Anatomy of an Addiction
Matthew 27:3-5 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver… saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And throwing down the pieces of silver… he went and hanged himself.
I thought I was done writing about Judas, but I realized he still had one story I needed to tell: the story of Judas’ addiction. In doing so, I am going to take some writer’s liberty, filling in the gaps with my personal knowledge of the flesh nature.
I doubt very much that Judas set out to betray the son of God to his death. I think Judas genuinely wanted to follow Jesus, but like all of us, he brought with him the defects of his flesh nature. When he came to Christ, those defects were not magically erased. Judas apparently, was addicted to money. He was the disciples’ treasurer and in John we are told that he routinely stole from their funds.
I imagine that he had some guilt the first time. He told himself, Just this once. I’ll pay it back and I’ll never do it again. I’m no thief. I just really need it right now… Then after, he felt awful. The guilt of what he had done was miserable. I swear, I will never do that again! But the remorse did not last. Soon Judas realized that he had gotten what he wanted and he had gotten away with it. No consequences. The misery and guilt faded.
The next time he needed money, it was easier. He told himself, I deserve this. I’ve sacrificed a lot for Jesus. Plus, He can pull money out of thin air if He wants. I need this more than He does. I’m not hurting anyone…
Soon, Judas was living off money stolen from Jesus’ ministry. The thing that had once seemed so abhorrent to him, just became routine. His conscience became calloused from the repeated insults and his web of lies prevented him from feeling wrong anymore.
But, as with any appetite of the flesh, it was never enough. He always needed more. So, one day, he struck up a foolproof scheme. The chief priests had money. He could fleece them out of a fortune to betray Christ, who could take care of himself. He was after all, the Son of God. Jesus would get arrested, save himself, show his power and Judas would get paid. Everyone wins.
Then everything went sideways. Jesus was arrested and condemned to death. Judas’ world came apart. He had sown the seeds of his own flesh and was about to reap the consequences. He finally saw himself for what he was, the monster who had betrayed Jesus to his death. In his overwhelming guilt and shame, he ended himself. He could see no other way out.
I do not tell Judas’ story this way to invoke sympathy. His story is a cautionary tale. He was a miserable figure who met a miserable end, but Judas did not set out to kill Jesus or himself. It started with an appetite, in which he indulged over and over until it owned him. By the end, Judas did not control his flesh nature. It controlled him, driving him to destruction.
The question is, How much Judas is in me? I am not speaking of betrayal. I am referring to the pursuit my own desires to destruction. Even small things can build to the point where they control me. Pride, lust, self, anger and affirmation are all addictions that can own me as surely as Judas’ greed. Am I justifying certain behavior? Have I become so comfortable with my defects that they no longer even bother me?
Judas abandoned Jesus for self. If I want to be Jesus’ disciple, I must abandon self daily and follow him.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.