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Jesus put a thief in charge of his moneybag. Has that ever struck you as odd?
Last week we focused on Mary, who poured a year’s wages on Jesus’s feet, and Judas, who saw Mary’s worshipful act as huge waste, because “he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).
But this fact raises the question: Why was Judas carrying the moneybag in the first place?
Jesus could have given the moneybag to Nathaniel, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there [was] no deceit” (John 1:47), or to John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), or to Levi, who had extensive financial experience (Luke 5:27). But he didn’t. Jesus chose Judas to be the treasurer of his itinerant nonprofit.
One is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship. Donors were supporting this ministry financially (Luke 8:3), and Jesus appointed the one guy he knew was a “devil” (John 6:70) to manage the money. But this was not poor judgment on Jesus’s part. It was deliberate; Jesus knew Judas was pilfering. Why did Jesus allow it?
Putting Jesus’s Money Where His Mouth Was
I believe Jesus was putting his money where his mouth was.
Jesus had said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where . . . thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19–20). In letting Judas carry the moneybag, Jesus showed us by example what he meant.
Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). In Judas, Jesus showed us the heart-hardening, heart-blinding, heartbreaking end of treasuring the wrong thing.
And Jesus had said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). In Judas, Jesus showed us an alarming example of what loving money and hating God can look like.
What Is So Unnerving About Judas
Shockingly, for quite a while loving money and hating God can actually look to others like devotion to God. This is what is unnerving about Judas.
For a long time, Judas’s reputation was as a student and close companion of Jesus. Judas lived with Jesus and the other eleven disciples for the better part of three years. He traveled long, dusty roads with these missionary comrades. He ate with them, sat around evening fires with them talking about the kingdom of God, and he prayed with them. He heard more of Jesus’s sermons than almost anybody. He received personal instruction from Jesus. He witnessed Jesus’s incredible miracles and saw the Father provide for their needs over and over again.
All during the time Judas was part of the Twelve, he mostly said and outwardly performed the right things. It’s astonishing that none of Judas’s fellow disciples perceived his deceitfulness. Even when Jesus finally sent Judas off to carry out his betrayal, the others didn’t seem to suspect him (John 13:28–29). It was a stunning and grievous blow to them all when in the end he sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
Judas’s masquerade is a lesson for us. Wolves can look and sound almost exactly like sheep. And sometimes Jesus, for his own reasons, allows the disguised wolves to live among the sheep for a long time and do great damage before their deception is exposed. When this happens, we must trust that the Lord knows what he’s doing. Judas reminds us that even ravaging wolves have a part to play in the drama of redemptive history.
What Not to Trust
But in knowingly giving dishonest Judas the moneybag, Jesus specifically modeled for us where not to put our trust: money. Jesus trusted his Father, not money, to provide everything he needed to fulfill his calling. He slept in peace every night, knowing that Judas was embezzling.
Judas, on the other hand, became the archetypal model of 1 Timothy 6:10: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” In Judas’s example, Jesus warns us that the love of money can be so deceptive that we can wander to the point where we are willing to sell eternal Treasure for a handful of coins. The seductive power of wealth must make us tremble.
Not all parts of this story have direct application for us. Jesus doesn’t intend for us to follow his example in appointing thieves as treasurers. Only God is wise enough to do that.
But Jesus does intend for us to follow his example in seeking the kingdom first, believing that all we need will be given to us by our Father (Matthew 6:33). His word to us is “fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Our Father can easily out-give what any thief can steal.