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Pleading the Fifth

Leviticus 5:1
“If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.”

The fifth chapter of Leviticus and the fifth amendment of the United States Constitution don’t quite harmonize. Consider for a moment the contrast between the simplicity of God’s prescribed ethic of honesty here and our protective rights given us by America’s founding fathers. What is it a police officer says to a witness when taking him in for questing? “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do might be used against you in a court of law.” Effectively, that right is given to the individual as a countermeasure to the corrupt practices that often coincide with court proceedings. The right could be restated this way: “You better not say too much because a well-versed attorney could twist your words in a way that proves detrimental in court.” Use the wrong words about what you saw or didn’t see, what you did or didn’t do, and rhetoricians are waiting in the wings to pounce. No doubt our own society today has been ripped apart by mistrials, cities have been dismantled by corruption, and whistleblowers who should’ve testified didn’t come forward for fear of reprisal.

But Leviticus 5:1 supersedes the nuances of modern legal codes with a moral code that is founded on an individual’s responsibility to God first and foremost. In other words, God places the impetus on a man’s moral responsibility rather than on his civic duty. Whereas modern headlines today tend to focus on the judicial aspect of corruption—“So and so lied to Congress! So and so accepted a bribe that tampered with the court decision! So and so had a conflict of interests! So and so withheld unclassified information from the public!”—the headline in this ancient commonwealth would’ve simply read, “So and so sinned against God by not speaking the truth!” Note that. To keep quiet for the sake of self- preservation is iniquity. Not just a dereliction of civic duty nor a procedural act of self-preservation. But sin.

Friend, keep bearing witness today even to your own hurt. The devils can twist your words, but don’t let them stop your tongue.