Through my work with the Holman Christian Standard Bible, I recently came across research from the Barna Group stating that people don’t read the Bible for a few reasons–primarily because they don’t have enough time or struggle to relate to the language. The stats showed that 88% of American households own a Bible, but only 37% of people read it once a week or more. No doubt, their frustration with trying to understand words, phrases, and concepts in Scripture is a reasonable frustration; but as most preachers have already told their congregations–people have plenty of time to read, but they simply don’t want to make the time.
Why Don’t We Read the Bible?
So let’s assume that’s true, that we don’t want to make the time to read our Bibles. Why don’t we? I mean, the God of the Universe has given mankind his Word. He could’ve tapped out when we disobeyed him in the Garden, but he didn’t. He didn’t let us hide from him–he went looking for us and spoke to us (Gen. 3). Isn’t that enough?
No. Frankly, it isn’t enough for most of us. Certainly not because we don’t revere or even worship God, and not because we don’t think the Bible is valuable. We don’t read it regularly because we don’t understand how Scripture works, and because we think it’s all about us. We think God left a book behind thousands of years ago as a trail of breadcrumbs to help us find him or to inspire us to live a better life, but we don’t give it much more credence than that.
Reading the Bible Isn’t about Us
We shouldn’t merely open the Bible and read it like we do any other book. We shouldn’t set aside time to read the Bible because we want to be entertained in the same way a movie will entertain us, either. Instead, we should consider the basic function of Scripture. Paul tells Timothy:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, HCSB)
Notice the verbs: Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable. Pair this with the powerful phrase in Hebrews 4:12-13:
“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”
Again, notice: the word of God is living and is effective and is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. If Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1) and he ain’t dead, then the power of God’s Word on the pages of Scripture ain’t dead either.
Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, our spiritual eyes are opened to the supernatural, life-giving truth of God’s living Word. When we open its pages, the Bible speaks to us and calls on us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Instead of going to the Bible looking for a nugget of wisdom to get us through the day, we should open our Bibles ready to worship the God who meets us there.
Want to know what God thinks? Not just what he thought, but what he thinks? Open your Bible. The Spirit lives within you to help you understand God’s will and character, to help you taste and see something fresh and new that you’ve never seen before. A passage you read five years ago might speak to you differently today, because the living God speaks to you through his living Word, right here and right now.
Be sure, my friend: the same Word that spoke creation into existence and filled Adam’s lungs with oxygen (Gen. 1), is the same Word that creates life inside of you. He’s still speaking to you right here and right now, because you were created for him, not vice versa. When reading Scripture terminates on you, it’s stale; but when you hear from God and are drawn into worshiping him in all his glory, it’s magnificent.
Brandon D. Smith is Brand Manager for the Holman Christian Standard Bible and author of Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. Follow him on Twitter.