The ‘need-to-know’ basis in politics and other areas of business refers to telling someone the facts they need to know at a particular time and nothing more. In politics, civil servants often use this as their rationale for not revealing potentially incriminating information to MPs, though they like to know everything, as this exchange from ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ between two civil servants makes clear!

  • Bernard Woolley : But you only need to know things on a need-to-know basis.
  • Sir Humphrey Appleby : I need to know *everything*. How else can I judge whether or not I need to know it?
  • Bernard Woolley : So that means you need to know things even when you don’t need to know them. You need to know them not because you need to know them but because you need to know whether or not you need to know. If you don’t need to know, you still need to know so that you know that there is no need to know.
  • Sir Humphrey Appleby : Yes!
  • Bernard Woolley : That’s very clear!

In the Bible, there are many things we would like to know. The tantalising information that it was Paul’s nephew who thwarted yet another plot to kill him (Acts 23:12-22) is one such snippet; we have many questions about this news. Was he a believer? Did he have any association with Jewish leaders which gave him access to this information? How did he get access into the barracks so easily, especially if he was quite young, as the text implies? What was his relationship with Paul like? None of these questions are answered at all, which we may well find infuriating, but the truth is that Scripture contains all we need to know. Unlike politics, this is not because God is keeping vital information from us out of churlishness or spite; the Bible declares Him to be a God of revelation (Daniel 2:8 tells us ‘there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries’ and Amos 4:13 tells us God reveals His thoughts to mankind.) We may not get all the answers we want in the Bible, but we do get all the answers we need. In it, we find all we need to live life as God intended it and to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16)