By Richard Harp, Deerfoot church of Christ
I have been reading the Bible wrong for a very long time. This discovery has been both eye-opening and freeing at the same time. What I found may help you in your walk with God and in your personal Bible reading practices. You may be just as surprised as I was to discover you have possibly been reading the Bible wrong as well. These discoveries have also led me to enjoy reading the scriptures in a more deep and meaningful way than ever before.
The first way I was reading the Bible wrong was reading out of guilt.
For years I attempted to read the Bible through in three hundred and sixty-five days. Yet year after year, I failed to finish. I would often get to Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy and my pace would come to a screeching halt until the year had passed. This led to guilt.
Guilt led to shame. As a young man I remember getting the first Harry Potter book and I could not put it down until I had read the entire book. Several of the books within that series I finished before I even ate a bite of food, lost in imaginative flow. Why could I read Harry Potter from cover to cover in 24 hours, but not do so with the Bible? Was J.K. Rowling a better author than Jesus, the author and finisher of my Faith? Of course not, yet it was clear that I could read my favorite fiction longer than God’s Word. This led to more guilt in the form of shame. It got to the point that shaming myself almost became my reason for reading the Bible in the first place. Guilt and shame are technically motivators, but this is unsustainable. You will give up as quickly as you began if shame and guilt are the reasons you read the Bible.
Shame quickly led to a different purpose for reading the Bible from cover to cover: pride. To be able to say I had read it became a motivator. I remember the first time I finished reading the Bible from cover to cover, I felt a sense of pride in myself — and relief. My conscience was clear because I would not have to dodge the question, “Have you read the Bible?” Pride is the consequence of reading the Bible out of shame and guilt. Guilt, shame, and pride cannot be purposes for reading the Holy Scriptures of God. You will be reading passages like, “In You, oh Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame (Psalm 71:1). Also, concerning pride, we are told, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:6b).
God is opposed to pride and shame being motivators, but Satan loves it! Look at the immediate context of 1 Peter 5:8. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
You may wonder how I came to discover these things and how they no longer are motivators for me. I discovered a Readers Bible that has been stripped of all verse and chapter numbers, as well as study references. It looks more like a novel and less like an encyclopedia — the way the Bible was originally written. Imagine my surprise to find I have simply been distracted all these years! This distraction, I misunderstood as disinterest which leads to guilt, shame, and later pride. Maybe you, too, have been simply distracted which has led you to read the Bible wrong.
A Note From the Harp