“The end justifies the means” – Though few who use this phrase will trace it back to the thoughts of Niccolò Machiavelli, it is often invoked when doing the right thing gets in the way of getting what one wants. This is the thought that stood out to me as I read Proverbs 10 today. As this sentiment is deeply ingrained and prominently employed in our current socio-political framework, we find ourselves in an extremely polarized and vitriolic environment where kindness and patience are viewed as weakness and ideological “sides” villainize dissenters.
It may seem overly simplistic or naïve to think so but the means we use are indicative of the world we are building. The writer of proverbs knew that. He contrasts diligence and laziness, wisdom and cunning, kindness and violence. The overarching message here is that anything that is done for the sake of righteousness must be done in the way of righteousness.
To the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but with spiritual forces. It is not lost on me that Ephesus was the home to the temple of Artemis the goddess known for being a cunning huntress. Wisdom is not cunning. Wisdom seeks the best not just a win. When we turn on each other we forget where the real battle lies and we forget to love those that Christ died for. A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes but a person of understand delights in Wisdom (Pro. 10:23)
It comes down to trust in the faithfulness and the timing of God. In the face of violence and hatred, we can respond with patience and love because ultimately God is sovereign and is working towards an earth that exemplifies His kingdom where love and justice are intertwined. This is where the rubber meets the road in our faith. Can we be responsible with the means and trust God for the end? Can we live in compassion and empathy when the world is at war?