If we were to survey Christians at evangelical churches in America most people would agree that they need to read their Bibles. They understand that it is both required and good for them. But the sad truth is, many do not. This lands us in that strange place of knowing, but yet still avoiding, what is good and beneficial for us.
Why do we do it?
Most people when asked about their Bible reading say: I have been really busy. This may be the truth; people are very busy. However, it is not the reason. I think we can distinguish between realities and reasons. Those same people who are really busy do have the time to eat food and sleep. I know people who have their entire day (and evening) mapped out for them. They are extremely busy; yet they still read their Bibles. There is time for even the busiest of us. However, others who claim busyness also are up to date on the news, watch movies, use social media, exercise, and a host of other things. In pursuit of a true diagnosis here, let’s be honest: none of us are truly too busy to read the Bible. We may be busy but we choose to put the Bible aside for one reason or another.
Let me give you a few reasons why many Christians do not regularly read their Bibles.
It Makes Us Uncomfortable
This is the reason that no one wants to talk about but everyone needs to grapple with. We love to be comfortable and yet the Bible aims to comfort us. So, why in the world would we avoid the Bible? It is because the Bible makes us uncomfortable before it comforts us. We don’t like this. Consider what Paul says about the activity of the Bible:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Consider the First Commandment: “”You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3).
- It teaches us truth: One who follows the Lord is not to have another other gods. He alone must be our only true God who rules us even as we glorify him. It teaches us truth by saying: “This is right.”
- It reproves us: When we are not putting God first by giving him his due worship because we are giving this to someone or something else. It rebukes our sin by saying: “That is wrong.”
- It corrects us: It points us back to what is right. Because we have been reproved by the Word we are pointed back to what we are supposed to be doing. It corrects us by saying: “Repent and serve the one true God.”
- It trains us: The Scripture tells us both what is wrong and how to do what is right. The moral law reveals to us, even the next 9 commandments, how to live with God as your God. It trains us by saying: “This is how you must live instead.”
If we have engaged in honest Bible reading we know that we have been confronted by God and his Word. This punctures our pride and unsettles us. If we aim to preserve comfort and protect honor then we will avoid this like someone who is out of shape avoids the gym.
But here is the truth: our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9), they trick us. We believe the lie that it is better to live in the false comfort we are in rather than the comfort that God can provide. We lean upon the false savior of self and as a result guarantee that we will not be comfortable. It is only be being made uncomfortable by God that we can truly be comforted.
Action item: search your heart and see if you are avoiding God to preserve the idol of comfort.
It’s Too Hard
I think this is a rarity but there are some people who find the Bible very difficult. When they begin reading it they find they have crossed cultural, historical, and even religious lines. They are overwhelmed. In this situation they should seek some help. Ask a pastor or another mature believer for help. After some time with another Christian reading the Bible together, and through providing some basic tools and resources they should be well on their way. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the child of God to conform us into the likeness of the Son of God. We need the Bible. We have to do whatever it takes. This may take some time rolling up the sleeves, but it is definitely worth.
Action item: admit it and ask for help.
We are Undisciplined
In order to do anything of value consistently it takes discipline. However, if we sit back and do not live with intentionality we will not be regularly in the Word of God. Do you think an Olympic athlete hits snooze on their alarm when training? Never! Do they not get tired? Of course they do. But there is a critical point when discipline defeats the desire of the moment. It is when the mind speaks to the heart and says, “Hey, I’m in charge. It is time to get up even if I don’t feel like it.” Discipline takes effort. We don’t recline into discipline we must work at it. Is there anything more important than godliness to discipline ourselves for? Paul tells Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4.7-8).
Action item: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
We Think it is Stale and Lifeless
Many people do not find themselves awed by the Bible. They avoid the Bible because it has been a long time (if ever) since they have found themselves truly moved by its truth. This reveals more of a problem with the person than with the Bible. The Bible is not boring, we are boring. Many of us are too infatuated with the trivial to even appreciate something of substance. We jump from one mindless triviality to another day after day and wonder why we have no appetite for the Word of God. The Bible declares that it is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12-13), and it has a long track record of being so. If we think the Bible is stale or lifeless then perhaps the coin of its central truth has not yet dropped. Maybe we have yet to see that God is truly good and that we are truly not. Until we are conquered by the truth of the gospel the Bible remains a book about God instead of a book about our God.
Action item: Examine your heart to see if you truly love God.
We Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God
Years ago my wife was deployed in the military for months. She would send me letters (pre-internet days). When I’d receive them I would read through quickly and then sit back and think. Then I’d read through and examine patterns. “Why did she write so neatly here but more hurriedly here? What’s going on? Why are there hearts on these exclamation points but not these?” Then I would read it through slowly. I’d walk around thinking about it. Why did I do this? Because I loved my wife. Suppose it was different though. Suppose I got the letter and just tossed it over on the pile of other mail. And there it sat with junk mail and bills for a few days. I’d walk across the room and see it but instead of opening it up I would just ignore it as I watched SportsCenter or read the paper. You would doubtless call me a bad husband and say that our relationship was in trouble. You would be right. But isn’t this what people do with the Bible? God has spoken to us in the Word of God. It is his letter to us. How can a person say that they truly love God but throw his “letter” aside in favor of other stuff? How can they give it less attention than things that don’t matter?
Let’s be honest: if you don’t read your Bible it is because you don’t want to read your Bible. And to bottom line this further, this is indicative or your relationship with God. We cannot separate a love for the Word of God and the God of the Word.
Action item: If we do find ourselves not reading our Bibles we should examine ourselves to see the true substance of our relationship with God. Is it dysfunctional? If so repent and speak to God in confession. Then you will find yourself finding joy in God and his Word.