One of the most tragic stories in the Bible is that of Judas Iscariot. This man had a privilege that only 11 other people in all the history of the world have had: to have been with Jesus all that time and to have learned eternal truths directly from the Master Himself. How sad that many people who never had anything remotely like the opportunities that Judas had will be saved, while Judas, we know, is now destined for eternal destruction.
What happened? The answer can be found in one word: covetousness, the desires of his heart.
Read John 12:1-8. What did Mary do that attracted so much attention during the feast? How did Judas react? Why? What was Jesus’ response?
The Savior’s gentle rebuke to Judas’ covetous remark led him to leave the feast and go directly to the palace of the high priest, where Jesus’ enemies were gathered. He offered to betray Jesus into their hands for a sum much smaller than Mary’s gift. (See Matthew 26:14-16)
What happened to Judas? Having had so many wonderful opportunities, so many rare privileges, why would he do something so evil? According to Ellen G. White, Judas “loved the Great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus. The Saviour did not repulse Judas. He gave him a place among the twelve. He trusted him to do the work of an evangelist. He endowed him with power to heal the sick and to cast out devils. But Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully to Christ.” — The Desire of Ages, p. 717.
In the end, we all have character defects that, if surrendered, can be overcome through the power of God working in us. But Judas did not fully surrender to Christ, and the sin of covetousness, which he could have overcome in the power of Christ, overcame him instead, with tragic results.
Who among us doesn’t struggle with covetousness over one thing or another? In this case, what he coveted was money, and that covetousness, a problem of the heart, led him to stealing (John 12:6), which ultimately led him to betray Jesus.
What a frightful lesson for all of us about the danger that covetousness can bring. What seems like a small thing, a simple desire of the heart, can lead to calamity and to eternal loss.