Do the ends justify the means with Donald Trump? That’s a pretty general question, so let’s tighten it up a bit. I was watching a BBC program called Hard Talk yesterday. The host (generally) has controversial figures from around the world and asks, obviously, hard questions.
Yesterday, the guest was Senator Lindsey Graham. The question to him was, do the ends justify the means when it comes to Donald Trump? The answer – yes. He said that Republicans may not like some of the things he does, but he gets good results. So yes – in Graham’s mind, and in many other minds – Trump’s means do justify the means.
So here’s my question. For a Christian, should the ends justify the means with Donald Trump? Notice, I wrote should, not do. Truth be told, for many Christians, Trump’s ends do justify the means. But should they?
The distinction is critical. It should matter to Christians, since we should be trying to live like Jesus taught us. Beyond that, the way we live also, for better or for worse, is an example to others that they use to judge Christianity. Like when we, as the image indicates, cover up sense with nonsense. The kind of nonsense that says Trump’s ends do justify his means.
Where in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, do we ever read that? Hint – we don’t. Maybe we convince ourselves it’s in there. But really, it’s not.
Do people really look at how Christians live and act?
I almost wrote that heading as “do non-Christians” really look at how Christians live and act. Then I realized, other Christians look. I look. And it makes me sad. Sad about how far from Jesus’ teachings so many of us are. It makes me worried too. Worried about how many of those who think they’re going to be welcomed into Heaven aren’t going to hear what they expect. Instead of “well done good and faithful servant”, will they hear “I never knew you”?
Let me just put the two relevant passages below, and then we’ll get to the points of the ends justifying the means. I want to do this first though, to show the importance of knowing the difference between what Jesus taught and how Christians sometimes (often?) act.
well done good and faithful servant
25:14-30 Ref—Lk 19:12-27
Mt 25:14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
Mt 25:19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
Mt 25:21 “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Mt 25:22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
Mt 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Mt 25:24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
Mt 25:26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Mt 25:28 “ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Two of the three heard Jesus tell them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
The third was surprised to hear, along with others in the same situation, ‘throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
I never know you
To me, these are the three scariest words in the Bible.
Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
So – do you think it matters whether we Christians follow what Jesus taught? If you didn’t answer yes, may I pray for you?
The ends and the means with Rahab
I know I referenced the New Testament above, but let’s look at an example from the Old Testament. It’s one that is pointed to as an example of how the ends can justify the means. However, after we read it, we’re also going to turn to the New Testament to see what it should mean to Christians. Remember, the Old Testament was very much a sin and then make a sacrifice world. But that wasn’t what God had in mind. Hold on to that thought as we look at what happened with Rahab.
This was after the Exodus, after the death of Moses, just before the Israelites were to enter the Promised Land.
Jos 2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Jos 2:2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
There was some really good intelligence back then. From God, for the Israelites. From themselves in the case of the people living in Jericho. Although, we cannot overlook the reality that God wanted them to know what was going on, so that what was about to happen would bring glory to Him.
In any case, the king of Jericho knows the men went to see Rahab.
Jos 2:4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
So there was a good result. Rahab sent the king’s men off on a wild goose chase. However, she lied. Did the ends, saving the men – justify the means, lying?
For completeness and context, here’s the rest of the passage.
Jos 2:8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”
Jos 2:14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.”
Jos 2:15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 Now she had said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
Jos 2:17 The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
Jos 2:21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
Jos 2:22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”
Did the ends justify the means with Rahab?
So what do you think? Rahab lied to the king’s men. But she saved the day for the Israelites. Did the ends justify the means? Some say yes. Others say no. Many probably are in the “don’t know” category.
The problem with that for Christians is that we really should know. And if we don’t already, we should be able to go back to the Bible to learn. To know whether the ends justified the means. To know whether it’s OK to lie. And then, being the people that we are, we’ll probably try to split hairs and find an excuse as to why this one lie is OK, while others are not.
Rahab – the ends justify the means – arguments in favor
There were, as we saw, some good outcomes from the lie. The Israelite men lived and returned to deliver the news to Joshua. Rahab lived. But does that mean lying was OK?
Rahab in the New Testament
As I said, Christians really need to look to the New Testament, even for Old Testament events, to see how we should view them. Rahab is mentioned only three times in the New Testament, so it’s not really that much work to check them all out.
1st instance of Rahab in New Testament
1:1-17 pp — Lk 3:23-38
1:3-6 pp — Ru 4:18-22
1:7-11 pp — 1Ch 3:10-17
Mt 1:1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Yes, Rahab is part of the genealogy of Jesus. She’s one of His ancestors. I’m only going to include the first portion of this passage, since it’s all that really required.
Mt 1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
And there she is, in verse 5. However, before we get too excited about the possible implications of including Rahab in this ancestral list, we must remember that some of these people were far from outstanding folks. Being included here is a matter of biological kinship. People are included for that fact alone. Some were “good” people. Others were not.
2nd instance of Rahab in New Testament
The second occurrence is in Hebrews. It’s a discussion of people who are renowned for their faith.
However – and this is one huge “however” – they were far from perfect. I’ll note some of the issues as we go through the passage. What we’ll see is that there is a difference between faith and praiseworthy deeds.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Note the distinction here. Not everything they did. Just for their faith.
Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Ah yes, Noah. For sure, he had faith. And yet look what happened after the flood …
Ge 9:18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.
Ge 9:20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
Ge 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”
Ge 9:26 He also said,
“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
Ge 9:27 May God extend the territory of Japheth;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his slave.”
Ge 9:28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.
Oops. Whether it be Noah or Shem, there’s a bit of a problem here, don’t you think? Hardly behavior fitting of God’s standard.
Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Heb 11:11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Abraham – often referred to as the father of the faith. Both Judaism and Christianity. And yet, among a number of issues with Abraham (and before his name change from Abram) we read the following …
20:1-18 Ref—Ge 12:10-20; 26:1-11
Ge 20:1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
Ge 20:3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
Ge 20:4 Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
Ge 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
Ge 20:8 Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.” 10 And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
Ge 20:11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ’ ”
Ge 20:14 Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
Ge 20:16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
Ge 20:17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, 18 for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
And if it wasn’t bad enough that this was Abraham/Abram’s second time with this same lie, we find out it happened again in Genesis 26. It was the same king – Abimelech – but this time the lie was perpetrated by Isaac, Abraham’s son! Like father like son?
In any case, if you want to see an example of fallen humans, check out Genesis. It’s full of this stuff. Maybe worse than a modern-day soap opera. Clearly, it wasn’t this type of behavior that God was rewarding. No, it was the faith. The actions that came about in spite of the faith could be a comfort for us. Or, it could be a dangerous trap.
So now that my point has been made about the character of some of these folks, let’s just read through the remainder of this passage in Hebrews. If you don’t remember the sordid details in the lives of some of these people, I invite you to search for them in an electronic Bible, for instance at biblehub.com.
Heb 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
Heb 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
Heb 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
Heb 11:23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
Heb 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
Heb 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
Heb 11:31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Heb 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Heb 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
3rd instance of Rahab in New Testament
This is where it all comes together. It’s also where we see that it can be very misleading, and very dangerous, to only read portions of the Bible. When doing research, even when trying to learn what something means, it’s important to be thorough. Otherwise we can come to totally wrong conclusions.
No doubt, in spite of my warnings, some readers will think all of the behavior we read about so far is OK with God. After all, they were His chosen people. They were blessed. And yet, look what comes last. James, writing on faith and deeds. Exactly what we’ve been looking at.
Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Jas 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
This is all good stuff. It’s very illustrative of something I write about often over on Finding God in religion. That’s one is about trying to sort through religion, Christianity especially, trying to find God. Over here, the focus starts on everyday life, then looks to the Bible without getting into the areas where various denominations fight with each other. Anyway, my point is always that just believing isn’t enough. Our belief must be so strong that we act on it.
That same thing applies here. The catch is that in this instance, we’re trying to line up those actions that line up with our beliefs. Then we must identify those things that truly line up with what Jesus taught us as opposed to those things we’re coming up with on our own. Or misinterpreting. Or, as we’re going to look at, thinking/hoping that God will be OK with – or at least that He’ll overlook.
And that’s the part that makes the conclusion to this passage so potentially dangerous. We must consider all the evidence. Nogt just the part that supports what we want it to say.
Jas 2:25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Did you see the potential issue in there?
and sent them off in a different direction
Did James just say that Rahab was considered righteous for lying? No. Here’s a somewhat lengthy, but understandable, summary of what’s really happening with James’ examples of Abraham and Rahab.
The prostitute Rahab (v. 25)
For his second example, James cites the story of Rahab, who was a prostitute in the city of Jericho.
Are you wondering how James got from Abraham to Rahab? From the patriarch to the prostitute? James did so because he was anticipating an objection. He knew that some of his readers would respond to the illustration of Abraham along these lines: ‘James, you’re telling us to show our faith by our works. And you’re citing Abraham! That isn’t fair! Everyone knows that Abraham was a special man. Surely you do not expect us to be like him?’
James reaches, as it were, to the opposite end of the spectrum, and he does so to make the very same point: true faith evidences itself in good works.
We remember this story. Joshua and the people of Israel were about to begin their conquest of the land of Canaan. The city of Jericho was the first and most intimidating target. Joshua, shrewd military man that he was, sent spies into the city (Josh. 2:1). They went to the house of Rahab because they thought that it would not arouse suspicion for strangers to go to the house of a prostitute.
But they were mistaken. The king of Jericho got word that spies had come to the city and were at the house of Rahab (Josh. 2:2). The king immediately sent men to search for the spies, but Rahab hid them (Josh. 2:3–7) and enabled them to escape (Josh. 2:15–16).
We must ask the same question we posed when we were considering what James had to say about Abraham: Is James saying that Rahab secured salvation for herself by doing the good work of helping Israel’s spies?
And we must arrive at the same answer we got when we were considering Abraham. No! Abraham had been saved by faith long before he was called to offer Isaac. The offering of Isaac was not, therefore, the means by which he secured faith. It was rather the means by which he expressed or manifested his faith.
It is exactly the same with Rahab. She already possessed faith before the spies ever came to her. Here is part of what she said to the spies when they arrived: ‘… the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath’ (Josh. 2:11). Word about Israel and her God had come to Rahab and the other inhabitants of Jericho before the spies ever came. And Rahab had believed that word (Josh. 2:9–14). What she did with the spies was, then, a result of the faith that already existed in her heart.
But the point is that both Abraham and Rahab did something! They did not just claim to have faith in God and sit idly. Their faith led them to action. And true faith has not changed in all the centuries that have come and gone since Abraham and Rahab. It still leads to action.
Faith which does not produce works is not really faith at all! Curtis Vaughan rightly says, ‘Faith which does not produce works is therefore comparable to a corpse.’ Martin Luther says of faith, ‘Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man.’ 1Ellsworth, R. (2009). Opening up James (pp. 99–101). Leominster: Day One Publications.
So are we supposed to sin to achieve a good purpose?
After all this, the temptation almost has to be there to think that everything we do is for God. Some people even think God tells them, literally, everything they do. If that were true, then we’re no better than puppets. No, I believe we have choices. Some things we’ll do for God. Some we’ll do in spite of God. And there’s plenty of room between those two for all sorts of other things.
The catch for us to, as I’ve said, recognize those things that are within the framework of how Jesus taught us to live, and those that are outside it. Then, we do the best we can. But to attribute those bad things as being done for God, even when the outcome may have been a good one, that’s going too far. The ends do not justify the means!
Here’s what Paul has to say about continuing to do the wrong thing. Continuing to sin. After all, we’re forgiven, right?
Dead to sin. Yes – it’s only the heading added by the folks who did the 1984 NIV translation. But the thought is in the text as well. And it really does tell us something right away. If we are “dead to sin”, why should we even think that it’s OK to go on sinning? Even if we think that God’s going to make it work out OK?
Ro 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
Where does that question about sinning more so that grace may increase come from? Well, let’s back up a couple verses to see. I’m not including the entire passage that it’s part of, because it would become far too complex for a site about finding God without “religion”. But I think the point can be made without too much trouble.
Immediately prior to what we just read, Paul wrote:
sin increased, grace increased all the more
Paul was telling us that no matter how much we may have sinned, Jesus’ death on the cross is more than enough to pay the price for what we did. No matter how much grace is needed by God to forgive us, that grace will be there.
And so his question about whether we should go on sinning to get more grace comes from that. And of course, the answer is no, as we read below.
2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
As I said, if we died to sin, how can we even want to live in sin anymore? Of course, we will still sin. We still live in a fallen world. We are in a transformational process, becoming more like Jesus. More perfect. However, that’s a goal that won’t be accomplished in this life.
So while we will still sin, we really shouldn’t want to. Paul continues with a rather complex thought process, logical conclusions that require some knowledge of Christianity. If you can follow, great. If not, don’t worry – I’ll tie it all together in a moment.
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Ro 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Ro 6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Paul uses beliefs that Christians will have after some amount of spiritual growth, education, experience, Etc. He compares us, as we are to how we’ll be in the next life, with Jesus as an example.
He then comes to the final conclusion:
Ro 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
We should not let sin reign in our lives. Sin shouldn’t master us. As Christians, we should realize what we have in Jesus, and try to live out what we believe. As I said, not that we’ll always succeed. But we should always try.
And means we should be nowhere near thinking God wants us to sin to accomplish His purposes!
Can God achieve something good if we do sin?
OK – tricky question here. Not because the answer is a trick. No, it’s because the question is a trick. We could read the Bible and conclude that it’s OK to sin in order to accomplish something good. Yes, even after everything we just read, there’s still one more example we need to look at. I told you it was important to be complete. So let’s be complete.
Maybe you know about Joseph, son of Jacob, from Genesis. The one with the coat of many colors. His story starts in Genesis 37. It doesn’t end until Genesis 50. Obviously, too long to include here. But feel free to use the links to read it online.
The really short version is that Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They ended u selling him to some traveling merchants, who took Joseph and sold him in Egypt. Obviously, their intent was evil. They sinned. Big time. And often. But in the end, it all came out well for God’s good purposes. We read that in the passage below.
Ge 50:15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
Ge 50:18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
Ge 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
And there it is. Selling Joseph off to itinerant traders was Plan B. The original plan, from some of the brothers, was to kill Joseph and hide his body, then say he was eaten by wild animals. Either way, not good stuff. Clearly, at least I hope it’s clear to you, not something God would approve of.
Ultimately, yes, it turned out well. Came out as God desired in the end. However, does that mean we should accept the adage – the ends justify the means?
Do the ends justify the means with Donald Trump, or with anyone else?
I really hope that by now, you recognize the answer. It’s no. Just because God can make our less than Godly actions turn out OK, that doesn’t mean we should “do whatever it takes” to make something happen, and just know that GOd’s capable of cleaning up whatever mess we make along the way.
There’s one other thing as well. We must also be sure that our end goal really is in alignment with God’s will. That it matches up with what Jesus taught. Even proper means that reach an improper goal cannot turn out well from a Christian point of view.
To that end, given our specific look at Donald Trump, his time in office, the people he supports, and his anticipated future run for office, we must examine what he says and does from those Christian viewpoints. We should not push aside any concerns about his behavior, words, ways of achieving his goals.
But even before that, we absolutely must closely examine his goals. Even if they are ones that we personally wish were in place, we must adhere to a Christian, as taught by Jesus, view of things. We must remember that Christianity and government will always be, to some extent, opposing each other. That’s something Jesus pointed out quite nicely when someone tried to trick Him.
22:15-22 pp — Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26
Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Yes – give to the government what belongs to it. And give to God what belongs to Him. However – when deciding what goes to whom, we cannot follow our own wishes and desires. We must look to the Bible, always with an eye to what Jesus taught, with prayer, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to make that determination of what goes to God and what goes to Caesar.
To that end, the articles will look at political issues from that viewpoint. Looking at what’s really happening, as opposed to the political hyperbole used to try to influence us. Looking at things from the Biblical point of view. And then put out all the issues, the things to look at, and leave you with something to pray about.
Yes, I most likely will put out my point of view. However, as I’ve said in other places, this isn’t about you and me. Or between you and me. It’s about, and between, you and God. I’m just trying to help that conversation, prayer, two-way conversation with God, get started.
And yes, it also includes something you may have already thought about.
Mt 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Mt 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
I’ll try to remember that. All I ask is that you do the same.
I truly hope this leads us back to a point where we can be more civil with each other. And reach a point where people will view Christians are seen not as the hated enemy, but as a group of people others would like to be part of. The way God intended, and the way Jesus taught!