How NOT to read the Bible
We all make mistakes. Reading the Bible is awesome, powerful, and worth the effort. However, it can also be difficult to read. So, it should be no surprise to us that there are WRONG ways to read the Bible.
In this blog, I want to outline the top 4 wrong ways you might be reading the Bible.
The goal here is not to shame or guilt you. We are all in the same boat here. Anyone who has picked up the Bible has probably read it the wrong way at some point in their lives.
So, let’s make an agreement. Don’t feel shamed or guilted by this blog. 👍
The absolute worst thing you can do after reading this blog is to stop reading the Bible because you’re afraid of doing it wrong. As a matter of fact, that’s the #1 worst way to read the Bible.
1. Not reading the Bible at all
Ok, this may seem like a ridiculous item to list, but it is in fact the worst way I can think of.
Whether you have grown up in the church or you are on a new spiritual journey of discovery, the worst thing you can do is to not read the Bible at all. Some of us feel like the “experts” need to read the Bible to us because we feel inadequate to pick up the famed book.
The problem with this approach to the Bible is that you have to take someone else’s word for it. They might be reading the Bible wrong themselves, and you’d never know it. I’m not saying all preachers are reading the Bible wrong. I’m just saying they could be, and you’d have no clue because you never pick it up yourself.
God wants you to read His Word. He wants you to learn about Him. Do it, and see how it changes your life.
Here are some tips on how to read the Bible that might help you get started.
2. Reading the Bible to confirm your own personal opinion
Have you ever done this? You find yourself upset over an argument about God, the Bible, the Church, etc. You jump on Google and type in: “Bible verses that prove_______” fill in the blank with the subject you are upset about.
This is a very dangerous way to read the Bible, because it almost certainly will take the Bible out of context. Even if you are right, and the Bible does actually support your argument, you can find yourself ignoring other important things.
Example: You are certain that God is a wrathful, angry god 😡. You search “Bible verses that prove God is wrathful,” and you find a ton of verses that say so. Great. Now you have given yourself only a fraction of what the Bible says about God’s character.
A full understanding of the Bible would demonstrate that God is wrathful at times, but also extremely slow to anger and quick to forgive and love. BUT you’d never know that if you just focused on your Google results.
The Bible is design to show YOU the best way to live by understanding the eternal Being who created you. That’s why approaching the Bible to confirm what you already think to be true is so backwards.
You are meant to approach the Bible for how it can change you, not how it can keep you in the same place you were before.
3. Assuming the Bible was written to you
The Bible is for you, but it wasn’t written to you. That means it was written to someone else first, and that someone else is different than you. The book of Leviticus is an easy example if this. The book of Leviticus says crazy things like:
“Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community.” Leviticus 10:6
“A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days…” Leviticus 12:2
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.” Leviticus 19:9
Let’s pick on the last example. If we assume the Bible is written directly to us today then a lot of Christian farmers are sinning, am I right? I grew up in Iowa, and I’ll tell you right now that no one follows Leviticus 19:9.
What’s the deal with Leviticus 19:9? Are modern-day farmers a bunch of evil doers because they don’t follow Leviticus 19:9? Nope.
Let’s take a step back from assuming the Bible was written directly to us and ask, “who was Leviticus written to?”
Leviticus was written to ancient Israel in the Ancient Near Eastern culture. In this culture, everyone relied on the food they could produce themselves. The poor were those whose personal farms had fallen on hard times. It could be that drought, bad seed, disease, fire, etc. had struck their crops, and they were left with next to nothing to sustain themselves.
Often the best way for the poor to get enough food to feed their families in these hard times was by picking up the leftovers from the farms whose harvest had gone well.
Leviticus 19:9 is God trying to help the poor out. More successful farmers would often be tempted to bar the poor from the leftovers of their fields, not allowing them to have any of the leftovers.
The message of Leviticus 19:9 is powerful and applicable when we take a step back and stop thinking everything in the Bible was written directly to us. The message: God wants us to feed the poor. More importantly, God wants us to not let greed blind us to the needs of the poor.
Just because the Bible wasn’t written to you, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have important truth for you.
4. Asking “What Does This Mean to Me?”
This can be a touchy one, because it is the quintessential Bible study question. I’ve asked it. I’ve answered it. Anyone who has been a part of a group Bible study has been asked it.
On one hand, it is a great opening question to ask when studying the Bible. It gets your mind thinking and starts discussion. On the other hand, if this is only question you are asking during your Bible reading, you might get trapped thinking you get to decide what the Bible means.
Let me ask you a question: if the Bible is a gift from God and contains truths about God that will change your life, who gets to decide what it means? You or God?
I hope you answered, “God.” Because if the true meaning of the Bible is decided by the reader, what’s the point of reading the Bible in the first place? I don’t know about you, but I’ve made enough mistakes in my life to know I’m not the best judge of right and wrong.
That’s why the Bible exists. It gives us a ruler to measure ourselves by to see if we are doing the right thing or need to change the way we are doing things.
Relying on the question, “what does this mean to me?” can blind you to what the Bible actually means. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask it or you are evil if you do. What I’m trying to point out is you should go deeper and ask, “What does God want to show me here?”
There are many more ways you can read the Bible incorrectly. I’ve just listed a few here, but here’s the main point: approach the Bible with humility, and you’ll do just fine.
Read the Bible to see how you can grow. Always be ready to admit you were wrong. Be prepared for God to speak to you and challenge you. Do these things, and you’re ready to read the Bible the right way.