We see this logic play out before us every day. The end justifies the means. In other words, as long as the end goal is achieved it doesn’t matter how we achieve it. This is not only unethical thinking but leads to immoral behavior. One of the clearest examples we see is in politics. As long as my candidate wins the election it doesn’t matter how he or she does it. If we need to cheat so the candidate can win, we cheat. If we need to trash the good name of our opponent to win, we trash away. If we need to lie to win, we lie.
This convoluted thinking is not only seen in politics. We see it all the time in business, in the church, and even in families. In business we may lie, steal, or cheat as long as we make the sale and get the money. In the church we see leaders justify everything from sexual abuse, to embezzling funds, to hiring unneeded staff, to building unnecessary facilities. The unethical or immoral nature of the decision is rationalized with “the Lord told me” or “it was God’s will.” Have you noticed that God gets blamed for a lot of things! In the family, we hear “little white lies” told to cover up the real reason. BTW there is no such thing as a little white lie. All lying is a sin. “I told them I wasn’t feeling well because I didn’t want to go to that family function because Uncle Bert will be there and he and I don’t get along” (for example).
Does the Bible say anything about the end justifying the means? You bet it does! Second Chronicles 16 presents a clear example of God’s response to the end justifying the means. In this chapter, Baasha, King of Israel, is building a fortified city to prevent people from going from Israel to Judah. King Asa of Judah runs to Ben-hadad of Syria to bribe him to attack Israel to stop Baasha’s building project. Asa gives Ben-hadad silver and gold and then manipulates him by reminding him of the covenant connections between their fathers. Ben-hadad buys Asa’s tactics and attacks Israel. Baasha has to stop his building project to divert troops to fight against Ben-hadad and the Syrian army. Asa wins! It would seem that the means justified the end. Asa got the building project stopped and gained an ally in Ben-hadad in the process.
God, however, had a different view of what took place. Hanani, the prophet, came to Asa and declared, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram (Syria) and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand . . . You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). The end did not justify the means. It seldom does.
For Christians, salvation is a glorious end but we must not use manipulation or lies as a means to save people. We are to be people who are “above reproach.” Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:15 as he exhorts Christians to live, “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” That’s our calling as believers. We are to “appear as lights in the world” calling the lost out of darkness into His glorious light.