It has been said that money makes the world go ’round. It has also been said that the most sensitive nerve in the body is the one attached to the wallet. And it has also been said that every man has his price (excuse the non-inclusive language). It has also been said that when investigating anything shady, to follow the money.
Motivations are not always simple, when money is involved—but when money is involved, the money is inevitably part of the motivations. It may be as noble as wanting to feed one’s family or get an education; it may be the opposite of noble when it involves one “getting” at the expense of someone else, or “selling out” one’s integrity to do it.
It is not clear exactly what Judas’s motivations were for betraying Jesus. It seems that he was the treasurer for the disciples, and he called into question some of the ways that Jesus seemed to value money (see Matthew 26:6-16). Judas also was identified as a Zealot—one of the group of people who favored armed rebellion against the Romans who ruled over them—so maybe he was trying to force Jesus to finally start that rebellion when encountered by soldiers from the government in the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe it was some combination of the two things. But the money probably contributed to the decision. And, as Matthew 27 recounts, he came to regret it, desperately.
Decisions motivated primarily by money are often regrettable decisions, which may be realized when the fallout from them occurs. Decisions resulting from needing money can also bring regret, as the cost ends up being larger than the profit when that fallout happens. Who we are, and who Jesus calls us to be, can get warped by money having too high a priority. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy about this: “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). It’s not money itself, it is the LOVE of money, and misplacing its importance. It is trusting in its power more than the power of God.
Thanks be to God that the power of God—the power of love—proved to be more powerful than the power of money, in the aftermath of Judas’s decision.
GOSPEL Matthew 26:6-16; 27:1-10
6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? 9 For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ 5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ 7 After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’