Now even though John records in John 12:6, Judas’ disdain for Mary’s actions were primarily motivated by monetary greed, there is another way to engage in action towards the poor for selfish gain and that is with the motive of self-exaltation. There’s nothing wrong at all about what has been called mercy ministry, but according to 1 Cor. 13, if it’s not done out of love, as defined in that text, then it’s worthless in God’s eyes.

We must be discerning in this realm because it’s very possible that so-called ministry done to the poor is for self-exalting reasons. There are Judas-type people all over the place under the umbrella of Christianity and they don’t have a love for Christ. Instead, they have a love for being esteemed for their generosity to the poor and the pleasant feeling that charity affords them. At this point, we should think of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who, for all appearances sake, gave like everyone else, but God exposed their self-exalting motives and they paid the consequences.

In addition to that, there are many more who make outward movements towards Jesus, such as coming around the body of Christ or even listening to sermons, but do it for personal gain, even if that gain is trying to please someone who has sought to persuade them to do those things. In Acts 24:26 Luke records that the governor Felix would invite the imprisoned Apostle Paul to speak before him often. Luke also records that Felix did this because he hoped Paul would pay him money to release him from prison. That being said, what would be the assessment of those looking upon these occasions of Felix summoning Paul to hear him speak?—“Wow, Felix really loves the truth and perhaps is going to come to Christ.” That would be the opposite of the truth.

While we certainly do not want to be overly skeptical of what can be seen, neither do we want to lack discernment about the deceptiveness of the heart. The fruit of one’s life will tell us what is in the heart. The heart cannot be discerned by financial donations and church attendance since there could be personal gain involved with that, such as the praise of man. Rather, sacrificial love for Christ is the essential characteristic that, by default, abandons all selfish gain.