The Judas Syndrome

John 12 tells us the story of Mary who took a jar of expensive perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet, then wiped His feet with her hair. It’s a beautiful picture, and a fitting tribute to her Savior.

But it’s the reaction of Judas that I want to point out to you.

“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“‘Leave her alone, Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me’” (emphasis added).

I’m calling that attitude the Judas Syndrome: “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

How many times have you heard someone pray that they would win the lottery, trying to improve their chances by claiming, “If I win I’ll give the money to the church”? Or you may hear of someone giving money to a charity, expecting they will be blessed by God and receive even more money in return? 

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking. First, as Jesus told the Devil in the desert, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” This refers to a time recounted in Exodus 17 when the Israelites were grumbling and complaining against God—again—because they were short on water. They had quickly forgotten that God had supplied both water and food for them before. And He did so again this time, not because of their complaining, but because He is faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, because he cannot disown himself,” or as another version puts it, “he cannot deny who he is.”

So, on the one hand, God may very well “let” you win the lottery or receive some other financial windfall. Sometimes He does it just because He is good. Sometimes He does it because you have a genuine need that the windfall will solve. I cannot tell you how many times throughout my life I have brought a financial need to the Lord, and within days I have gotten an unexpected refund check or bonus that was literally within pennies of the needed amount. It does happen; God does do that.


You need to be very, very careful of your motives when asking God for a financial blessing. You see, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Jeremiah also explains, “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 19:10).

Is it wrong to ask for money so you can support some mission endeavor? No. Not at all. The problem comes when you ask with wrong motives—meaning you really intend to spend the money on yourself and may, or may not, actually give any to the Lord’s work. God is not mocked. James explains, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

So let’s say you have asked God to let you win the lottery so you can give the winnings to His work—and you win. Then you proudly go to your church or local mission agency and give them a “big” check (maybe even as much as 10% of your winnings). And you tell the person, “Look, God let me win the lottery, and I’m giving all my winnings back to the Lord!”

Ah, is God mocked? I hardly need remind you of the story of Ananias and Sapphira recounted in Acts 5. That’s exactly what they did: they gave part—which was entirely within their right—but they claimed to have given all. That lie before both God and man cost both their lives. 

So how can you avoid suffering from the Judas Syndrome? Boldly ask God for what you need; but be honest. Be honest before God. Be honest before your fellow men. Be honest with yourself.

Leave a Comment