Does the end justify the means?

I was listening to a news show recently and one of the commentators  was justifying what one of our elected officials had done by saying, “Well, you know, the ends justifies the means.”  That is the mantra of our secular world, “The end justifies the means!”  But does it?

The ends DID NOT justify the means for Jesus.  One of the lectionary readings for Lent is the account of Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness in Matthew 4.  Satan provides 3 temptations: turn stones into bread; ask God to miraculously save you; and worship Satan and have all the nations of the world bow down to you.  In each case, the temptation was to LET THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

If Jesus made stones into bread, he could feed himself because he was very hungry.  But using his miraculous power for selfish purposes was not the God’s way to sustain himself.  Instead Jesus prayed for God to sustain him and God did—for 40 days.  THE END DIDN’T JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

If Jesus threw himself off the temple wall and prayed for God to miraculously rescue him, the people would have been amazed and many would have been swept into the Kingdom immediately.  But Jesus knew that only through hard work—preaching God’s word and Jesus’ proclamation that he was the Messiah—would people truly enter the Kingdom.  THE END DIDN’T JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

If Jesus bowed down to Satan, he would give the Lord all the countries of the world to rule.  But the timing was wrong.  God promised that at the end of human history when Jesus returned a 2nd time, God would give Jesus all the countries of the world to rule.  But not now.  THE END DIDN’T JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

When we make something happen by any means, we’re bypassing the plan of God.  He wants us to discern how he wants to bring things to pass.  And he wants us to join him in doing it his way.  God has good reasons for doing it his way and when we do it by any means, we bypass God’s wise ways and timing. 

No, the end doesn’t justify the means.  It takes patience and trust to do it in God’s way and time.  But that is the best way. 

Join us for Lenten worship and Holy Week services.  You will draw closer to Jesus as he walks to the cross.


Pastor Ken Shick