“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.” Leviticus 5:1
It struck me as I read this single verse, tucked into rich and detailed teaching about laws for sin offerings, that from the start, God did not intend for us to live as the center of our universe. It would be easy to read this statement and think the guilty party is the one needing a witness for conviction, or is perhaps the false witness who made an unfair or dishonest charge against the defendant, but in fact, God here holds accountable the one who has known of the matter and refused to testify. His standard is justice, but His means for accomplishing that requires we set aside ourselves for the good of the whole.
I remember how grateful I was for a man, driving a car to the right of mine and entering an intersection beside me at our signal, after a woman ran a red light and hit my car, stopping to give over an hour of his time and care to state a witness report to the police. Dozens of people had witnessed the accident, all moved on around our disturbance and went on their way, but this one turned back to help. His testimony ended up breaking the tie of word-against-word, thus supporting a just resolution, and his example to me is one I will not forget.
Why testify? It will cause inconvenience, stress, maybe some whispering or misunderstanding. It will take precious time, possibly preparation; certainly it will disrupt my schedule. If we know something that would promote justice and help another, then every excuse not to speak points to self– me, me, me. But life isn’t all about me.
I am not my own, but the Lord’s, bought at the highest price. He calls me to serve others in love, doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counting others more significant than I, and looking to their interests. How often would I choose to turn my back, divert my eyes, to what I think is my benefit but could really be another’s hurt? Have I ever hindered justice because of my negligence or selfishness? Jesus Himself, in serving perfect justice, gave His life for me; how can I not give back? (John 10:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 5:13; Philippians 2:3-4)
“To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will! Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!” ~ Charles Wesley (1762)
Holy God, fix my eyes on Thee and so wrench them from me. Engage all my faculties– heart, hands, eyes, mouth– to serve others, and in so doing, love You first and best.