Keeping, telling, or sharing secrets seems to be a normal part of the human existence. From hiding gifts or fun surprises to concealing a painful or highly personal past event to protecting the whereabouts of an important person, handling matters of secrecy is an inevitability as we go through life. The Bible gives us many examples of secret-keeping and secret-telling, but there is no "blanket" rule about right and wrong ways to use secrets. What we CAN say for certain is that discernment is needed when deciding what to do with secrets.
Throughout Israel's long history, both political and military secrets were kept from their enemies. The Bible makes no moral judgment for or against keeping those kinds of secrets (e.g. 2 Samuel 15:35-36). But then we look at the story of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:4-22), wherein Samson reveals the source of his strength to his deceitful lover. If you're familiar with that tale of woe, then you know that telling his secret was kind of dumb on Samson's part. Maybe he should have kept that one to himself.
When we look at the story of Esther, we find that she kept her nationality secret from the king (Esther 2:20). Turns out, keeping that secret became a vital part of God's plan to benefit His people during desperate times (Esther 4:13; 7:3-6). In fact, Queen Esther's decision for secrecy saved many, many lives (Esther 2:21-23).
While God may know the minds and hearts of all people (Psalm 139; Psalm 94:11), there are certainly many things we don't know about God. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God." During Jesus' ministry, He healed two men of blindness, then told them not to tell anyone (Matthew 9:30). Sometimes God will keep His "why" a secret when bad things happen.
But it's OK that we don't know every little detail about the universe or always know the "why" of God's will, because what we DO know about God is what matters. We know He is trustworthy (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and loving (Romans 5:8). So we don't need to be afraid of what He has chosen not to share with humankind (1 John 4:16). When Job had a realization about how much knowledge God holds, he waxed poetic about "things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:3).
The Bible gives us plenty of positive examples and advice about secret-keeping. One of the best books for nuggets of wisdom is Proverbs, and it holds the most direct instruction concerning secrets. Proverbs 11:12-13 says that "a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." Keeping some secrets could be considered a noble effort, especially if it protects another person.
In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about doing good for others and talking to God "in secret." Why the secrecy? Because when we do good things, we shouldn't do them for the praise or admiration (v. 2, 5). When you serve and pray in secret, your pure motivations become clear, and "your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (v. 4b and 6b).
We get another kind of advice for keeping or telling secrets that may cause harm in Proverbs 17:23, which says that "a wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice." Also, Psalm 101:5 says that "whoever slanders his neighbor in secret" will be put to silence by God. So sometimes keeping secrets, especially for the wrong reasons, is deemed immoral—even wicked.
We find repeatedly throughout Scripture that it is wrong to try and hide sin, especially to avoid punishment, reprimand, or correction. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." God knows all our secrets anyway, so there's no point in trying to hold anything back from Him (Psalm 90:8; 1 John 3:20; Luke 8:17). God is more than willing to forgive us when we come to Him in truth (1 John 2:1-2; Isaiah 1:18).
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." —1 John 1:9
Secret keeping is not inherently sinful. Sometimes people need to know certain things, and sometimes they really don't. When the time comes for secrets, harmless secrets are likely fine, but examine the circumstances carefully. Will this secret ultimately hurt someone or protect them from harm? Will the secret benefit the safety of an innocent person or put them in danger? Will the secret break a relationship or make it stronger? What God cares about is how that secret will be used—as protection or for harm.
Using wisdom and discernment about our choices is one of the ways we grow in our faith (Philippians 1:9-10). Hebrews 5:14 tells us that we train our powers of discernment "by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." And of course, when in doubt, ask God for wisdom about whether keeping or telling that secret is a good idea or not (James 1:5).
Secret keeping is not inherently sinful. Sometimes people need to know certain things, and sometimes they really don't need to know. When the time comes for secrets, harmless secrets are likely fine, but examine the circumstances carefully (Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 5:14). What God cares about is how that secret will be used—as protection or for harm. Keeping secrets to conceal sin is wrong (Proverbs 28:13), and it is pointless to try keeping secret sins from God (Psalm 90:8; 1 John 3:20).
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, four socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.