Even though God never approves of sin, in his sovereignty he is able to take our sinful actions and use them for his good and gracious purposes, just like he did with Rahab. While God may use sinful means to good ends, this is decreed not by our flawed human rationale but rather by his perfect, sovereign will.
Many people hold the belief that the ends justify the means. Yet, does God’s word in the Bible support this view? No, not at all. Nevertheless, some have pointed to the example of Rahab in Joshua 2 in order to assert that as long as the outcome is good, the means to those ends are okay even if they are a violation of the law of God.
The idea that good ends justify unlawful use of means finds its way into modern society in many ways, such as those who argue that “anything goes” as long as the goal or desired end is deemed good. Some argue that lying and deception are justified when they lead to a positive outcome. While Rahab is a biblical example of precisely this situation, Scripture does not condone sinful acts in order to achieve a good end. In fact, it teaches the opposite.
It is important to note at the outset of addressing this topic that a person might someday be in a difficult situation similar to what Rahab experienced. Is it allowable to violate God’s moral law by lying in order to save another person’s life? Does God approve of lying in this case, even though it is very rare for most people? Such a situation, an ethical dilemma, is a different problem than the one I hope to address here, which is a more general question—is lying okay if the ends are good?
Scripture Honors the Faith of Rahab in Multiple Places.
Joshua 2 relates the story of the prostitute Rahab who protected the spies of Israel as Joshua was preparing to lead all Israel against the walled city of Jericho. As the two spies were searching out Jericho and the surrounding land, they went to the prostitute Rahab’s house. When the king of Jericho heard about the spies, he sent messengers to find them. Rahab had hidden the spies on the roof of her house and then lied to the messengers sent by the king saying she didn’t know where they were from, nor where they went. Later, Rahab asked the spies for their protection when Israel would surely come and destroy Jericho. For hiding the spies from the king of Jericho, Rahab and her entire family were saved when Israel destroyed the city (Josh. 6:25).
Later in Scripture Rahab is commended for her faith. The writer of Hebrews says of Rahab,
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Heb. 11:31)
James also commends her as an example of saving faith demonstrated by good works in helping the spies (James 2:25). Scripture also testifies that Rahab is honored in the genealogy of David and Jesus by marrying the Israelite Salmon and giving birth to Boaz who then married Ruth (Matt. 1:5).