I’ve read the entire Bible one or more times in the following versions: King James, New American Standard, Living Bible, The Message, The Way, Contemporary English Version, New International Version and the English Standard Version. Additionally, I have read the entire New Testament scores or maybe hundreds of times in an even greater number of translations and paraphrases, and the same is true for Psalms and Proverbs. I don’t say any of this to brag, but rather to give some hope and perspective.
First of all, a little Bible reading a day really adds up. There have been times when I’ve sat for long periods with a Bible in front of me, but mostly I read just a chapter or two, sometimes in more than one session each day. In truth, it’s usually better not to read very much, but rather to read a little as deeply as possible.
If we cover too much too fast, we don’t really understand what’s there. I remember once reading Philippians 4:4-20 over and over for about a week because I felt there was much in those verses that I needed to absorb, embody, and live out. I’m sure that I still have much to learn from that small section of the Bible, but eventually I moved on and found other passages to ponder, pray about, and incorporate into my life.
Secondly, and most importantly, I’m sure all that Bible reading has kept me pretty much on the right road for all these years. It has saved me from making horrible mistakes, given me the insight to do things right, and it has helped keep me in the faith when many of my contemporaries have strayed.
Even though I’ve spent much of my life as an English teacher, and I’m a real book guy, I’m convinced that the Bible is the only book everyone needs to read. Sure, works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner and all those others teachers have badgered kids about can be profitable, but the only thing all of us really need is the Bible.
Too often people read little devotionals or other Christian books that have some nice thoughts with a little Scripture and neglect the Bible itself. It is the most influential book in the history of world, so a thinking person should know what it says, and a serious seeker of God should read it widely. That means we should read whole books of the Bible, the entire New Testament, and eventually the Old Testament with all its strange stories, lists of dead people, obscure laws, and seemingly repetitious prophecies.
We should also read it deeply, focusing within those pages on verses and small sections while really thinking, praying, and listening to the Holy Spirit, so we can know what those words really mean. If we don’t do this for ourselves, others may try to do it for us, and that isn’t always a good thing.
I’m convinced that reading the Bible for myself and seeking to know its wisdom has protected me from cultists knocking on my door, charlatans and lunatics on television, good friends parroting various deceptions, and well-intentioned church leaders who simply didn’t know what they were talking about.
Oh, and best of all, the Bible has delivered me from my own ignorance and deception. When you get right down to it, we don’t really need others to lead us astray. We do a good enough job of it on our own.
Adapted from Keeping It Between the Ditches