Imagine yourself sitting down to a table with fresh white linens draped over top. Several pristine utensils sit before you. The napkin is neatly folded. It sits just above a clean, white plate. And on that plate is a big, black leather Bible.
As you look down at that Bible, does it look like the dessert you can’t wait to dig into, or does it look more like the brussels sprouts you shove aside so you can get to the good stuff?
The answer to that question means everything.
Too many of us look down and see a strange, foreign book we want to love, but we don’t know quite what to do with it. It’s just never tasted good, so we move it around on the plate and pretend to enjoy it.
That is not what God intends.
The Epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy
Instead, God means for his Word to satisfy our deepest cravings and to whet our appetites for more.
Psalm 19 says that God’s words are to be desired more than the finest gold and that they are sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb.
Is that how you feel about the Bible? If you’re like most people, probably not.
Bible engagement is, to put it bluntly, abysmal, even within the church. You might even call it an epidemic. After their recent study of Bible reading, LifeWay Research concluded that Americans are fond of the Bible but don’t actually read it. More than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible, they found.
Only 45% of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. 40% percent of the people attending are reading their Bibles occasionally—maybe once or twice a month, if at all. There are some who read their Bible every day (19%), but for every one of them (19%), someone isn’t reading it at all (18%).
And it’s not as if the Bible is hard to come by in America. The English language Bible continues to be the most popular book in our world. Every year, about 25 million Bibles are sold in the United States. Among those homes that have a Bible, they own an average of three, not to mention the Bible apps on smartphones.
Most of us know this isn’t good, especially those of us in the church. We experience some low to medium level of guilt because we haven’t read the Bible much lately. The church often doesn’t help us feel any better. Over and over again, we hear that reading the Bible is crucial for spiritual growth and we should be in it every day. Yet most people aren’t doing it.
Why is that?
Why We Don’t Read the Bible
Maybe you’ve tried to read the Bible but got frustrated and gave up. Maybe you assume it’s the pastor’s job. Or maybe you don’t have the time or you’re not sure if it’s true. Maybe you just think it’s boring.
Overall, you might think the problem is a lack of discipline. That we’re just not getting up early enough or taking the time to sit down and read a few chapters of the Bible each day. And to some degree, that’s true. But the real issue is deeper.
We don’t have a discipline problem as much as we have a delight problem.
We don’t study the Bible because we don’t delight in the Bible. Think about it. You do what you delight in. You do the things you enjoy. Some of us enjoy kicking back and watching some Netflix or football. Maybe you enjoy exercising or woodworking or riding your motorcycle.
Why do we do these things? Because we enjoy them, we delight in them. When you delight in something, it doesn’t really feel like you have to make time for them; you just do them because you love them.
But so many in the church don’t delight in God’s Word. They don’t enjoy their time with him. And for many of them, I believe that’s because they were never shown how to delight in the Word.
If that’s you, then don’t worry — you’re in good company. In fact, I was just like this not that long ago.
How I Learned to Love the Bible
I’ve only been delighting in the Bible for the last 5 years. Before that, it was a chore at best that I rarely got around to. Reading the Bible for me was like that last item on your to-do list that you keep carrying over to the next one because you don’t want to do it.
To make a long story short, I wound up in seminary and one of my first classes was something called Hermeneutics, which I had to look up before registering. Hermeneutics, I found out, is a fancy word for the study of how to interpret the Bible.
The semester was full of grammar lessons and interpretation methods and practicing outlining the text and learning about the different genres featured in the Bible. Some of it was dry. Much of it was boring.
But it changed my life.
By the end of that course, I felt for the first time like I had a toolbox for the Bible and I knew how to use it. The tools I acquired in that class opened the Bible to me like never before, allowing me to see things I’d never seen and understand things I never imagined.
And it made me mad.
The Greatest Gift I Can Give
Why did it make me mad? Because I had to go outside the church to learn how to read the Bible. I had to pay money to do an online course with people I didn’t know to learn how to read the book the church was telling me to read.
I remember thinking, Why did I have to go to seminary to learn this? Why didn’t someone in the church teach me this?
From then on, I’ve been taking every opportunity I can get to teach what I learned to people in the church.
Aside from the gospel itself, there’s no greater gift to give to people than an understanding of how to read the Bible. It’s the difference in catching fish for someone versus teaching them how to fish. Catching fish for them will feed them for a day. But if you teach them how to fish, you’ll feed them for a lifetime.
So let’s learn to fish. Let’s learn to mine the depths of God’s Word and feast on the riches it contains.
To do that, we’ll first need to understand what the Bible is, which will be the topic of my next post.
This is part 1 in the Appreciating the Bible series. Read part 1: Does Your Bible Look Like Brussels Sprouts or Dessert? | Part 2: What is the Bible? | Part 3: Who Wrote the Bible? | Part 4: Why Study the Bible? | Part 5: Bible Study Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore