When you first became a Christian, you probably gobbled up every piece of information you could about Jesus. After all, you had a desire to be the best Christian you could be. If someone suggested something, you did it. If a pastor said you should do something and it was what good Christians did, you started doing it. You simply wanted to follow Christ. That’s all.
Unfortunately, some of the things said and even encouraged are not scriptural mandates. They may be good things to do that will help you in your faith, but they are not commands of Christ.
I am going to share some of these things with you today. You may have to reprogram yourself regarding some of the things you have heard. Before I share them, hear me clearly: I am not saying the things you have been told are bad. I am simply saying that are not mandatory to faith. I even encourage many of them, but they are not practices that you must do or else you are somehow less than a Christian.
The key word that makes these things lies is the word “must.” Perhaps you are not being told you must, but in my 50+ years of living, this is how they come off sounding. Let’s set the record straight. We’ll start in this article by addressing the first lie.
- You must read your Bible every day.
Nowhere in the Bible are we taught we must read the Bible daily. We are told that we should search the scriptures. We are told to study to prove ourselves. We are told to reflect on God’s words. The Psalmist does proclaim meditating on the law of the Lord is beneficial. But we are not told we must read our Bible daily.
Typically, this untruth is advocated with statements that make you feel like if you don’t read your Bible daily that you are sinning. You are not committed to Christ enough. If you were, you would make a habit of daily Bible reading. Shame on you if you don’t.
Again, let’s clarify. Reading your Bible daily is good. Daily reading is beneficial to your faith. It will help you grow in your relationship with God. Your knowledge of scripture will profit. I even encourage it and teach it in my devotional books. Yes, read the Bible as much as you can! However, reading your Bible isn’t a requirement by God or Jesus Christ.
Consider the disciples of Jesus. They did not have a Bible. Sure, fragments and individual books of what we call the Old Testament were around. But the disciples didn’t have one in their pocket or on their nightstand.
What we have today as the New Testament were letters passed around throughout the churches. To be present in a reading of one of Paul’s letters was considered a delight. But “Take your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Corinthians” wasn’t heard of in the early churches.
Make no mistake, the disciples and early Christians, particularly the Jewish Christians, were familiar with the Old Testament. They knew a lot of what the Torah, history books, and Jewish poetry writings said. They were taught it from their youth, assuming the law had been followed by their parents.
There is evidence in the Gospels that the first disciples were fairly versed in the Law. However, the likelihood of doing a daily Bible reading was not likely.
So how did they learn God’s word? They went to the synagogues to hear the word read. Then they meditated upon it and discussed it with others throughout the week.
That last paragraph holds a clue for us about God’s word. No, we are not told to read the Bible daily, but yes, we are told to dwell on the word of God. In fact, the Bible teaches there is great benefit in pondering God’s word. We don’t get a pass on that.
Why would I even write such an article?
I write such an article because I have talked with a lot of Christians that bear guilt that they do not read their Bibles daily. In fact, some of them feel so guilty they have given up on growing in their faith. They don’t think they can grow unless they read their Bibles daily. It simply isn’t true. The scriptures themselves even prove it so.
Imagine if rather than telling people they must read their Bible daily, we told them to simply ponder and discuss the word of God with others. Even if they only knew one verse or one story, what if we taught them to think about that verse or story throughout their day and talk about it with other people? I suspect a person who did this, rather than feeling guilty for not reading their Bible, would grow more in their faith.
I will go one step further. I believe that a person who will dwell on the one story they know in the Bible and talk about that story with others will grow more than a person who reads their Bible every day but never thinks about what they read once they finish their daily reading.
Even further than that, I believe the person who talks about the one story they know in the Bible with others is far more faithful than the person who reads their Bible daily but doesn’t talk to a soul about what they read.
Your faithfulness to Jesus has less to do with daily Bible reading than it does with you sharing what you have read. Your commitment to Christ has more to do with you living out what you have learned from Christ than it does the number of verses, chapters, or books of the Bible that you read.
If you read your Bible daily, it will only benefit you if you do what you have read. Otherwise, you have only read a bunch of words on a page.
For centuries, most of the general public, including Christians, didn’t know how to read. They listened to their teachers and then went and did what they learned. In the church this meant they listened to what their elders taught and went out into the world and executed what they had learned. No wonder the Christian church grew so rapidly.
We see the same effects in countries today where owning a Bible is improbable. Many of the people can’t read or write much less have the ability to own a Bible. Yet, the faith explodes far further and faster than in areas of the world where a person has multiple Bibles and advanced education. Churches in these countries aren’t telling their new converts, “Now that you are a Christian you must read your Bible daily.” No. Not at all. They are teaching them how to be disciples and then sending them out to do it.
Its a baffling thing if we would stop and think about it. Maybe we should take a clue from them. Time to stop reading and start doing. We are crippling ourselves otherwise. We are stalling our faith growth. Maybe our mantra should change from “You must read your Bible daily” to “You must live out your faith daily.”
Let’s just stop it. Let’s stop propagating the lie. Yes, there is value in reading your Bible, but it is not a mandate. Jesus did tell us, however, that following him by doing what he says, was a mandate. Maybe we should focus on that instead.