Character is of great value. Organizations want to harness the efforts of employees that have integrity and determination and trustworthiness. Society hinges upon people agreeing to do what is right. Most people would say they desire to have excellent character. But where does it come from? How is our character shaped? Consider the following quotation that comes from the last week of Jesus’ earthly work:
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair….But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:3-6)
This almost parenthetical comment by Judas Iscariot about Mary’s gift reveals an important truth. We do not see much about Judas’ interior life or character leading up to his making a deal to betray Jesus to the Jewish leaders. But that decision was not made in a vacuum. All the while, through the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, Judas cultivated a love for money that superseded his love for Jesus. Here it is revealed.
There was a misunderstanding among the disciples as to how Jesus would establish the Kingdom of God. Judas was not alone in thinking that Jesus might lead them to riches and earthly significance as his disciples—Peter much more famously got rebuked for that! (Matthew 16:21-23) As his earthly ministry drew near its completion, Jesus assured his followers that He would suffer, and so would they. When it became clear that following Jesus was not trending toward earthly wealth and position, Judas had to make a decision: do I love Jesus or money more? Judas decided there was more tangible benefit in the money—and so became the most famous traitor in human history.
Judas’ unspeakable act of betrayal began with dishonesty in small things. The common purse of the disciples was likely never very large, and so the sums which Judas pilfered from it were probably likewise not much. However, Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10).
We face the same opportunities and temptations. Each of us has a series of little acts of obedience to choose to do every day. We are tempted in them because they are little, and seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. However, this insight into Judas helps us to see that our little acts of disobedience or obedience are cultivating our character. It is precisely in these little moments that we prepare for the defining ones. Does your present station seem little or unimportant? There is no such thing as a big responsibility to God. Be faithful in what He gives you today, and entrust those defining moments to God. His timing is perfect, and God says He will exalt His people in due time – even if it comes after He comes again.