Bible reading isn’t an end in itself!
Really? Shouldn’t we be studying the Bible for all it’s worth? Isn’t the discipline of Bible reading profitable? Well, yes and no! According to the Scriptures we should be aiming for something more than just reading the Bible as a source of knowledge or inspiration.
Consider John 5:39-40: Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees diligently studied the Scriptures, yet rebuked them for not coming to Him to find life. In other words, there is no value in Bible reading if the purpose of Bible reading, “to have life”, is neglected.
This is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees: On the surface it looked like they were doing something good. But with all their reading, memorizing and studying the text, they didn’t know God. While they scrupulously obeyed the letter of the law, they didn’t get the spirit of the law. While they emphasized the importance of the Word, they failed to embrace the living Word. Yes, the Pharisees respected and venerated the Scriptures over everything else – but in so doing they were guilty of bibliolatry.
If Bible reading isn’t an end in itself, then what is? Philip Hughes, in his paper, Putting Life Together: Findings From Australian Youth Spirituality Research, suggests the goal is “transformational Bible engagement”. He uses this term to describe the goal as the change that happens to a person as a result of Bible reading. That is, the goal is to read the Bible to “shape each area of our lives” in order to conform to the life of Christ.
When Hughes suggests the goal is to “shape each area of our lives” he’s drawing attention to the fact that true Bible engagement happens as God speaks to us, we listen, and He enables us to live out the Kingdom values Jesus spoke about and modelled.
So read the Bible, but not as an end in itself. Read it as a means to an end. Read it to find life and fullness of life in Christ (cf. John 10:10). Read it to see and know the Person behind the text. And read it to be like-minded, have the same love, to be one in spirit and of one mind with Christ (cf. Philippians 2:1-4).
© Scripture Union Canada 2014