Read: John 12
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:8, NLT)
To call someone a “Judas” is to label them a betrayer of the worst kind. It is an accusation that is reserved only for the worst kind of relational offense, since to call another Judas usually implies an irreparable breach in the relationship. After all, who wants to have anything to do with a backstabbing betrayer?
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, is an act that will forever live in infamy. But what Judas did to Jesus didn’t make him evil, it only revealed the evil that had, like cancer, been eating away at his character for a long time. The fact is, in Jesus’ own words, “one of you [disciples] is a devil!” (John 6:70). That is, Judas was a devil of the worst kind: a church-going one. As Joseph Hall has said, “No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil.”
As you might imagine of someone who would betray the Lord, this notorious disciple exhibited some other character flaws that mostly go unnoticed in light of his more famous sin. In this account here in John 12, we are told that Judas protested Mary’s act of anointing Jesus with expensive perfume because it could have fetched a handsome price at the market, and money from the sale could have been used to help the poor. Of course, Judas had a hidden motive. Since he was treasurer for this small band of disciples, he apparently dipped his hand in the till from time to time to fund his own needs. Judas was not only a betrayer, but according to John he was also a thief.
Yet as the Gospels are prone to do, there is another side to Judas that is uncomfortably close to so many people who sit beside you every Sunday in the pews of your church. They are the ones who, like clockwork, criticize everything from the room temperature to the sound level to the length and content of the sermon to the unfriendliness of the people to the call for financial commitment, ad nauseam. No matter what, they are never satisfied; there is always a better alternative—and although they are quick to protest, their solutions are never quite clear or doable. In truth, rather than wanting change, they simply want to gripe. They may smile and sing and put a coin or two in the offering plate, yet they are unwitting tools of Satan. The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth was speaking of them when he said, “The devil may also make use of morality.” They are very spiritual devils!
It wasn’t only Judas that Jesus had in mind when he uttered this gentle but pointed rebuke, “for the poor you have always”, he was speaking to the legion of church folk who believe their gift to the church is the ministry of criticism. In truth, their chronic criticism betrays a deeper agenda and uglier issues of character.
Don’t get me wrong—constructive criticism is not a bad thing, if offered in the right spirit, and conflict that is resolved Biblically and in a Christ-like spirit can actually strengthen the church. It is chronic criticizers that I am talking about. In truth, they suffer from the Judas Syndrome: not betrayal, not thievery, but destructive criticism is their sin.
So here’s the deal: If you have to be around someone who suffers this sort of Judas Syndrome, lovingly confront them, as Jesus did. If they don’t see their sin and change their ways, establish some boundaries with them. Don’t let them poison you and cripple your church.
And most of all, don’t be one! Just remember, no one has ever built a statue to a betrayer, a thief, or a critic.
“The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one.” ~C.S. Lewis
What If God Took Over?
Are you guilty of covering your own character flaws and deflecting Holy Spirit conviction meant for you with destructive criticism of others? If so, you may be guilty of the Judas Syndrome. Ask the Lord to show you where you need personal reformation. Then ask him to give you the courage to deal with issues that are keeping you from greater obedience and usefulness to him.