Self-sufficiency is society’s default modus operandi, isn’t it? By nature or nurture, we seem wired to live that model. Yet the Bible tells us to do otherwise.
It’s Lent. I’m not good at giving up something for Lent. I’d like to think that’s because so much was taken away from me eight years ago: health, home, family, finances. But, if I’m honest with myself, my response to those losses makes me want to hang onto what I still have.
Even control over eating chocolate when I want to—including during Lent.
Control is a cloak for self-sufficiency, and self-sufficiency is a symptom of pride.
That led me to think about other examples of self-sufficiency. Like Judas.
(What?! Judas is “case closed.” Why would you even talk about him?)
Hear me out. His story wouldn’t be in the Bible unless God could use it to teach us something besides “don’t betray your Savior.”
Self-sufficiency in disguise
Judas kept the money bag for the disciples. Imagine someone good with finances and figures folded in to an enterprise with no guaranteed income. How often was the bag nearly empty? It’s not a stretch to understand (but not condone) why Judas would slip some of its shekels into his own pocket and rationalize it as self-preservation.
But here’s what’s most telling. In the first part of John 12, Jesus and His disciples have dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The same Lazarus Jesus had raised from the dead. Mary is so grateful that she pours a whole pint of undiluted nard on Jesus’ feet.
The full-powered, earthy, musky scent must have permeated the house and everyone’s clothes for days afterwards. Judas’ response to Mary is, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”
That was Judas, always crunching numbers. And putting on a good show of feigned concern about the poor. A denarius was one day’s wage. Three hundred denarii translated to one hundred shekels—more than three times the silver Judas would accept as payment to betray Jesus.
Jesus tells Judas to let Mary do her thing because she’s preparing Him for His burial. In the next paragraph, we learn the priests’ hunt for Jesus extends to Lazarus as well. The priests want to kill the man Jesus raised from the dead. They really want dead people to stay dead—because dead people who come alive again draw people to Jesus.
Where is my focus? On “dead” things like money or a raised-from-the-dead Savior?
Hold that thought while we return to Judas and his self-sufficiency.
Biggest strength = biggest weakness
What made Judas good at what he did was also his biggest stumbling block. I imagine he worried about money all the time. Jesus’ lack of worry—especially His “do not worry” portion of the Sermon on the Mount—must have grated against Judas. I can almost hear him mutter, “We need money to survive. Yet we’re not working for wages. Doesn’t the Master get that?”
Jesus spent more time talking about “do not worry” than any other subject in the Sermon on the Mount. He spent five verses on the Lord’s Prayer. Eight verses on all the “blessed are you’s.” TEN verses on do not worry.
Why? “Do not worry” has a tough time sinking from the head to the heart. It often gets stuck on our self-sufficiency.
It didn’t sink in with Judas, either. He couldn’t reconcile that message with money or the way Jesus conducted Himself. Like others, Judas wanted to see a reigning Messiah; but Jesus showed no hint of fulfilling that role.
Here’s where some people go off the deep end with “Judas never had a chance. His inescapable role in history was to betray Jesus.” That argument stems from John 13:27, which says “Satan entered into” Judas during the Last Supper.
If Judas suddenly became a puppet or never had a chance to begin with, then Paul was wrong in writing 1 Corinthians 10:13 (BSB):
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it.
Hear me: that word “seize” does not mean “overtake” (although it’s translated that way sometimes). “Overtake” sounds passive, like someone jumped you from behind and you had no control over it. Paul used an active Greek word instead—one that means to aggressively, volitionally, accept what’s offered.
Self-sufficiency with a side order of lies
What lie did Judas grab hold of?
A lie that satisfied his desire to do things his way. A lie his mind had rehearsed for a long time. Get Jesus in front of the priests so He can realize the folly of His current actions. When confronted, He’ll rise to be the king He’s expected and destined to be. Jesus will reveal His deity and show everyone once and for all who He is.
So Judas thought.
Praise the Lord Most High that He had a better plan!
Lord, I don’t want to be self-sufficient. It may feel good in the moment, but it’s disastrous in the long term. When I lean in that direction, pull me up short. Remind me of Your all-sufficiency. Show me in whatever way You need to that the best place to be is totally dependent upon You.
What are your thoughts about self-sufficiency? Share them in the comments!
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All Sufficient God by SOJhouse Films
Enough by Jeremy Camp