Bible dust read me

If we were to survey Christians at evangelical churches in America most people would agree that they need to read their Bibles. They understand that it is both required and good for them. But the sad truth is, many do not. This lands us in that strange place of knowing, but yet still avoiding, what is good and beneficial for us.

Why do we do it?

Most people when asked about their Bible reading say: I have been really busy. This may be the truth; people are very busy. However, it is not the reason. I think we can distinguish between realities and reasons. Those same people who are really busy do have the time to eat food and sleep. I know people who have their entire day (and evening) mapped out for them. They are extremely busy; yet they still read their Bibles. There is time for even the busiest of us. However, others who claim busyness also are up to date on the news, watch movies, use social media, exercise, and a host of other things. In pursuit of a true diagnosis here, let’s be honest: none of us are truly too busy to read the Bible. We may be busy but we choose to put the Bible aside for one reason or another.

Let me give you a few reasons why many Christians do not regularly read their Bibles.

It Makes Us Uncomfortable

This is the reason that no one wants to talk about but everyone needs to grapple with. We love to be comfortable and yet the Bible aims to comfort us. So, why in the world would we avoid the Bible? It is because the Bible makes us uncomfortable before it comforts us. We don’t like this. Consider what Paul says about the activity of the Bible:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Consider the First Commandment: “”You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3).

  • It teaches us truth: One who follows the Lord is not to have another other gods. He alone must be our only true God who rules us even as we glorify him. It teaches us truth by saying: “This is right.”
  • It reproves us: When we are not putting God first by giving him his due worship because we are giving this to someone or something else. It rebukes our sin by saying: “That is wrong.”
  • It corrects us: It points us back to what is right. Because we have been reproved by the Word we are pointed back to what we are supposed to be doing. It corrects us by saying: “Repent and serve the one true God.”
  • It trains us: The Scripture tells us both what is wrong and how to do what is right. The moral law reveals to us, even the next 9 commandments, how to live with God as your God. It trains us by saying: “This is how you must live instead.”

If we have engaged in honest Bible reading we know that we have been confronted by God and his Word. This punctures our pride and unsettles us. If we aim to preserve comfort and protect honor then we will avoid this like someone who is out of shape avoids the gym.

But here is the truth: our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9), they trick us. We believe the lie that it is better to live in the false comfort we are in rather than the comfort that God can provide. We lean upon the false savior of self and as a result guarantee that we will not be comfortable. It is only be being made uncomfortable by God that we can truly be comforted.

Action item: search your heart and see if you are avoiding God to preserve the idol of comfort.

It’s Too Hard

I think this is a rarity but there are some people who find the Bible very difficult. When they begin reading it they find they have crossed cultural, historical, and even religious lines. They are overwhelmed. In this situation they should seek some help. Ask a pastor or another mature believer for help. After some time with another Christian reading the Bible together, and through providing some basic tools and resources they should be well on their way. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the child of God to conform us into the likeness of the Son of God. We need the Bible. We have to do whatever it takes. This may take some time rolling up the sleeves, but it is definitely worth.

Action item: admit it and ask for help.

We are Undisciplined

In order to do anything of value consistently it takes discipline. However, if we sit back and do not live with intentionality we will not be regularly in the Word of God. Do you think an Olympic athlete hits snooze on their alarm when training? Never! Do they not get tired? Of course they do. But there is a critical point when discipline defeats the desire of the moment. It is when the mind speaks to the heart and says, “Hey, I’m in charge. It is time to get up even if I don’t feel like it.” Discipline takes effort. We don’t recline into discipline we must work at it. Is there anything more important than godliness to discipline ourselves for? Paul tells Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4.7-8).

Action item: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

We Think it is Stale and Lifeless

Many people do not find themselves awed by the Bible. They avoid the Bible because it has been a long time (if ever) since they have found themselves truly moved by its truth. This reveals more of a problem with the person than with the Bible. The Bible is not boring, we are boring. Many of us are too infatuated with the trivial to even appreciate something of substance. We jump from one mindless triviality to another day after day and wonder why we have no appetite for the Word of God. The Bible declares that it is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12-13), and it has a long track record of being so. If we think the Bible is stale or lifeless then perhaps the coin of its central truth has not yet dropped. Maybe we have yet to see that God is truly good and that we are truly not. Until we are conquered by the truth of the gospel the Bible remains a book about God instead of a book about our God.

Action item: Examine your heart to see if you truly love God.

We Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God

Years ago my wife was deployed in the military for months. She would send me letters (pre-internet days). When I’d receive them I would read through quickly and then sit back and think. Then I’d read through and examine patterns. “Why did she write so neatly here but more hurriedly here? What’s going on? Why are there hearts on these exclamation points but not these?” Then I would read it through slowly. I’d walk around thinking about it. Why did I do this? Because I loved my wife. Suppose it was different though. Suppose I got the letter and just tossed it over on the pile of other mail. And there it sat with junk mail and bills for a few days. I’d walk across the room and see it but instead of opening it up I would just ignore it as I watched SportsCenter or read the paper. You would doubtless call me a bad husband and say that our relationship was in trouble. You would be right. But isn’t this what people do with the Bible? God has spoken to us in the Word of God. It is his letter to us. How can a person say that they truly love God but throw his “letter” aside in favor of other stuff? How can they give it less attention than things that don’t matter?

Let’s be honest: if you don’t read your Bible it is because you don’t want to read your Bible. And to bottom line this further, this is indicative or your relationship with God. We cannot separate a love for the Word of God and the God of the Word.

Action item: If we do find ourselves not reading our Bibles we should examine ourselves to see the true substance of our relationship with God. Is it dysfunctional? If so repent and speak to God in confession. Then you will find yourself finding joy in God and his Word.

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35 thoughts on “Let’s Be Honest: Reasons Why We Don’t Read Our Bibles”

  1. Rosario says:

    It’s almost like when people say they’re broke but they’ll find the money to buy what they like and so with people who say they’re busy but will find the time to do what they like to do. It’s a heart issue. Don’t you think?

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      It is a heart issue Rosario. Right on–good illustration.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I would also add to this well thought out list (and I think the author touches on this in all points) that the reason many people, even Christians, don’t read the Bible is because they really don’t believe it is true. I mean this more in the “help my unbelief” sense. Same with prayer. If we truly believed that the Bible was the word of God, powerful and effective for teaching, reproving, training in righteousness, and trusting that the Holy Spirit is working in us as we read and pray, (and we desired those things) then we would do anything to make time to read it and to pray. We make time to eat and sleep because we a) feel the physical effects of it when we don’t and b) we believe and trust that eating and sleeping are good for our health and beneficial to us in many tangible and visible ways. The more time and energy we spend praying and reading the Word, the more obvious it is when we are not in the word. The more time spent praying and reading the Word, the clearer it becomes that we need it in order to be truly sustained, just like we know we need food water and sleep to be physically sustained. My point is…I think the root is unbelief. Lord help my unbelief.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Great comparison with prayer Elizabeth. We don’t feel our need so we neglect.

  3. Virginia says:

    The Bible is a gateway to understanding the Love of God and God’s wish for his children to commune with Him. With the Holy Spirit providing the faith (not our faith) to believe the gospel, and then the Bible’s stories and examples to have us learn about how God sees the world. If we try and pick up the Bible out of duty, because we “have” to, or we “should,” it is not out of love that we do it, but Duty. Again Human endeavor, not God breathed. When we see other Christ followers who have fallen away from His Holy Word, and have lost touch with the Almighty, let us in love and compassion, offer examples from our lives of how God has met us and walked with us in the pages of Scripture, revealing His love and desires for us. If we ourselves have missed that communion, so it is not in us to share it with others, then the Spirit can prick our heart and we can return ourselves to worship and repent of our own time away from Him. I see an opportunity to have our love walk come alongside someone who has let the day to day drifting away harm the communion time. How often do we truly worship the Lord first thing in the morning each day? Ask Him for the faith and guidance, and He will meet you. He is faithful forevermore.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Thanks for the comment Virginia. Good thoughts.

  4. Yeah, I get your point, but then again the scriptures already give us the reason we don’t obey God. Curiously more attention is paid to obedience to the Word than to the commands to read it. The truth is that most of us are so bamboozled by the intake of scripture via outsource, that our insource suffers for lack of space to store the information. How in heaven’s name do we expect people to take in Hebrews on Sunday morning, Galatians on Sunday night, and Titus on Wednesday night and process those into obedience in any real fashion? In order to properly equip people for Bible Study we need a stronger ally than sin and shame, we need order and the Spirit in our churches to discern not only where each one is in their faith but also where they are going. In short, without discipling people to radically reorient their lives for the gospel we are only kidding ourselves to imagine that they will work out their own salvation with fear and trembling via communion with God.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Sure, crowded church schedules are definitely a problem. We still need to give attention to the hearing/reading of the Word in order to understand what to obey and why to obey.

  5. Bill Weber says:

    Maybe if the church started to model reading the Bible, the people in the pews would see its importance! The Scriptures command us to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, but in your average Evangelical church these days we do not get much more than the text for the sermon. Gone are the regular reading of the Psalms, the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles. Why aren’t we devoted to the public reading of Scripture? We are too devoted to singing and entertainment and seeker sensitivity. We secretly believe that to read the Sciptures in church would bore people.

    Evangelicals have misconstrued the nature of biblical worship which has a pattern of Word and meal, rather than singing and a sermon. The pattern given by Jesus of Word/sign or Word/meal was followed in the early church, which developed the service of the Word followed by the service of the table. Consequently, we fail to see that singing in the church service falls under the category of prayer and should fit seamlessly into the dialogue of worship under the categories given by Acts 2:42 of teaching, meal, prayer, and fellowship.

    My main point is that the Evangelical church is unfaithful in its public reading of Scripture, so it is not a surprise that its people are unfaithful in their private reading of Scripture.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of the public reading of Scripture. However, in churches that do public reading of Scripture there are still people who neglect private reading. And, not all evangelical churches neglect it. While there are many issues in the church today we can’t throw this entirely at the church’s feet.

    2. People ARE BORED with the Bible because of the mere fact that the contents contain people, places and stories that one in 2015 cannot necessarily identify with. It is not that a Christian does not choose to love God, or partake in the power of the Word as suggested, it is simply a fact that the contents of the Bible are not interesting to many people. The names of cities, the names of sons and daughters of named individuals cannot possibly mean much to a person living in 2015, who does not ride in a chariot, who has never had to hunt for their own food, who has never seen half of what the people named in the Bible have seen and experienced, nor have most people seen a Shepard in a field tending his flock of sheep. Today, planning a vacation at theme parks with family members, or taking trips to Sea World to watch Orca splash an entire audience, is in part why people are not thumping their Bibles…there are so many fun-loving things to do with family and friends in today’s world. With all due respect, the Bible is not a book of interest to many…not suggesting it is not worthy of interest…but simply does not appeal to many people who were born in an era that has no similar association to that of the people in the Bible, originating from a place in time that was so long ago.

      1. Toonna says:

        Great point, so now how shall we solve this?2

      2. Shay says:

        I also believe that the Bible comes from an time that not too many people are familiar with. But, they can be educated! There are places that celebrate the Medieval ages (e.g. the Medieval Times)!

    3. Rosario says:

      Bill I do agree that the church has to model the bible reading. They can do this by having a sermon that’s specifically geared to bible reading such as this and also making us turn to our own bible during the sermon. The classes also help. So yes although they are not to be blame for us not reading our bible they have a role in influencing us to do so.

      I don’t know much about evangelicals so I can’t make a comment on them. I still appreciate your insight on this.

  6. Chuckt says:

    A lot of churches don’t want it because they hold their pastor back because they only read two verses of scripture or we don’t open up our Bibles at all. On top of that, a lot of Churches don’t have a library to teach their children or older adults.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      It’s a shame to hear of churches holding their pastor back. A problem indeed Chuck.

  7. Kenny says:

    Great post and insightful article. I agree in whole with your article, however one problem popped into my mind as I read. How would these exhortations be applied for those living in closed countries or antagonistic areas toward the gospel? How would believers apply this article if they were not allowed or just do not have the Scriptures?

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Great question. I don’t have a good answer.
      Similiar to this would be for those who lived prior to the printing press. How could they get access to the Bible (outside of Sunday gatherings)?

      My focus was primarily upon those who have the access. Your point is well taken.

  8. Esther says:

    When new Christians are discipled now, they don’t seem to be being told that daily quiet times are an integral part of being a Christian, these days. I tried to put this( regular QT) into a friend’s life who had been discipled about 5 years ago, but found it impossible, she produced all the excuses included in this article and it seemed her gods were all worldly gods of Exercise, busyness and self. She wanted to grow as a Christian, yet even with all the resources we are given online these days …if she didn’t understand a passage I told her to just listen to a sermon online or take a disc to listen to in the car, and she would get a clearer picture from listening to the passage expanded. We are flooded with an array of translations, and have access to great preachers which also helps on this front; and she had a study bible to help her. I suppose too, that because we have free and easy access to the Bible, many people no longer appreciate this is not a right for all and certainly don’t value and use their privilege. But in the words of Ecc 12, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, because it is those memory verses that help us through hard times. If you haven’t learned any, you will have nothing to draw on when you need it most.

  9. Steve says:

    Maybe some pastors have studied the Bible and read it so many times that they think they have the Bible figured out. They know their way around the Bible so they don’t think they need to read it cover to cover anymore but instead become focused on reading that they believe will help their preaching; leadership or apologetics.
    Personally I feel the need to know better the teaching of Jesus found in the gospels as Jesus said “make disciples…and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”.
    This means having a knowledge of Jesus and his teachings that can be passed on to others.
    The OldTestament is ‘the Scriptures that Jesus read and knew so well so they provide the background for what he taught.

  10. Larry Geiger says:

    We don’t read like pastors and theologians because we aren’t pastors and theologians. Maybe a few folks are subject to the reasons listed above, but mostly not. Periodically we go through this, “parishioners don’t do all the stuff that pastors and theologians do”. That’s because we aren’t pastors and theologians. We are first and foremost, workers and parents. And that’s what we are called by God to be. So we work and we parent. And a few other things.

    Most Christians bring biblical teaching and prayer into their everyday lives but we don’t spend hours and hours contemplating our navels and trying to understand all of the deep questions that anyone across the world can come up with. (We’re too busy. Hee hee.)

  11. Drew Koss says:

    Erik: I have greatly enjoyed your articles on here on TGC. This may be the best yet. May God continue to bless you and the congregation you serve. PS please send a church planter to my small town in Indiana. LOL

  12. Chelsey says:

    I actually think that the issue of not knowing HOW to read the Bible is a huge one in most churches. Yes, all of us who are literate can read the words, and as Christians we have the Holy Spirit, but I think many Christians when first converted are never discipled and taught in a way that shows them how to study the Bible in a way that changes their hearts.

  13. Jacob Thomason says:

    Is it alright if I print this and use it in a class for our teens? I think this does a great job of addressing a lot of the reasons why how we treat the Bible doesn’t match up with what we claim about the Bible.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Yes–go ahead.

  14. Robin Garces says:

    Great message. You hit the nail on the head. Our abundance and prosperity as Americans has become a stumbling block as Jesus said it would. Ignorance of the truth breads warped and twisted ideologies in contrary with our Lord’s teachings. Then we wander into all kinds of vagAries or outright wrong headedness and my become Pharasees or Saddusees or just drift away. The Words of our Lord are the bread or food of our spiritual growth in him. I don’t know about you, but sometimes bread can be tough to swallow when your not in the mood, but not eating when your in need of sustenance doesn’t enhance your health. Studying God’s word for all the reasons listed is damned hard. That’s how Satan wants it to be for you. But all things that improve Life are hard. Easy things bring no lasting joy or meaninng. So put on your big boy pants and find the best way for you to feed your mind with the breed of life. There are no good excuses with all the choises and good teachers available today. I use my smartphone to listen to bible teachings and read. Translations that make it easier abound. No more excuses. As the Navy Seals say in their training, “Yesterday is the only easy day.”
    Rob G.

  15. After noticing something awkward about my Bible reading practices, I asked myself why I wasn’t reading the Bible as much as I should, why I didn’t yearn for the word like I used to? The answer shocked me. I didn’t love God as much as I thought I did. Through believing a wrong concept of freedom, I thought having no Bible schedule was liberty. Is refusing to read a love letter a sign of freedom or a tell-tell for an impending break-up? Thanks Erik for this post, it might be dated now, but relevant to me now.

  16. Food for thought says:

    Here’s the thing…

    Some of us the Lord has blessed abundantly in almost all areas of life. We are thankful for all that He has done. We’re thankful for hedging us in on every side. Aside from occasional sickness, or the loss of a job, or perhaps a loved one, for the most part everything is fairly smooth sailing. We say it’s because of the Cross that we love Him, but I suspect that’s only because we’re expected to say that. He’s been exceedingly generous to us ‘temporally’ speaking. Why wouldn’t we love Him?

    Then there are those of us He seems to hammer, and pound, and slam, and crush, and grind into dust from the cradle to the grave. Victims with a sore past of sexual, emotional and physical abuse – extenuating circumstances leading to poor choices in life. We were born in a hole, with fetters on our ankle, before the race of life began, and we’ve never been given a clear shot at smooth sailing, even for a moment, let alone dig ourselves out. Nothing EVER seems to pan out in our favor, no matter how much we try. We pray, and we pray, and we pray… We BEG for wisdom. We BEG for mercy. We BEG for temporal grace; just to ease the suffering, if only for a bit. We are then hammered, and pounded, and slammed, and crushed, and ground into dust even more. We’re too afflicted to read His Word. He’s hurting us and we don’t know why. We are in despair. We want to kill ourselves. We hate the fact ‘existence’ was forced upon us. We desire to to be put back into whatever ‘state’ of ‘non-existence’ we were before He created us. No heaven, no hell. No glory. Nothing. Just *poof*. Gone. He doesn’t need us, so what’s the big deal anyway???

    Think about what this is like. Once day God shows up in your life, setting you free from infinite darkness. He takes up residence within you. He blows your mind by speaking to you through the Word. You’re His. Now you are part of the New Covenant community by sign and seal of the covenant. Yet, you’re one of the ‘have-nots’ of the body. He’s created you to be a marginally employed loser with no hope of a future. Uneducated. Unskilled. Undisciplined. And even though you give your best, to be lovingly obedient, praying earnestly for Him to move, very little or nothing changes. You’re still marginally employed loser with no hope of a future. Discouragement comes easily. Not reading your bible soon follows.

    But, this didn’t happen by accident. He is sovereign and the absolute predestination of all things is clear from scripture. So, whatever the case may be. Don’t worry about it. You never had a choice, ultimately speaking – and you never will.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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