonision to “fear not for I have overcome the world” can be quite a stretch when you have no job or are otherwise in a bind that money would seem to fix and you don’t have enough.

    God forgive me, a sinner

  12. says

    Michael, if I may:

    See Revelation 3:18 – a profound exposition of what money is and what it is not.

    Christ is Risen!

  13. Anne says

    I feel sorry for Judas. Not only did he not see the Resurrection, but he did not repent and gain forgiveness, as far as we know. I hope he cried out to the Lord as he died. Surely the Church teaches us all sins can be forgiven!! He died knowing he had betrayed the Son of God, what a burden! I think he did it out of wounded pride, wanting to be a better man than he knew he was. The money was just an excuse. There was also a chance to be a big man with the powers that were with the Jews. When he saw how he’d been played, he threw the money down and went and hanged himself. Satan uses our desires against us like this all the time. Witness Peter denying Christ out of fear of capture. Can anyone really know what they would do?

  14. james says

    …I saw myself in the face of Judas,(& society,& America, & the world…) Lord have mercy, please Lord have mercy.