The Bible is God’s word given to humanity and I believe that we should be reading it as often as possible. Not only that, we should be so filled with the word that it transforms the way we live our lives. I’m not sure about you but that’s the earnest prayer of my heart. However, it’s easy to fall into a trap of reading the Bible with wrong motives. We’ve all been guilty of it at some point in our lives.
Poor motives for reading the Bible often lead us into poor relationships with God and others, and it can lead us to develop poor theology. I want to share five poor motives for reading the Bible and offer some advice about what you can do instead. If you recognize yourself in any of these, remember that there is no condemnation. Instead, there is hope that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth.
Five Poor Motives for Reading the Bible
1. To Check Bible Time Off Your To-Do List
This is huge and let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of this at some point. You know that you should be reading the Bible so you do but instead of reading with understanding and letting the Lord speak to you, you just read to get it done. Now, the question we have to ask ourselves is, what are we trying to prove by checking Bible reading off our to do list? Does it make us better Christians because we can say we never fall behind on our Bible reading plan?
Instead of reading the Bible to check it off your list, read to understand. Go beyond the list. Engage with the text. Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Pray about what you read. Ask God to help you remember the words that you’ve read throughout the rest of the day. We don’t eat to check our meals off our to do list, do we? Well, if God’s word is like daily bread, then we shouldn’t read to merely check it off our list.
If you’re struggling to know how to really engage with the word, I would highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word. It’s a quick but informative read filled with suggestions, techniques, and encouragement for women looking to really dive deeper into the word.
2. To Find A Quick Fix for Your Problems
Another poor reason for reading the Bible is to find a quick fix for your problems. Don’t get me wrong. The Bible can encourage and motivate us when we’re going through challenging times. It’s actually a good thing to find our encouragement in the pages of scripture. God’s word is an anchor that keeps us afloat in the most trying times.
So, then what’s the problem with reading the Bible for a quick fix to our problems? The key word here is quick fix. When we’re longing for fast encouragement, we can become prone to taking scripture out of context. We end up looking at the word through the lens of what it can do for us, instead of appreciating the full story of scripture.
For example, many of us go to the Psalms for encouragement. I know I do. But instead of pulling a random verse out of Psalms and applying it to your situation, read an entire Psalm. (Or, read all the Psalms!) See what it says about God and his plan for his people. Read the historical account that inspired the Psalm. These can usually be found in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Look carefully at the words and phrases, and how they are poetically woven together.
Don’t just read the Psalms when you’re going through a challenging time. Study them before you encounter difficulties. Be faithful to read through all of scripture. Know the story of the creation, fall, redemption, and consummation of the world. Pay attention to how this story is played out within different books of scripture.
The Bible is more than a quick fix for our temporary problems – it tells us of the final solution to the problem of humanity. We have once certain hope when we encounter difficulties: Jesus Christ will make this world exactly what it should be when he returns again. We will endure joy and sadness, blessings and burdens as we walk through this life. We’ll find ourselves stuck in pits of despair and God will redeem us. We’ll struggle with sin and overcome temptation. The point is, life will have ups and downs. It’s inevitable. But, reading scripture faithfully will help us to remember that one day the cycle of joy and pain will be over and we will be with Jesus in eternity.
3. To Get Proof For Your Theology
Next, we shouldn’t read the Bible to find proof for our theology. This is often known as proof-texting. It’s simply going to the Bible to find scriptures to prove or support your theological views. This is a really big problem. The Bible isn’t proof for our theology. Instead, the Bible should define our theology. In other words, I should read the Bible and come to a conclusion about God instead of bringing my preconceived conclusion and trying to use God’s word to support it.
When we read the entire story of the Bible, we get a full picture of what God is like. However, if we just pull verses and phrases out of context, we can end up creating any theology we want thinking it’s biblical when it’s not.
If you’re guilty of this, you’re not the only one. I used to do this all the time and didn’t even realize it was a problem. When I started to look to the word and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me, it kind of messed with some of my previously held theology. But that’s okay. Be willing to read the word faithfully, admit when you have questions, and allow scripture in its full literary, historical, and cultural context to define what you believe about God.
4. To Have a List of Do’s and Don’ts
We don’t want to read scripture as a rule book. It’s so much more than that. As I mentioned before, it is God’s word to humanity. It tells us of creation and the fall and humanity’s subsequent struggle with sin and separation from God. It also tells us of redemption. Many of the Old Testament Scriptures point to the ultimate redemption we have in Christ. The Law teaches us about the ways of God. Even though we could not keep the Law because of our own sinfulness, Jesus Christ kept the Law perfectly on our behalf. He has redeemed us and brought us back into right standing with God. Finally, one day all of the pain and turmoil that come with sin and the fall will be wiped away forever.
Yes, there is a biblical way to live and we should not ignore that. But the Bible is not merely a book of Do’s and Don’ts. The way to righteousness is through Christ. He gives us the ability to walk in obedience. Go to the Bible to learn about God and as he reveals his ways to you, he will teach you how to live.
5. To Gain A Ton of Knowledge
And finally, we should not read scripture to simply gain a ton of knowledge. God is calling each of us into a personal relationship with him and the Bible is our means of knowing God. If you’re anything like me and you love learning, it’s tempting to dig and dig just to learn something new. But always remember that this digging and searching is about developing and strengthening a relationship with a very real God who loves you and wants to fellowship with you.
That’s all I have for you! I hope that this list was helpful for you. Let me know if any of these resonate with you. And if you can think of any others, share them below!