Through my work with the Christian Standard Bible, I came across some stats about Bible reading. Eighty-eight percent of American households own a Bible, but only 37 percent of people read it once a week or more. People said they don’t read their Bibles because they don’t have enough time, and they struggle to understand the words.
These two frustrations are understandable, and we’ve all struggled with them. But are they the real reasons people aren’t reading their Bibles?
When you think about it, we should get really excited about Bible reading. The God of the universe has given us his Word. He could’ve tapped out when we disobeyed him in the garden, but he didn’t. He went looking for us and talked to us (Gen. 3). Knowing our gracious God gave us his Word should make us want to read it, but often that’s not enough.
We don’t read the Bible regularly because we don’t understand how it works. We often think it’s all about us, and that opening Scripture is only useful when we think we need it. We don’t understand how amazing the Bible really is.
To read the rest of Brandon Smith’s article, click here.
1. The Bible is both a divine and a human book.
Every word of the Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). He spoke through the various human authors, using their unique personalities and writing styles to communicate exactly what he wanted to say (2 Pet. 1:20–21).
2. The Bible is a story.
The Bible is not simply a collection of religious sayings or an anthology of various people’s religious experiences. The Bible tells us the true story of the world, the way things truly are and should be. Understanding the basic plot of the Bible that runs from Genesis to Revelation helps us better understand every passage in between.
3. The Bible focuses on God and his plans for the world.
God is the main character of the Bible. He created humanity to reflect his image by ruling over creation as stewards under his authority. But Satan deceived Adam and Eve into rebelling against God, plunging all of creation under the curse of sin and death. The rest of the Bible gradually unfolds God’s plan to redeem his people from their sin, defeat their greatest enemy Satan, and transform creation for his redeemed people to enjoy forever.
What Questions Are You Asking?
What we get out of the Bible largely depends on the kinds of questions we ask when reading the text. But how do we know what are the right questions to ask? Jesus provided a good starting point when he summarized the two greatest commandments: (1) love God with our whole being, and (2) love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:34–40). From these two commandments we can ask four basic questions to help us grow in our relationship with God.
What Do We Learn about God?
God is the main character of the Bible, the hero of the story. So it makes sense that the first question we ask is what we learn about him. Scripture reveals who God is in at least three different ways.
First, it shows us his character, or his attributes. Sometimes the Bible states these directly (e.g., Isaiah 6:3). At other times you need to infer truths about his character (e.g., 1 Kgs. 22:1–40). Even in a book like Esther, where God is never directly referred to, there is much to learn about him.
Jesus thinks reading is a big deal. After all, he wrote a book. And Jesus thinks reading his book is a big deal, because, well, he is. For a blog post on the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical scholarship this may seem overly simplistic. Aren’t scholars supposed to talk about really complicated things that impress others with their erudition and expansive vocabulary? While it is possible for most scholars to do such things, it is also true that erudition and expansive vocabularies ought to result in scholars helping people see the simplicity in matters marked by complexity. Believe it or not, it is likely safe to say that many scholarly debates turn on someone’s misreading of a particular text or a particular author. Given the cultural factors that hold in America today, as well as the sinful corruption of every human soul, there is a powerfully toxic blend of factors that undermine faithfully accurate reading in general, and of Scripture particularly, even by people who memorize the latter, write a lot about it, and have declared intentions in helping others understand it.
Reading has always been at the core of human scholarly pursuits. Indeed, the ancient and long-standing view of a scholar has been one who has the ability to read (not necessarily speak) in multiple languages and synthesize this reading accurately. On more than one occasion Jesus criticized the official and unofficial leaders of God’s people for being poor readers (Mt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31). Jesus was confronting them with their sin. The texts to which Jesus referred were certainly ones with which the leaders were very familiar. In one sense they had read them, but in another sense they had not. As it turns out, moral deficiencies corrupt intellectual analyses and conclusions that have practical results in every aspect of life. According to Jesus, their failure to rightly interpret the text meant they really had not read it.
Why is Bible reading important? Most Christians know they should read their Bibles. But often, our Bible reading can feel dry and insignificant. Why is it so important for us to read this book? What’s the urgency of it?
Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Old Testament reveals some urgent truths through illustration about why we need our Bibles right now and every single day. We should not bypass these truths because they are the difference between spiritual life and death; between conviction and apathy; between joy, peace, and strength and discontentment, anxiety, and fear; between knowing some things about Jesus and knowing Jesus intimately.
Here are five reasons that you desperately need the Bible, as illustrated in the book of Ruth.
You need the Bible so your soul doesn’t starve.
Threat of starvation loomed before Ruth and her mother-in-law. They moved back to Bethlehem after their husbands and sons died, leaving them without male protection or provision. So the women had to find a way to keep themselves alive. Ruth decides to glean in the fields of family members, “in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (Ruth 2:2), with her sights set on Boaz’s part of the field.
Boaz takes note of her hunger and determination. He asks his servant about Ruth, who replies,
She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.” So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest. (vs. 6-7)
Ruth gleans for dear life, and for Naomi’s life. She knows she will find favor here, that she can come and will be received, and that gleaning from this field will save both she and her mother-in-law from physical starvation.