It’s All for the Best!

Stephen Schwartz’ 1971 musical “Godspell” featured a duet for Judas and Jesus called “It’s All For the Best” (performed on the top of the World Trade Center Towers in that youtube clip). Schwartz composed a clever play on words in which Judas and Jesus use the same phrase with opposite meanings. Judas means that he thinks elites (like himself) are entitled to have everything, while Jesus is just asserting that things will work out OK in the end, for both the proletariat and for the elites, if they want. “Godspell” the musical is based on Matthew, but in the original Godspell of John (“Godspell” is an archaic spelling of “Gospel”), ch. 12, there is a real dialog between Judas and Jesus which has some interesting parallels to the dialog written by Schwartz.
The setup is, a woman anoints Jesus’ feet with expense perfume. Judas sanctimoniously objects, that the perfume should have been sold, and the money given to the poor. The narrator tells us straight out: “he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” Like so many other politicians before and since, Judas disguised his own appetite for money, and especially for power, behind a mask of feigned compassion for the poor. In this line, he is asserting that the money and the power (to take the money from the woman on the pretext of planning to give it to the poor) should not belong to that woman. She is one of the worst among us, and she doesn’t even have the sense to manage her own resources rationally, he thinks. Those resources, and the power to manage them, should be for the best among us, and, conveniently, here I am. I can take care of that for you.
But Jesus isn’t buying it. He says to Judas, “Leave her alone”. As a follower of Jesus myself, I hope that I will do a better job than Judas did at understanding and following his advice about resource management, including the parts about being generous myself but leaving other people alone instead of lusting after their money. I feel free to embrace that advice because of my confidence that Jesus himself had no shortage of compassion for the proletariat, including the poor.

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