I thought this post might be fun. As I’m learning more and more about the Bible, I thought it might be good to remind us there’s a way to read the bible, then there’s a better way. I’ve DEFINITELY committed ALL of these before, so please laugh along and let’s not get too offended.
(And, so sadly, we’re going to have to do this one without GIFs because GIPHY is being super weird.)
5 Pieces of Really Bad Advice For Reading The Bible
The Holy Spirit? We don’t know him.
If your goal is to just waste a lot of time but not actually change, definitely don’t pray and invite the Holy Spirit into your reading time. Don’t revere it as the Word of God. Don’t believe that it can speak to you today, right where you are. Only read the Bible. Don’t let the Bible read you. Any time you’re reading and tearing up because it’s almost like God speaks directly to you, nah, it was just your emotions so please level out. It wasn’t him, and you’re probably crazy for thinking it was. This book was only meant for everyone else. Not for you. Not for you to understand. Not for you to grasp. It can’t speak to the stuff you’re going through right now.
Ignore author, intent, and audience.
The Bible was written a long time ago, but please, go ahead and ignore any culture. The Bible is written to you, after all!* These older people were just holding on to it for me until you got it. Don’t read the backgrounds to understand who God was talking to and why. And, for sure, don’t learn any history. That’s just a waste of time. That phrase *probably* means the exact same to you as it did to them, right? And, don’t learn who is meant by “them.” It’s not important. You can probably discern what it meant to the original audience. Actually, just forget about them entirely, unless you’re trying to explain why you can still eat lobster and wear clothes with more than two fabrics. They don’t really matter anyway, because the Bible is just what God is saying to me, so as long as it affects me, that’s what I’ll read.
Read verses solo.
Verses from the bible don’t have backgrounds or contexts. They don’t carry on a thought from one chapter to the next. Removing all context just makes it simpler to understand. And if you really want to remove any and all context from a verse of the bible, only read 1 verse at a time. Just pull random verses. Context isn’t really necessary to understanding what anyone has ever said. And the numbers are there for a reason, right? If they didn’t want me to just pick one verse, why did God create verses?! Actually, the best way is to just open the Bible, point to a random verse, and that’s probably what God is telling you to do. Better yet if you tell someone else how you interpret that verse and they disagree with you, well, they’re just persecuting you. All scripture is God-breathed, amiright! And ALL the Bible is cool, I mean, except for Numbers. Numbers is just silly. Who wants to read all those numbers. It’s not important. And Jeremiah. Has anyone ever actually read through Jeremiah? You know, it’s best just to read the parts of the Bible that are interesting or have things to teach us. The rest of the Bible’s just there and you can totally skip those parts and still be ok.
Read through American lenses.
God clearly says in the Bible he has a covenant with America. It’s right here in my Bible. As long as we follow His statues and strong-arm our friends and politicians to vote in ways vaguely according to some general ideas in the Bible (except those pesky ones about poverty that raise our taxes) He’s promised us it will be smooth sailing and he’ll bless us. With funds to build a wall. Yeah. Yeah that’s how he’ll bless us.**
Don’t read commentaries.
Definitely don’t read or listen to any other writings ABOUT the Bible. That’s just pollution. You only want the *pure* understanding of God’s word. Which is your pure understanding. If you DO cave and read some commentaries, you’ll want to understand that they’re all idiots who don’t know anything about the Bible (and should totally give back their PhDs). Don’t read any historical or cultural books. Really, all people think the same, and all cultures are built the same, so it’s just a waste of time. Those people are just trying to make money off the Bible. You don’t need to listen to anyone else.
Ok, before you all hate me…
So obviously this is a post focusing on BAD advice right, so like, in reality, the opposite is true.
Let me tell you a little about my Bible-reading history:
Like almost everyone, I started reading the Bible and I was a straight idiot. God used this straight idiot and spoke through the Bible to help me understand him. I had no idea what context even was, let alone how it worked in a 2,000 year old book. I didn’t know any history of the Bible until 10 years in church. But then God and some extremely great teachers and books started to teach me the who, what, when of the bible. Now I’m slightly smarter, but still definitely have a long way to go. (Education has this way of revealing to you just how much you DON’T understand.) It’s so crazy how God can use the same Bible to teach idiot me and slightly smarter me, but He can and He did with me.
Through learning the backgrounds, cultures, and how ancient texts worked and what they meant to the people that first received them, I’ve learned a lot more about God,*** and undone a lot of the narrower interpretations I made up when I didn’t have the skills to understand better. I’m so grateful God wrote such an amazing document that can give something to someone who’s reading it for the first time, with no understanding, to people who have PhDs and read the Bible for a living. It has an understandable surface for those who are new, but immense depth for those who plunge.
Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed because I don’t think I’ll ever understand everything to really get that perfect interpretation of what God’s trying to do in the different books. But then I just remember how much grace God had on me when I had absolutely no understanding of the bible and I know he’ll have the same grace for me now. So I take a deep breath of grace and dive in.
Ok I hope we all had fun today! See you next week!
*Yeah, I’d been taught this too. It’s written FOR you but not TO you.
**sorry not sorry for this saltiness. Feel free to tell me I’ll burn in hell in the comments. :)
***And I’ve gotten a BETTER understanding of the messages in the Bible. Obviously as we learn from people about ancient cultures, texts, and theology, we have to realize that we are sinful man dealing with sinful man, trying to understand sinful man and a perfect God. I’m mindful that even the things I hold core about the Bible or God may be man-made, not God-intended. I’m mindful that anything I’m taught or infer from the Bible may be complete misunderstandings. We must always be ready to let God speak into what we believe, and turn course if necessary. We can’t hold our beliefs about God as our idol above God.