At the beginning of this week’s class, the class agreed the Bible is trustworthy. So then I asked if it is trustworthy, why do we still sometimes choose not to read it? These were some of the answers:
“It makes me feel bad about myself.”
“It’s hard to understand and it seems to contradict itself.”
“It doesn’t always seem relevant.”
“I don’t have time and I get distracted.”
The Bible Makes Me Feels Bad about Myself
You probably read that one and thought, No way should the Bible make you feel bad about yourself. But I challenge you to read through Romans. When you read verses like Romans 3:21, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one,” you start to see the Bible can come across a bit harsh. But as you read more scripture, you begin to understand that we serve a God who did not come to condemn us, but to set us free. And part of that freedom comes through conviction and rebuke, which often looks like harshness to the untrained eye.
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” —2 Timothy 3:16–17
This passage shows us the Bible is meant to teach us—not condemn us. It is not meant to make you feel guilty about your sin, but a desire to attack your sin. It also shows that scripture doesn’t just point out our sin, but it also helps us know how to live righteously.
I’ll admit, I’ve often read scripture and felt uncomfortable because it was highlighting my own shortcomings. My challenge to you is not to run away from the discomfort, but to plunge into it headfirst. Trust God is faithful to His people, Christ has forgiven you, and scripture will lead you back from the depths of sin to a place where you can sing praises like never before. Don’t stop reading Romans 6:23 after it reads, “For the wages of sin is death,” when the ending, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord,” brings unending hope and joy in the face of our sin.
The Bible Is Hard to Understand
When I asked the class to give me examples of why they think the Bible is hard to understand and contradictory, I heard responses like: “If God is in control, why do I have to pray for things?” “How can God be full of love and full of wrath at the same time?” It was clear that many, when confronted with scripture that seems contradictory, stopped reading because they felt it was over their heads.
I proposed that the Christian life is like being drawn and quartered. Drawn and quartered is a medieval practice in which a person’s limbs are tied to ropes and the person is then stretched and pulled. That is a pretty accurate picture of the Christian life. Now, before I lose you bear with me and think about this for a moment:
- Is God one or is God three?
- Is God transcendent—high and lifted up—or is He near to us—close at hand?
- Jesus Christ is fully God. Jesus Christ is fully man.
- We are all sinners. We are all saints.
- Should we enjoy God through feasting? Should we enjoy God through fasting?
- We should be sorrowful. We should always rejoice.
- We should weep with those who weep. We should rejoice with those who rejoice.
- God is sovereign over our actions. We are responsible for our actions.
Every time I encounter these supposed contradictions, I remember this is God’s way. We try to put Him in a box, then we come across a scripture that destroys that box. Then we give up because it’s too hard to understand.
But God intends to stretch our minds and expand our hearts so we can take in more of Him. If you read something in scripture that doesn’t make sense or needs more background, don’t give up. Keep reading, pressing in and asking questions. Buy a study Bible, schedule a sit-down with someone in your small group or a pastor at church, or join a Bible study. If you feel tension between two truths in the Bible, you’re probably on the right path. Keep going and be willing to be stretched by God.
The Bible Doesn’t Seem Relevant
This issue is probably an issue of perspective. Have you ever been angry? James 1:19–20 and Proverbs 29:11 have something to say about that. Do you ever complain about minuscule details (traffic, trash hasn’t been taken out, hangry, etc.)? Philippians 2:14–16 speaks to that. Are you ever worried or anxious? Check out Philippians 4:16–17.
These passages should help us see the Bible is relevant, the problem is we often do not seek out the wisdom it holds. We have to read it critically, looking for what God is communicating through the stories beyond the literal stories themselves. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 tells us the Bible is relevant. The challenge is for us to believe it and begin to study it out of that belief.
I Don’t Have Time and I Get Distracted
I get it. Life is busy. Between work, family, football practice, social media, Netflix, my car broke down, my kid is sick, who has time? Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” People have always been busy. The Bible was meant for the working person, for the person with a family, for the parents of teenagers, for the tough political climate we live in.
My heart breaks deeply for this excuse because it’s one I often use. “I just don’t have time.” Then I have to stop and reflect:
- How much time did I spend watching sports this week?
- Did I really watch Netflix for three straight hours?
- Surely it hasn’t really been 30 minutes since I started scrolling through Facebook?
- Could I survive work today if I woke up 15 minutes earlier to spend time reading the Bible?
Just like the relevance issue, this one boils down to perspective. Do I really not have time, or do I believe Christ isn’t worth my time? Do I really believe God will satisfy me more than anything in this world will? The strongest relationships in our lives are the ones we spend the time cultivating. It’s no different with the Lord. Take some time to reflect on this in your life. Ask yourself if you really want Christ to be your greatest treasure.
If you’re still struggling with where to begin your biblical journey, read through this advice from Patrick, or try starting with this approach through the Psalms. You can also begin with Psalm 119. Not only is it the longest Psalm, but it’s a love letter to the Bible. David wrote it in nice, eight-verse segments that are easy to read. Carve out a few minutes every day, read Psalm 119, and pray God will give you the same type of ear heart David is praying for. Whatever method you use, just keep pressing forward. You will stumble and fall, but always keep moving forward. Read and pray God will awaken your eyes to new and wondrous things from the Bible.