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Stewards: Judas- an ugly steward

By Charlie Osewalt | 9 May 2013

Stewardship Stewards Series- Judas


Judas: desire at the door

Whenever I meet new people I tend to get a little over excited, talk too loud, too fast and too much. So when I attended my first home fellowship group at the new church, I took plenty of deep breaths and told myself to listen.

Minutes into a discussion of the seven deadly sins, a primary school teacher spoke up.

“My students don’t sin.”

I violated my own rule, asking:

“When your students consciously choose a wrong behaviour, how do you address it? What happens when they misbehave in class?”

“Well, it’s like last week. I had a little boy who I was sure was taking another little boy’s crisps at lunch. This went on for two weeks. I asked him whether he was sure that he wasn’t taking the crisps, because maybe he was hungry or it was an accident. He denied it for about a week and a half, until, finally he admitted it was him. It turned out that his parents didn’t want him to have crisps at lunch, but he really wanted them, so he took them. He admitted his mistake, I spoke with his parents and now he has crisps at lunch. It ended up being a really good learning experience for everyone.”

“But isn’t this sin?” I asked. “Wasn’t the boy controlled by his desire?”

If we want to understand sin, then we could do worse than start by looking at the story of Cain and Abel, as told in Genesis 4:

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."

That word ‘crouching’ is an interesting one, and is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘röbëtz’.  It connotes an overwhelming desire, like a predator awaiting its prey.

Sin desires all of us. All of me. It starts on my outside, my door, and then enters and controls. I see the crisps and I want them, so I take them and then I keep on taking them. Once the desire has got in, I find it hard to stop. At some time in each of our lives, haven’t we all struggled to tame the overwhelming desires that take us further from God?

Sin - like the desire that accompanies it - always starts small, even when it grows big. While Judas ended up overwhelmed and overrun by evil intent, we can see the roots earlier on in his story, when (in John 12:4-7) he questions the anointing of Jesus by Mary with expensive perfume:

Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.

When Judas asks ‘why’, he is not interested in the rationale behind Jesus’ actions. He’s interested in the profit. He knew the cost of the perfume, but not its anointing value. Even further back in Luke 9 we read of how he heals the sick, preaches the kingdom and performs miracles. What changed?

Judas let sin crouch at his door and enter his heart. He let it master, control, and finally destroy him.He served his sin and betrayed Jesus, becoming an ugly steward in the process.

Perhaps Judas was fearful of living day by day, moment by moment and being materially poor. After all, fear can be a compelling motivator. It can freeze us from acting and hold us hostage. Yet that fear-induced inactivity can so easily control us.

Like so many of us, Judas failed to deal with the problem when it was in its infancy. What are the issues in our lives that need to be addressed? We can’t take the smallest bad desire for granted. If we do, the desire will take us.

The primary teacher and I disagreed on the whether to call it sin, but we could agree on this one thing; that in asking why the boy desired the crisps she was beginning the process of dealing with the issue.

Want to go deeper? You can download the PDF below for more:

Posted by Charlie Osewalt

Charles Osewalt is a husband, father of four children and former elder at Redeemer Church NYC. He has worked in schools for the last twenty years as principal in the Morrisanna section of the Bronx. He formerly worked as a content and curriculum specialist for Stewardship. He tweets at @charlesosewalt


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