A Shoe in the Hand is Worth Two on the Feet

Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
~ 2 Timothy 2:7

A parable about marriage…maybe.

A certain young man sat down by the way to look at the sky and to think. A neighbor of his happened to walk by. “Good morning.” The young man still stared at the clouds. The neighbor sat down his parcel and leaned closer to the young man’s face. “Hello. Good morning. You seem lost in your thoughts.” The young man blinked, looked at the neighbor, and smiled. “Oh, hello, good morning. I didn’t see you. I was thinking.”

The neighbor straightened to full height. “Well, thinking is always good, though it has gone a little out of fashion. What were you thinking about?” The young man tilted his head and moved his mouth, but no sound came out at first. “I was thinking about a wife.” The neighbor tapped his chin twice. “And whose wife were you thinking about?” The young man’s head leaned back. “What? No. I was thinking about my own wife.” The neighbor put his hands in his pockets. “Oh, I see, but I thought you were unmarried.” The young man gathered his hair from his forehead and smoothed it back. “That’s just the problem. I don’t have a wife; I want a wife.” The young man rubbed the back of his neck and dropped his hand back to his lap. His hair sprang back to drape his forehead.

The neighbor adjusted the waist of his pants and rested his hands on his hips and relaxed his elbows. “Well, sooner or later, a young man will want a wife. What have you done to get a wife?” The young man’s eyes scanned back and forth. “So far I have sat down here and thought about it.” The neighbor stretched his back and then scratched his head about the crown. “What are you going to do after that?” The young man sat still. “I don’t know. I don’t know how to get a wife. How do you get a wife?” The neighbor spread his hands out with palms upward. “What? Have you never read how Boaz got Ruth to wife? He went to the gates of the city and plucked off his shoe. If you’re going to do this the right way, the Bible way, that’s the only way to do it.” The young man’s eyes widened. “Thanks.” He got up and ran off. The neighbor paused a moment, picked up his parcel, and continued on his way.

***

After some time, this same young man once again sat down by the way. As expected, his neighbor came along after a while. The young man this time was alert. “Hello, sir.” The neighbor stopped and rested both hands atop his walking stick. “Good morning, young man. How is the search for a wife getting on?” The young man pushed his lips out like he was going to whistle. “Not very well.” The neighbor wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and replaced his hat. “Oh. What has happened? Did you not take my advice?” The young man placed his hands on the ground. “Yes, I took your advice. I took it all over town. I took it to everyone I met. I even took it to the Bible.” The neighbor’s eyebrows followed the ups and downs of the young man’s words. “Well? What did you find?”

The young man leaned back against the old oak. “I walked many miles, consulted every aged person I met, and went at last to the maps and the city archives. I found that our city does not have gates and never has, as far as the records show. If I could not find the gates, I did not know how I would go there, how I would pluck off my shoe, and how I would get a wife.” The neighbor cleared his throat, but the young man continued before he could speak. “I figured I must be missing something, so I tried to find you but couldn’t find you anywhere.” The neighbor coughed. “Ah, I have been out of town. I’m sorry I missed you.”

The young man sat back up. “Well, I couldn’t find you so I got out the Bible. I read to see what it said about getting a wife. I could not find any other mention of the gates of the city or plucking off shoes to get a wife. Now I wonder if that really is the way.” The neighbor straightened and interrupted. “You’re getting confused by the silence. The Bible doesn’t mention it in those other passages, but it doesn’t say it didn’t happen in those instances.” The young man tilted his face up to his neighbor. “Wait. That’s confusing.” The neighbor relaxed slightly. “Let me explain. In the case of Boaz, the Bible says it did happen. So, when the Bible is silent about it in those other passages, we have to assume that it happened the same way. You see?” The young man scratched his head. “Hmmm…let me ask you a question. Are you married?” The neighbor tilted his head to the side. “No. I have never been married.” The young man looked at the clouds. “Well, maybe that’s the problem.”

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Reading the Whole Bible

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. ~ Romans 15:4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. ~ Romans 15:4

Have you ever read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation?

If you haven’t approached the reading of all the Bible with an intentional plan and regular effort, then you probably haven’t read the whole Bible. I’ve seen some surveys in the last few years that report a little less than two-thirds of evangelical Christians have read the whole Bible at least once in their life.

For several years now I have been encouraging people to read the Bible through every year using some sort of plan for daily reading. At an average reading speed, it takes about 70 hours to read the whole bible. 70 hours works out to about 10-15 minutes per day in a year’s time. All that averages to around three or more chapters a day of reading to read the whole Bible in a year. The point here is that reading the whole Bible in a year’s time is very doable.

For the last several years I have also been surprised by the objections to the aforementioned reading. Honestly, it baffles me how anyone could be opposed to reading the Bible, but there it is. I want to deal with the most common objections I have heard, but first let’s ask: Should a Christian read the whole Bible? The Bible is typically printed in a little over one thousand pages. One thousand pages? How many one thousand page books have you ever read? I have heard that about 70% of adults in America read one book per year. If you’re only reading one book per year, I doubt it’s a thousand page tome.

Yes, Christians should read the whole Bible. No, there is not a command: Thou shalt read the whole Bible. Consider just a couple of verses about the Scripture.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
– 2 Timothy 3:16

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5

If all scripture is inspired and profitable, then we should get around to reading all scripture at some point. If every word of God is pure, then we should get around to reading every word of God at some point. If God bothered to give us one thousand pages of words that are for our instruction and good, then we should bother to read them all.

Three common objections to reading the Bible in a year

Out of a sense of fairness, which comports with my mountain-bred roots, no one I’ve talked with has actually objected to reading the Bible at all, only to reading the whole Bible in a year by a plan. I’ve heard various reasons expressed variously, but I’ve collected them here into the three most common.

  1. I don’t have enough time. I broke it down earlier that this can be done in about 10-15 minutes per day. With the mobile devices we have today, we can always have the Bible with us making it even easier to find this time. Besides, if you seriously don’t have 10-15 minutes in a day to read the Bible, your’re seriously overbooked and cardiac arrest is in your near future. I understand that everyone is busy. I have seven children. The oldest is starting college next week and the youngest isn’t yet two-years-old. I have my own business where I regularly work 50+ hours a week, which at times can be significantly higher. I pastor a church and regularly preach three messages a week. Despite all that, I am currently reading through the Bible in a year. I could go on, but the point is that we are all busy. I don’t think I’m special or any busier than anybody else. If you seriously do not have 10-15 minutes a day to read the Bible, then your priorities are out of order.
  2. I think it’s better to read just a verse or two and get something out of them than to read three chapters and get nothing out of it. I question how you could read three chapters of the Bible and get nothing out of it, but I do have two main answers to this objection. First, reading and studying are not the same things. I think this objections confuses the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that you should read the Bible in a year and not study the Bible. I am suggesting you do both. They are not the same thing. I live by the idea that you should read broadly and study deeply.

    Second, does the reading of a verse or two to get something out of them result in reading the whole Bible? Using that approach, how many times have you read the whole Bible? You don’t have to answer out loud. Without an intentional plan and consistent effort over time, most of us will not read the whole Bible. I set out many times to read the whole Bible, but I never accomplished it without a reading plan and a daily commitment.

    Besides these, did Paul write a whole letter and send it to a church with the intention that they would read the letter or just a sentence or two every now and then? Obviously, the letter was intended to be read start to finish. There is no other way to grasp the context and, therefore, the meaning of the letter.

  3. I don’t think it would be right to read the Bible out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. The objection is that reading the Bible by a plan results in you reading out of obligation to check off the day’s duty rather than reading because you want to. I’ve never experienced that myself. I’ve never experienced reading the Bible grudgingly out of obligation. I’ve found the more I read the Bible by plan daily, the more I want to do it.

    Let’s assume you have a spouse and afore posited spouse has a birthday, which you must admit is extremely plausible. Let’s also assume that your recall of said annual events is not impeccable, which you must also admit is plausible. So, in order not to be the heel of the century, you mark your beloved’s birthday on a calendar so that you’re amply prepared on the appropriate day to shower your beloved with attention and jovial celebration. A wise thing to do and a free marital tip. Is it better to mark the date in advance and plan to remember the birthday, or to only celebrate that day when you happen to remember it at the right time? Did the fact that you planned beforehand to remember mean that you acted sheerly out of obligation in whatever affections you directed to your spouse on the day of?

    One way to look at planned reading is obligation and another way to look at it is discipline. I have my suspicions that this is the real heart of most objections. We are not very disciplined and chafe at the thought of discipline. The Bible does teach that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). In every good thing we endeavor to do, we must wrestle against the flesh that opposes us (Romans 7:14-25; James 4:13-17). Finally, as long as we are in this flesh, we are not sanctified enough to only and always want to do good. If you’re waiting to read the Bible until you feel like it, you won’t read it much.

Benefits to reading the Bible in a year

If you read the whole Bible regularly, you will be benefited. You will grow in grace and knowledge. You will be better prepared to hear sermons well and get more out of them. You will be better able to fight and overcome sin by taking heed to the Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Your mind will be renewed through the Word (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 3:10, 15-16). You will be better prepared to speak a word in season to edify, encourage, and comfort the afflicted. If you think about, what could possibly be beneficial about not knowing more of the Bible?

Maybe there is another reason why we’re not reading the Bible every year

The thought of obligation, duty, and discipline is so odious to us. While I understand the substance of that objection, I ask: What is the alternative? Seriously, what is the alternative to a disciplined approach to reading the Bible. The alternative to discipline is a picture that looks alarmingly similar to the picture of the sluggard in Proverbs.

  • The sluggard is indecisive and will not get started to work though he may talk about it (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14).
  • The sluggard makes excuses or rationalizes his inactivity and lack of accomplishment (Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; 26:16).
  • The sluggard puts responsibility off until later (Proverbs 6:10).
  • The sluggard does not plan ahead and suffers for it (Proverbs 6:8).
  • The sluggard has no self-discipline but must have an overseer to make him do something (Proverbs 6:7).
  • The sluggard does not have a hard-work ethic (Proverbs 6:8).
  • The sluggard does not have the follow-through to finish what he does start (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15).

More could be said, but I will leave you with a serious question. Do you really have a good reason not to read the whole Bible, or is it just an excuse for laziness? Let each of us examine our own heart before the Lord.

Chapter-and-Verse

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. ~ Matthew 22:29

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. ~ Matthew 22:29

The double-edged sword I do not use.

When someone says, “Show me chapter and verse,” they are using an idiom derived from the religious study and use of the Bible. Used secularly, it means the speaker is requesting to be shown a pertinent reference from an authoritative source that substantiates the claim in question. I have heard engineers use this phrase in reference to manuals or other specifications that govern the design and manufacture of items.

If you spend much time at church and around Christians, you will hear this expression. At best, the phrase means we demand biblical support for our doctrine and practice. It means we hold the Bible to be our only and all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. At least, that’s the ideal.

The other edge is when chapter-and-verse becomes a mentality. Then it does not mean biblical support is required, but rather prooftexting is required. In more extreme cases, it means the proponent demands at least one verse that unequivocally states the claim in the proper formula, or they will not accept it. In other words, the Bible has to say we should not do X exactly or we should do Y exactly. If this criteria is not met, they remain belligerent.

I chose that last word carefully because the chapter-and-verse mentality does not reveal the heart of someone devoted to Scripture. Rather, it reveals the obstinate heart of someone who is rejecting God’s Word and doing what is right in their own eyes. This is not someone who is searching, comparing, interpreting, and applying God’s Word.

Three Biblical Problems with the Chapter-And-Verse Mentality

  1. It demands something of the Bible that it was not written to provide. The Bible was not written as a list of dos and don’ts. It contains some lists, but even those need interpretation, as we will see in a moment. Think about it. This mentality is demanding the Bible have an unequivocal statement that addresses a particular situation and, if it doesn’t have such, they feel justified in doing whatever they want. The second most used phrase from people with this mentality is: The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.
  2. The Bible self-testifies that not everyone uses it rightly. Consider this passage from Hebrews:

    Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
    – Hebrews 5:11-14

    Those that need milk are “unskilful in the word,” and they are not able to “discern both good and evil.” It is the mature who use the word, exercising their senses, and are able to discern between good and evil. Note that it requires discernment to determine what is good and what is evil. Reading a list of dos and don’ts to find your specific situation does not require discernment.

  3. This mentality is not how Jesus viewed the Bible. Look at one instance that demonstrates how Jesus read and understood the Scriptures. Immediately after declaring that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees fell woefully short, He corrected their teaching. They taught: “Thou shalt not kill” (Matthew 5:21) and if one does kill another, he will go to judgment. If you check Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17, that is exactly what those verses say: “Thou shalt not kill.” But Jesus said their teaching was incomplete because He went on to speak about being guilty if you were unjustly angry with your brother, but did not physically kill him.

    Jesus indicated that Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 were not the only word. He referenced Leviticus 19:17-18 to show that the law did not end with physical murder. They were to go beyond chapter-and-verse and search, compare, think, and rightly use the Word of God.

The study of the Bible is not about finding prooftexts to accuse or excuse. It is about knowing God in all that He has revealed of Himself. We are also told we need our minds renewed because they have a sinful bent and we have constant worldly pressure on us (Romans 12:1-2).

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