Four ways how not to read the Bible

This month we are doing a series in our church called ‘Trash Your Bible’, inspired by the company actually called Trash Your Bible. The main idea is to help people in our church to read their Bible and to understand it better. Regardless of your background (education, ethnic or religion), the Bible is a very complex but also very interesting book. Or collection of books.

Many Christians I know find it difficult to read the Bible. That might be a surprise to my agnostic or atheist friends, but it actually makes sense. Because how many of us are used to reading materials that are thousands or years old and come from a completely different time in history? Beside the Bible I remember reading some ancient Greek and Roman works, but honestly that has been a while. Also, my Latin grades were not my finest – at all.

We are quick to judge or conclude things from a book that we don’t always understand. So four ways how not to read the Bible – because I think we all do one of these from time to time! I hope this is helpful. If you want to check out the full message, click here for the website or here for Spotify.

Only read what feels good

Consider only eating ‘what feels good’ or working out ‘when it feels right’. It would have catastrophic effects on your body and health. You would get out of shape in no time – although round is also a shape. Most of us are aware that if we keep a good diet and are disciplined with our exercise, it will have beneficial effects on our health and our fitness; it’s a form of delayed gratification.

Something similar applies to the way many people read their Bible. We read plans on grace, because we feel that’s what we need. We read Psalm 23 because it’s our favorite. I’m not saying plans or Psalm 23 are bad! Reading some of our Bible is better than not reading it at all; but it hardly gives a full picture of God and it doesn’t challenge us to struggle and think about bits and pieces that we find more difficult. We need to read the things that might be less comforting to us.

Disregard context

Do you have a friend that always joins in on conversations halfway through? You are fully into a conversation about something interesting to you with one of your friends when one of your other friends joins the conversation and completely takes over; they do a full conversation invasion. Often they have no idea what you were actually talking about by the way; they think they can add to the conversation without any of the background.

Regardless of the fact that I’m that person, you and I know this person often makes a lot of assumptions on the prior conversation and often is wrong. We tend to read the Bible in a similar way: we read bits and pieces without taking the context into account. The end result might be that we make all these conclusions that we wouldn’t make if we would just read some of the context. And with that I don’t mean that we all have to become scholars on ancient history – but we all can consider the context in scripture itself.

Use it to justify yourself

There’s this story about a father and his son that I read. The son really wants a new bike – and he’d been talking to his dad about it for a long time, but there simply was no financial room to buy right now. One day the father comes home and sees a new bike in the back yard. He calls his son to get the story. ‘I was thinking of praying for a new bike, because I wanted one so bad. But I know God doesn’t work that way. So eventually I decided to just steal one; because I know I can ask God for forgiveness!’

I know that is not what we do exactly – but I think it’s a good one to check with ourselves. Do we use the Bible more to justify ourselves or to challenge our own behavior?

Tick it off your to-do list

Finally, sometimes I just try to squeeze it in my Bible reading in before going off to work – just so it got something done. Whilst it’s better than the alternative of not reading, God is inviting us into a journey of understanding him better. What are some ways that you can take what you read in the morning with you through the day?

To finalize I wanted to share Bible Project with you. They make high quality videos and podcasts about all these questions that we have about the Bible. Have fun exploring!

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