Church on the Net Church on the Net

Today: Friday, March 24, 2017


A worthless bag of money

First published 19 Mar 2017

Money, sex and power are reckoned to be the three great universal temptations.  Sometimes they all go together. Having or not having any one of them can be a problem. They can, of course, be great gifts, but they can all too easily be abused.

In the record of Jesus' last days, sex is not an obvious issue, despite what some film makers and some sensationalist writers have tried to imagine.  But money and power do feature strongly.

We do not know exactly what motivated Judas Iscariot, one of the closest of the followers of Jesus, to betray him, leading to his arrest and execution. It may have been a desire to force Jesus' hand, to manipulate events in the way he thought would be best - not so much an act of treachery, but an exercise of power.  And money came into it too, perhaps blinding him to the possible consequences of his actions.

The phrase "to sell someone for thirty pieces of silver" - which is what Judas did to Jesus (see Matthew 26, verses 14-16) has come to represent the most heartless and selfish act of betrayal anyone could commit.  But there are other forms of betrayal - when we let someone down, when we fail to live up to our own standards, when fear or greed make us act in ways that make us feel ashamed.

But there is another possibility.  I once met a most impressive man in Eastern Europe, who in his early years as a young minister in the church, had refused to betray a colleague to the communist authorities. The pressure on him must have been enormous, because the penalty was six years imprisonment, some of it in solitary confinement, some of it with hard labour, and all of it totally isolated from his wife and new-born daughter. It was a heavy price, but he emerged as a great church leader.

The bag of money which Judas received for his betrayal, and which he later threw down in an act of anguished repentance, could symbolise not so much our own failures and weakness in the face of temptation, but our resolve to stand firm for things that matter, to resist pressure to compromise, to be ready to put ourselves at risk.

Money, sex and power can produce huge blessings and also great responsibilities.  They can also produce some very powerful and subtle temptations that may test our resolve to the limit. That's why all the more we need God's help, and the awareness of Jesus standing alongside us, to help us to resist and overcome.

Comment on this article
Sign up to get a summary of the weekly message sent to your email inbox every Sunday.

Lord, forgive my acts of betrayal, and every way in which I have made life harder for anyone. Give me courage to follow Jesus, to stand firm in face of opposition, to hold on to what is right and true, and in the end to stand before you, forgiven and made whole, through Jesus.

  Site map
Copyright © 2007 Church On the Net