Reading the Bible – part 9
This post looks at truth telling and confidentiality.
During World War II many Christians hid Jews. In order to do so, they were required to engage in deceptions regarding identity papers and ration books, as well as blatant lies to protect the lives of innocent people. Would we refuse to protect innocent lives because we don’t feel comfortable about lying?
Christians might be forced into a situation where they don’t tell the truth, nevertheless, their motives can be pure. It’s not automatically wrong to conceal the truth. Sometimes it’s even necessary because love is a higher priority (1 Corinthians 13). People may ask questions beyond their level of authority and don’t have the right to know the answer.
What are we to do if we are asked about confidential information?
My husband and I became friendly with a new couple at church, as well as their two children. The couple had recently come to faith. One day it was mentioned that it was their wedding anniversary so we congratulated them. However, when I asked how long they had been married, they were evasive and vague. I didn’t think anything of it but several days later they confided in us that they had been in the habit of lying about how long they had been married. They went on to explain why. Several months later, some mutual friends had been visiting other acquaintances and stumbled across the information that our new friends had told us privately. They turned to us and said, “Do you know if this is true?”
My husband and I were unprepared for the question and there was no time for us to consult each other about our position. Instinctively we both said, “No,” which was a lie. Later, when my husband and I did have the opportunity to discuss it, we felt the information that was shared with us was confidential, even though this wasn’t formally stated. We didn’t feel we were free to disclose even the fact that we knew.
The matter was never discussed again with either friend, though we suspect our friends probably did find out we lied. We were never given the chance to explain. Now, with the benefit of wisdom, age and hindsight, I still can’t think of how we could have handled the situation better. We still feel we were right to conceal the information because our mutual friends didn’t have the right to find out this type of information from a third party. Like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:14-27), who concealed information from the king’s officials, we didn’t feel obligated to answer a question, just because it was asked.