Need-to-Know Basis

Need-to-Know Basis

In a military operation, a commanding officer will provide certain details, but may withhold others. The officer will say, “Sorry, soldier, that’s on a need-to-know basis,” implying that those details are not necessary to complete the mission. Unnecessary information can even endanger a mission.

That was the case during the planning for the 1944 invasion of Normandy. Soldiers knew their own objectives, but only a very small handful of generals knew the full scope or the target date of the operation. This tight control on information allowed each man to perform his duty, while preventing the enemy from gaining insight through espionage or prisoners.

In Deuteronomy 29:29, God says,

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Bible students would be wise to keep this principle in mind. God says that there are certain things that He has seen fit not to reveal. We must get comfortable with the fact that we are on a need-to-know basis. In His great wisdom, He will not provide the answers to every question we have. He will not clarify all His reasons.

For example, God knows the day that the great judgment will come. Acts 17:31 says “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world.” But He never reveals the date. I’d really like to know which day God has circled on His calendar. But, “that day and hour no one knows” (Matt. 24:36). “As to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1–2).

God has revealed many, many things regarding the judgment and how to be prepared for it. But the date is a secret. If He told us, we would likely fool around until the last possible minute and then hastily repent. God would rather us live in a state of perpetual readiness. When it comes to the date, we are on a need-to-know basis. We don’t need to know. Knowing would endanger our mission.

God never reveals in Scripture the date of Jesus’ birth. People celebrate Christmas on December 25th (or January 6th in the east) for reasons that have little to do with the Bible. His birth was during the reign of the Roman Empire, and was in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of Daniel 2:44 and Micah 5:2. If God wanted us to observe His birth as an annual holiday, He surely would have provided more information. God didn’t reveal Jesus’ birthday because it is not where He wants to put the spotlight. In fact, it might actually distract us from the real focus of Jesus’ life, His sacrificial death.

I would like to know more about Jesus’ teenage years. Only Luke gives us one brief glimpse, when He stayed in the Temple to teach the rabbis. There have been some pseudepigraphical efforts to fill in those gaps, but they are full of ridiculous stories about how Jesus miraculously helped Joseph build furniture in the carpentry shop, how he dealt with other neighborhood kids who teased him on the playground. The gospel writers are silent about these years, because they are not important to the message.

There were other things Jesus did during His years of ministry, “which are not written … but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:30–31).

I would like to know more about the situation before Genesis 1:1–2, when “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” But, I’ll have to wait to find out. Because nothing is revealed before that.

I would like to know more about the world before Noah, and how the patriarchs lived so many years. I could go on and on.

We shouldn’t waste our time wrangling over things that God has not revealed. “The things revealed belong to us.” God has revealed more than enough of His will to keep us busy. One can spend a lifetime studying what is revealed and never grasp it all. We have enough of a challenge to fulfill the responsibilities He has given.               —John Guzzetta