I read through John recently, and John 3:20-21 stood out at me. I can't quite make sense of how to apply it.

My understanding is that I should do everything in plain sight so that everyone can observe that I'm doing nothing wrong. But I'm unsure of how far it extends. If someone were to ask me a question, without a reason such as breaking confidence, would it be wrong for me to refuse to reveal it?

I was hoping perhaps you could give your explanation of it and maybe a few examples of how it applies.


"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:18-21).

Another passage that says something similar:

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light" (Ephesians 5:11-14).

John stated that Jesus is the light of the world: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). What Jesus is saying is that wicked people don't want their deeds examined. They don't want to think in terms of right and wrong. Because ultimately they know that they are doing wrong, but if they don't face it, they don't have to think about it.

The point John is making is that Jesus lived a righteous life, but his very goodness made evil people uncomfortable around him. His goodness made their wickedness more obvious and they didn't like it. John is explaining why the Jews hated Jesus so much, chasing him down to condemn him, when Jesus was going about Judea healing people and teaching them the truth found in God's word.

When a person hides a fact for no particular reason, then the natural thought is that the fact must be detrimental to that person. Now this shouldn't be taken as reason to poke your nose in everyone's private business. There are some things that just not something that needs to be known. One that comes to mind is a silly question that was once asked of President Clinton years ago. Someone wanted to know if he liked boxers or briefs better. It was an undignified question about personal matters that wasn't the questioner's business. But a question, such as "Where were you at 3 pm? I tried to call you and couldn't reach you," should be answerable.

A question that comes up that in appropriate or pokes into private matters can be handled by pointing out why you won't answer the question: "That is a private matter," or "I told another person I would not betray their confidence in me."

Should everything you do be done in plain sight? For the most part, yes. But you still need to shower in private.