A Pastor's Ponderings: Do the Ends Justify the Means?
The “ends” in this cliché represent a good outcome, while the “means” refer to the method or actions used to achieve the desired result. When a person says, “the ends justify the means,” this implies that a noble enough outcome justifies whatever measures taken to achieve the objective. The Bible teaches the exact opposite approach. For instance, the Apostle Paul vehemently denied following this godless way of thinking.
“And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” (Romans 3:8).
Paul never encouraged anyone to do wrong so long as good followed. Godly decisions are determined by what we do and how we do it. Does God care only about what we accomplish for him, not how we achieve it, or do the means and the outcome concern him? God doesn’t just want us to achieve a good outcome regardless of cost. He wants us to bring glory to him in how that good materializes.
When we strategize independently of God, we rob him of his rightful place. Interestingly, God may lead us to do the very thing we were going to do on our own, but when we do it without God’s leading, our self-reliance becomes sinful.
It is essential to recognize that achieving a good idea is not necessarily God’s design. The path God desires for each person to take is the path where he is the pilot. God’s work must be done God’s way. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., once famously said, “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” Oh, if this could be the world’s mantra or, at a minimum, the church’s protocol.
Two biblical points encapsulate these truths:
(1) God rewards only those who endeavor to live, work and function biblically. “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:5).
(2) God expects us to keep our passions under control so that all the good we have does not end up being for nothing.
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
History reveals some horrid examples of things done in the name of God and religion. The means used to bring about religion’s goal of converting others to their way of thinking at all costs has no basis in scripture and no place in societies. Some religions have lied, cheated and even killed to accomplish their goal of converting people. Just like God never sanctioned this behavior in the religious sphere, He never approves this methodology in our everyday lives. Small immoralities are wrong even when used to achieve larger moralities.
The problem with the “ends justify the means” philosophy is that it puts the standards of morality into the hands of human beings and makes right and wrong subjective based on outcomes. The Bible warns against this repeatedly:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
The ends-justify-the-means philosophy offers an excuse to do something we know is wrong when we view good outcomes as the pinnacle of success. Yet, true success must never be measured by results alone. Let each person endeavor to do right and live right so we may ask God’s blessing upon our every undertaking.