Sunday, August 24, 2014

I don't read my Bible every day.

I know, I know. This makes me a pretty rotten evangelical.

But I'm in good company. Most Christians in most places at most times didn't even have access to their own Bibles. Jesus didn't read the Bible every day, and neither did St. Peter, or St. Paul, or any of the early church. 

The "read your Bible every day" rule is ubiquitous within evangelicalism, but despite its strong presence in our particular church tradition, I'm unaware of any Scriptural basis for it.

The Bible itself doesn't tell us to read it every day, but rather to meditate on it day and night. Daily Bible reading regimens can be a wonderful tool to help modern Christians answer this ancient call, but we have to remember that the Bible was initially written for people in less technologically privileged times and places. God was still at work among them, even though they didn't read their Bibles every day, and he's still at work today among believers all around the world who don't share our astonishing access to print.

The Bible tells us to meditate day and night, but it leaves a lot of freedom as to how we're supposed to do that, and it only ever refers to Scripture reading in public contexts. Given that we are no longer bound by Old Testament regulations, it's just fine that we don't read the entire book of Deuteronomy aloud every seven years at our debt-cancellation party. Still, the plans laid out in Scripture are full of wisdom, and while we have full liberty to replace those ancient devotional practices with modern technologically-driven approaches, we are not free to mandate our modernized practices, nor to restrict the work of the Holy Spirit to the confines of our inventions.

If we tell people about the ways that we benefit from daily Scripture reading, and recommend that they do likewise, this is good. Very good. We serve a God who chose to become incarnate, and we do Him honor by bringing His truth to bear in our particular times and places.

But if we tell people that it's a sin not read their Bibles every day, we join the Pharisees in adding on to God's requirements, and we dishonor Him by restricting His work to the particularities of our time and place. 

And anyway, why every day? Why not every hour? Why not every minute?

But this is silly. We're supposed to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, and reading the Bible every minute would surely prevent anyone from actually acting on the things that he read. Hourly Bible reading is slightly more plausible, but it is still unlikely to work out well for most of us, most of the time. In the same way, reading the Bible every day is very profitable for many people, but it is not something that everyone is able to do.

And that's okay.

So read the Bible when you can. Better yet, listen to other people read it aloud whenever you get the chance, whether that's in public or in private or through your computer speakers. Meditate on God's Word always. Think about it while you wash the dishes, while you commute, while you break up yet another fight between your kids, and while you scroll through your facebook feed. And as you flop exhausted into bed, pray that you dream about it all night long.

And yes, take a good honest look at your schedule. Plan to be transformed by Scripture, and if that means cutting some things out of your schedule, then so be it.

But never forget that God cares more about the doing than the reading, and that all the reading just multiplies your guilt if it isn't teaching you how to love. And whatever you do, don't ever allow your Bible reading to squeeze obedience to Christ out of your schedule.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Elena. I've been thinking some of this, but you put it in a format that helps a great deal. :) Becka