September 30, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 22:1-6.
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, and the chief priests and scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve, and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them. They were pleased and agreed to pay him money. He accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd.
Power and money, a treacherous alliance accompanied by evil. Jesus gave us many warnings about the spiritual dangers of pursuing wealth and using it for our own gratification. The two things that Jesus most often characterized as enemies of the kingdom were the abuse of power and the selfish use of money because they were directly opposed to God’s will by elevating man’s will. We can’t both satisfy our selfish desires and our faithfulness to God’s command to love one another.
Luke ascribes Judas’ betrayal to Satan. However, Satan doesn’t forcibly possess us as we are creatures of God’s design. God in His love for us gave us the freedom to choose. Therein lies the drama of the human race and we are all players upon the stage. Conditions were ripe for evil to breed in the hearts of men as the Passover drew near. The chief priests were frightened and angry that their authority was being challenged. They had no intention of willingly giving up their power or their access to the temple treasury. Ironically, the money paid to Judas was probably drawn from the temple treasury, which had been donated by the very people whom the chief priests were frightened of because of their devotion to Jesus. Evil is attracted to evil. Satan saw his opportunity.
I like the was Barclay thinks of this event. He writes, “Just as God is ever looking for men to be his instruments, so is Satan. A man can be the instrument of good or of evil, of God or of the devil….But it remains true that Satan could not have entered into Judas unless Judas had opened the door. There is no handle of the outside of the door of the human heart. It must be opened from within. It is our own decision whether we will choose to be the instrument of Satan or a weapon in the hand of God. We can enlist in either service. God help us choose aright!”
I think that being in possession of power and money leads to choosing evil over good much of the time, choosing our selfish will over God’s will. That’s why Jesus spoke to this issue so often. We see the consequences in our own time so clearly. People in power who are corrupted by money. And wealthy people who corrupt politics and institutional systems to achieve their own ends, not in service to God’s demand for compassion and justice. But it’s not just the few who are powerful and/or wealthy. God gave each of us the freedom to choose whose instrument we want to be. It’s a perpetual contest within each of us and between us. Perhaps we have no power and little money. We do have the power to vote for people who choose to God’s instruments. We can be judicious in how we spend our money, purchasing products and services from companies that pay a living wage, that provide healthcare benefits, that have employment policies of inclusion and nondiscrimination, that protect our environment, that refuse to pay bribes in order to win business, that don’t produce weapons of death.
I want to be God’s instrument in all aspects of my life. I can be when I open the door to my heart to Him rather than to the devil. It’s my choice; that’s the choice that God gave me when He created me. His love and trust are amazing! Even when I let Him down, when I fail, He’s ready to enter again when I open the door to Him. In the face of that love, why do I sometimes turn away like Judas? Because I want what I want, not what God wants. We’re all the same. We’re sometimes willing to turn Jesus over to the powerful and wealthy.