The Greed of Judas

Happy Holy Wednesday, aka Spy Wednesday!

So, why is it called spy? For a while, I thought that there must be some sort special Latin word that I didn’t know about called “spy.” After all, it couldn’t mean the actual English word, spy, which conjured images in my mind of James Bond, John le Carre novels, and Spy vs. Spy. But no! It is actually called spy because this day is named after Judas, of all people!

Take a look at the gospel reading of the day:

So, it is greed that does Judas in, alas!

One of my favorite artworks of Judas is this one, by James Tissot. Take a look at it!

Judas Goes to Find the Jews, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States. Via
Judas Goes to Find the Jews, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

What immediately catches my eye is the well-dressed man in yellow and gray who is looking suspiciously behind his shoulder. Mind you, he looks like a sneaky man and a very possible contender for Judas, since he is in the foreground, and especially since there are people right over his shoulder who are craning to look toward him.

But that is not Judas!

Instead, Judas is the man in shabby clothes with a receding hairline, gesticulating wildly to the men in front of him who listen to him with curiosity. He looks perfectly ordinary — poor, even — and, were it not for the suspicious stranger giving serious side-eye to Judas, the scene would look positively banal.

Now, there are a lot of people that try to make Judas out as this larger than life supervillain. And that makes sense. After all, Judas betrayed Jesus! That’s horrible! He couldn’t have betrayed Jesus just because he was a bit greedy, right? Greed isn’t even considered the deadliest sin — that belongs to pride, which is what Peter was guilty of! That greed must have been something out of this world for him to be so horrible!

And that’s why I love this work: it humanizes Judas in such a way that it makes him an ordinary man. Which he was.

And that fact that he was an ordinary man should give us shivers down our spine.

When we think of greed, we like to think of Wall Street fat cats and people who already have amassed large stocks of money and are continuing to amass even more money as being greedy. After all, these people have more than enough to survive and then some, and yet they continue to work so they can have even more money. That’s why my eye — and possibly yours as well — was drawn immediately to the suspicious stranger who was well-dressed, and not the man with shabby clothes gesticulating wildly, as the possible contender for Judas.

Frankly? Judas looks pathetic and very ordinary.

And yet, at this moment, his greed has consumed him to the point where he would gladly give up Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”

In the case of Judas, he was already poor — after all, he was a disciple of Jesus, and being a disciple of Jesus was not a money-making opportunity. He had enough to survive and to continue being a disciple of Jesus — that was all. And that was supposed to be enough.

But it wasn’t. Not for Judas. His betrayal of Jesus was prompted by the sin of greed was trading a tiny bit more material wealth — thirty pieces of silver — for God Himself.

Which begs the question… what are we willing to trade God for?


Dear Jesus,

Help us realize that Your Love is enough for us.


Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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