Do Christians HAVE to Read the Bible?

When we miss the point of reading the Bible, sometimes we ask ourselves (and those in spiritual authority over us) why we have to read the Bible everyday.

“Show me in the Bible where we are commanded to have daily quiet times,” we say, looking for a way to alleviate our feelings of guilt over the fact that we don’t want to take time to read the Bible each day.

We try to build an argument to support the idea that weekly quiet times or monthly Bible reading is sufficient.  We reason that if the Bible doesn’t expressly say we must read the Bible every day, then we have the freedom to read it as frequently (or as infrequently, as the case may be) as our hearts desire.

I mean, that’s just biblical.  Christ has set us free from the Law!

Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad.
Image via Wikipedia

(Insert William Wallace’s “FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOM!” cry here.)

The real issue at hand is not what the Bible does and doesn’t say about spending focused time with the Lord alone.  The actual problem at hand is our lack of desire to be with Him.But, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend we really do want to understand the biblicality of quiet times.  More specifically, let’s consider what the Bible tells us about one facet of quiet times – reading the Bible.

When the Lord was instructing Joshua on taking over as the Israelite’s leader, He said, “Be careful to obey all the Law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful,” (Joshua 1:7-8).

How can we obey the Bible if we don’t know it?   How can we speak about it and meditate on it if we don’t know it?  How can we know it if we don’t read it?  How can we remember what we read if we don’t read it often?

But maybe this verse is not enough to convince us of the need for daily Bible reading…  just often Bible reading.  And “often” is the loophole through which our guilty feelings can escape if we only want to read the Word every once in awhile.

If we are going to emphatically dispute the idea that the Bible doesn’t require us to read it daily, we’re going to have to find another verse.

And I found that verse today.

In Deuteronomy 17, God is telling Moses that there will come a day when Israel will no longer be satisfied with God being their King – they are going to demand a human king.  And when that king is appointed, God says of him, “He is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees,” Deuteronomy (17:18-19).

To modernize things, these verses are saying Israel’s leader is to a) have his own Bible, b) keep his Bible with him, and c) read his Bible daily.

Why?

So he may learn to revere the Lord and obey His Word.

You can infer with me that if the king does not know the Word, he won’t know how to revere God or what he needs to do to obey God.

And even though we are not kings of Israel, these commands still apply to us.  Those who know the Bible know how to revere and obey Him.

So it is with us.  The Bible tells us we need to read the Bible.  If you’re struggling with not wanting to read the Word, tell Him about it.  Tell Him why you don’t want to.  Ask Him to make you want to.  He can change your desire.  Just ask.

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9 thoughts on “Do Christians HAVE to Read the Bible?

  1. Also consider Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”

    Secondly, I’ve always considered the verses on the armor of God to be prudent on this topic as well. If we leave for the day without a piece of armor, we are subject to attack.

    During a FCA Bible Study, one of the leaders walked in the room and started patting himself down like he forgot something. He said, “I forgot my sword!”. I laughed cause I thought he talking about a literal sword but he walked back in with his Bible. Great testimony in that.

  2. Found this today:

    In a world of created changeable things,
    Christ and His Word alone remain unshaken…
    Let me know that He is dear to me by His Word;
    I am one with Him by the Word on His part, and by faith on mine;
    If I oppose the Word I oppose my Lord when He is most near;
    If I receive the Word I receive my Lord wherein He is nigh.
    O Thou who hast the hearts of all men in Thine hand,
    form my heart according to the Word,
    according to the image of Thy Son,
    So shall Christ the Word, and His Word,
    be my strength and comfort.

    – Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision, 17

  3. While I don’t disagree about the benefits of daily Bible reading, I think there must be a few other points made here. I do not make these as contradictory, so to speak, but merely as additional.

    1. The practice of daily Bible reading has only been possible for the “average person” for a fraction of the time that the Bible has existed. Notice that only the leaders of Israel actually owned a copy of the Torah (Joshua, the king, etc.). Public reading of Scripture was all that most people had until the modern era, when literacy and access to printed materials became widespread. The Bible cannot be teaching daily bible reading, nor can it possibly be a requirement for spiritual development, unless only modern people can grow spiritually, which is probably more akin to the opposite of reality.

    2. The teaching of Scripture seems to be focused more on the meditation of God’s word, keeping it on your lips. This requires memorization. This standard seems to have declined in popularity as Bible access has become so widespread. Maybe daily reading is too low of a standard. Should we focus less on daily reading and more on daily memorization and mediation. Too many of us read our Bible but never go deep enough to wrestle with it, to tear it apart, to chew on it, and then to know it deeply.

    3. You made a great point. The question is not really whether we read out Bible daily, but rather whether we are eager to engage with the Lord daily. Many times, this will mean reading your Bible. Sometimes, you may be communing with God while you drive or walk, and reading your Bible may not be possible/practical. Or, some other times you may intentionally recite a scripture, meditating on God’s word, and praying and being with the Lord. No reason to crack a book when you have God’s word at hand in your heart and mind.

    I do think we need to encourage people to read the Bible. But, I think we do a disservice when we suggest that it is THE method of engaging with God daily. That cannot be what the Bible teaches, since it is a historical impossibility. We can also negate some of the feelings of self-guilt and other-condemnation when we rightly teach the whole truth about knowing and pleasing God. There are many spiritual activities that are equally important as reading your Bible every day that we almost never mention. What about spending time in quiet with God, alone with him? What about daily service and sacrifice? What about honoring God in our speech and actions daily? What about worshiping him and sharing our lives with him?

    It must come back to the heart, never simply a list of activities. Any of these activities can be done to no spiritual effect. But with the right heart, anyone can grow with God using almost any of the practices listed.

    That’s my thinking on it, anyway.

  4. Stephen, I completely agree. Thanks for your thoughts.

    I appreciate the reminder that access to the Bible was limited back then. I tend to push Bible reading harder than other methods of connecting with God because I like the concrete nature of it. If someone has an idea about God or an impression “from God” that is not verifiable by Scripture, I get nervous that they may be buying and selling a subtle lie/falsehood. Connect with God through any means, yes, but make sure its GOD you are connecting with (by comparing your findings with Scripture) and not “spirituality”. I don’t know how much of a problem they had with this in OT days, but I see it as a huge modern day problem, hence my hypersensitivity to it.

    I am all for freedom from self-guilt and other-condemnation for NOT reading the Bible daily when it isn’t feasible. Moms of young children for sure need to hear that.

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