When God Uses Drug Addicts and Prostitutes
And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? James 2:25
Years ago, when our kids were young, we were sitting in church one Sunday morning when the pastor read about Rahab the prostitute. My son, who hadn’t heard one other word of that sermon, perked up his ears suddenly. He turned to me, and in a too-loud-for-church voice asked, Dad, what’s a prostitute? I whispered that it was like when a man pays for a woman to be his wife – but only for a little while. I thought it was a good answer, and I found it funny but also a little awkward. If everyone heard him ask what an apostle was, it wouldn’t have been uncomfortable. That word though – prostitute – is an ugly word. Those who are labeled as such are looked down upon by the rest of us.
Perhaps that is why God chose a prostitute to be a hero of faith. In today’s passage, James referred to an event more than a thousand years earlier, when the Israelites sacked the city of Jericho. Rahab, a prostitute who lived in Jericho, believed in God and had previously helped two Israelite spies who’d infiltrated the city. As a reward for her faith, she survived the onslaught, when everyone else in Jericho did not. Somehow, Rahab the prostitute even ended up in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).
This is an important and recurrent theme in the Bible. God doesn’t always use the high and mighty to execute his plan, but rather often uses those whom we wouldn’t expect. When Christ came, he didn’t cater to the religious elite with their impeccable doctrine. No, rather he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes – those who needed him most. God doesn’t necessarily smile upon those who believe all the right things about him. Rather, he’s pleased by those who seek and obey his will.
When I got out of treatment, I began writing about my experience with addiction, faith, and recovery. A couple of years later, I felt God asking me to share my writing with others. But God, I’m a drug addict. Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? The answer was that it didn’t matter if anyone read or not. I was to be obedient. That’s all.
Believing the right stuff is important, but being a professional theologian isn’t necessary to be used by God. What’s important is our obedience. Are we willing to do what God asks? If so, then our past doesn’t matter. We may have been a prostitute or drug addict, but if we’re obedient, God can use us for good.