Sermon Scribbles (take two): The Judas Principle


“But Judas Iscariot, one of [Jesus’] disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’” – John 12:4-5

Here’s the thing about preaching, some weeks you have to really work to figure out how to preach a text, other weeks it comes to you quickly, then there are the occasional weeks where you get too many ideas to preach and not enough sermons. This is one of those weeks.

I call this the Judas Principle. I’ve long been fascinated by it. In the text Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with costly oil. At this sight Judas objects noting that the oil could be sold for a great sum and the money given to the poor. Sounds good, right? Who doesn’t want to help the poor? Well, John continues with a little editorial comment informing us that Judas really wasn’t interested in helping the poor at all, he was a thief and had his eyes on a pretty big score.

What I find interesting about this is how deeply it resonates with my own lived experience. In every church I’ve ever been in there’s always debate about money. It’s a normal natural thing. Having a church and doing ministry costs money. What I’ve noticed, and you may have noticed this too, is that not everyone always agrees with how monies are spent. Just about everyone can identify some form of spending in their church that they believe to be frivolous. Now, when they voice their dissatisfaction what do you think I almost invariably hear them say? That’s right, why are we wasting money in this way…it could go to help people in need. Mind you, these folks may not really be concerned about those in need…shoot they may have never before uttered a word about helping the poor and needy; but now, in the face of an expenditure they don’t like all of a sudden they’re Mother Teresa.

Now to be sure I’m not calling these folks thieves; I have no doubt I myself have proved the Judas principle a time or two and you probably have too. What I am saying is all to often we simply aren’t honest with ourselves and others that their might be church and ministry expenses that may well be fine and good we just don’t like them…we need to own that. All too often we can’t be honest with ourselves and others, we can’t own our own biases and dislikes, and instead we shuffle or own shortcomings onto the poor…and Lord knows they don’t need anything else heaped upon them.
In place of the Judas Principle try to bear in mind that the mystery of Christ, his church, and the ministry done is larger than you. Some things will be done that you like and others that you don’t like; some things will come easy for you and others will challenge you. Through it all though Jesus is Lord.


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