Reading the Bible Should Be Easy
Very few things cause me spiritual distress as a pastor. However, one thing that does cause such distress is when I encounter Christians who believe they will never be smart enough to understand the Bible.
This makes me sad because the Bible is a beautiful book that is meant to draw us closer to God, not create separation because we are too afraid or too stressed out to open it.
This concern arises in a number of different ways.
Some Christians are part of well-meaning churches that are too dogmatic, or legalistic, about Bible reading.
Some churches walk the “you must do” line so tightly that they end up crossing it. These churches mean well–they want people to love God and draw closer to God–but they induce guilt by implying that all Christians should do this or that.
For example, someone will stand up front on the stage, holding their Bible in their hands, and pronounce something like, “We should all be spending more time in the Word.”
While this is a true statement, the problem is that it implies that what a person is already doing is not enough. There are many Christians–you might be one of them–who do the best they can to read their Bibles and who feel guilt over not “doing enough” when someone makes such a pronouncement.
Instead of focusing on quantity, a better approach is to focus on quality, and to encourage others to do the same. I tell Christians that it is better to read one half of a chapter in the Bible with prayer and a desire to learn about God than it is to read four or five chapters out of obligation.
Some Christians are confused about the Bible as a book.
The Bible is an ancient book that was written over hundreds of years and finished almost two thousand years ago! It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are some parts that are confusing, difficult to grapple with, and wrapped in layers of culture that we just don’t understand.
The Bible is also a collection of books, a library, consisting of different genres and two “testaments,” that is, two divisions that centre around the person of Jesus.
But the beauty of the Bible is that it tells one story–a story about God, who so desires to be with his people, that he goes to the ends of the earth to restore relationship with us.
The sad thing is that this story is often relegated in Bible classes so that matters and details about history, lineages, and Greek or Hebrew words can be discussed.
We get tripped up over history when we should be focused on story. And this causes people who want to read their Bibles more and better to simply give up rather than persevere.
Some Christians are part of churches that prioritize “deep knowledge” about the Bible rather than simple, transformative growth.
I could go on a long rant about this one, so I will try to keep it short.
Too many churches prioritize knowledge as the primary modality of discipleship. Yes, knowledge is important, but the important knowledge, in the Bible itself, is knowledge of or about God or Jesus. (Don’t believe me? Check out Matthew 9:13; John 8:19; Colossians 1:15–20; Philippians 3:10; and 2 Peter 3:18; among many other passages.)
I have been part of churches where Bible class teachers constantly referred (erroneously) to Greek words, the Documentary Hypothesis, and evolutionary arguments as necessary prerequisites for understanding parts of the Bible. The only thing this serves to do is to make regular Christians distrustful about their own ability to read the Bible.
I once worked with a church where a passive aggressive comment was made in a Bible class that “We need more deep teaching here,” implying that my teaching wasn’t deep. At the same time, I was working with a man who told me that he really enjoyed my teaching because the other teachers made him feel “too stupid” to understand the Bible (his words).
The greatest compliment I ever received as a teacher was when someone shared with me that my teaching made the Bible so simple that they could actually understand it.
When the Bible is understood, transformation is just around the corner.
Reading the Bible is not complicated. And yes, despite #1, I encourage Christians to read something in their Bible daily. It’s a good habit to practice, not because it accumulates knowledge, but because it carves out space and time to listen to God.
How did you find this helpful? What questions do you have?
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