One may paraphrase two important and opposing points of view. One is, perhaps, the most brutal secular model. The other is the Christian model. They both have to do with means and ends. Means are how something is accomplished. Ends are the goals, the end or final purpose of actions. Machiavelli’s theory of means and ends may be paraphrased this way “the means justify the ends.” St. Paul’s “It is not right to do evil so that good may come of it.” (“Shall we sin more that Grace may abound? Certainly not!”) A much more effective way of expressing the goodness and truth of the one idea and the badness and falsehood of the other is simply to draw up a list chart of various people who held to Machiavelli’s view point contrasted with those who held St. Paul’s view.
Hitler (End: world peace and prosperity/ Bad Means: extermination of the Jews, aggressive warfare, repression of enemies)
Lenin (End: heaven on earth in Utopia of the Communists/ Bad Means: robbery of aristocrat and middle-class property, murder of Tzar and family, Aristocrats, middle class, and all labeled “enemies of the revolution, aggressive war against Poland)
Stalin (End: Utopia, Personal Wealth, Power, and Honor/ Means: starvation of Russian people, aggressive wars and conquest, millions destroyed by Gulag, Kulaks or well-off farming peasants wiped out as a class)
Mussolini (End: Strong Italy, Personal Power and Glory/ Means
Pro Choice: abortionists, those victims who choose this horrible thing, and those who support it (End: Freedom, Money, Time, and Freedom from Shame saved for woman suffering abortion/ Means: murdering a defenseless human being
Rapists (End: sexual expression/ Means: violence up to murder
Assassins (End: making money/ Means: murder, killing
Terrorists (End: political or religious gains/ Means: death and destruction to fellow human beings, animals, or property)
Robbers (End: property or worldly gain/ Means: violence up to murder)
The men and women of good will you read about in the Holy Scriptures, in history, and those you meet in everyday life are bound in their actions by the rules of law, the conscience, and the Gospel. The clearest examples of this are the martyrs: men and women like St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Perpetua, St. Barbara, St. Juliana, St. George, and St. Laurence. They gave up their lives (a good thing) because the way to save their earthly lives was to deny Christ (an evil means). So too confessors like St. Maximos, who suffered his tongue to be ripped out for confessing true things. Corrie Ten Boom, Betsie, and Papa Ten Boom suffered horribly in the Nazi’s Concentration camp: the good end of bodily health and safety was rejected because the means by which that health and safety were to be obtained involved refusing to help Jewish people in need. Those not of the Christian faith may also come to the right choice by following their consciences: take Gandhi. He chose non-violent resistance as a means to overcome British rule and obtain self-government for his people: the end of self-rule for India did not justify murdering or warring against the British who controlled India for Gandhi. The choice in your own life may come as well. Does the end of social acceptance justify the means of cruelty or bullying? If all of your friend are picking on Sally, the blind girl, will you join in? Does the good of eating a candy bar justify obtaining that candy bar by theft? Does the good of preserving your life, health, or possessions justify denying the Gospel? How you answer this type of question, the choices you make, will shape you. Playing for Machiavelli’s team is not only morally evil, but dangerous: look through history at the fates of so many millions of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler’s followers, not to mention the bad ends in this life alone of so many rapists, assassins, terrorists, and robbers. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” as the Gospel has it.