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.

Through the Glass

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: ~ Ecclesiastes 6:9

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire:
~ Ecclesiastes 6:9

Sometimes we need a shift in perspective.

Every preacher worth his salt, and probably many who aren’t, get asked questions frequently. One common question is in the form: Is it wrong to do X? People are not usually asking this in contemplation of murdering their neighbor or stealing his car. They ask, Is it wrong to play the lottery? Is it wrong to watch that movie? Is it wrong to listen to this music?

The questions are seldom of some theological import or about some passage they have been wrestling with to understand. They are usually not all that serious. The older I get, the more I esteem the wisdom of George Washington. He was not highly educated and had a keen sense of it. However, he was continually sought after for advice. Though he wrote some seventeen thousand letters in his lifetime, he seldom gave advice. He said that he had come to see that those who most sought advice least wanted it. Insightful.

I have found that many who ask the is-it-wrong questions are those who are going to do or continue to do what they’re doing regardless of anything you might have to say or show them from God’s Word. They just want a quick justification or affirmation. At best, they wait for your mouth to stop moving so they can say, “Yeah, but…”

A Better Question

Perhaps there is a better approach when dealing with more difficult questions. There is something to be said about circumstances. There is something to be said about strong and weak consciences. There is certainly something to be said about moderation, but maybe we should consider something else first.

One of the results of maturing in Christ is growing in discernment between things that are good and things that are evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). If you want to ask if something is wrong to do, let me first ask you some questions about your growth in wisdom.

  1. How committed are you to the regular reading and studying of God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; 119:9; Acts 17:11)?
  2. Are you in a sound church under the sound preaching and teaching of God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22; Hebrews 10:25)?
  3. Are you praying regularly for wisdom and seeking it tenaciously (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:1-5)?
  4. Do you have wise, godly companions who edify and encourage you in a good way (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20)?
  5. Do you receive correction and instruction when it is given (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9)?

If you answer, No, to any of those questions, then asking if it’s wrong to wear a certain article of clothing or go to some event is the wrong question. You’re starting at the wrong place. If you’re not using any of the means of growing in wisdom that God has instructed and provided for us, then you’re probably not going to receive good counsel when it is given. You’re also ill-equipped to discern between good and bad counsel.

A better question to ask in this regard is the question of expediency. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Expedient means helpful or beneficial. He wrote this in the context of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. As he reasons through it, you can see it’s more complicated than yes or no. If you are interested in this verse in more depth, you can go to a past article I wrote about it here.

Rather than asking if something is wrong, you should ask if it’s expedient. Is it helpful, beneficial? How is doing this going to affect my closeness to God? There are things that stir our thoughts and affections for God and there are things that stunt them or kill them cold. How something affects you is a question that others can’t really answer for you, unless you’re walking with wise friends who know you and see you over time. Then they can help, but they still don’t know fully what is going on within.

Solomon taught that the relentless pursuit of entertainment is folly (Ecclesiastes 7:2-6). Everything in life doesn’t have to be a sermon to be beneficial but you do have to have wisdom to have the good kind of enjoyment of the things of earth (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7; Proverbs 5:15-19).

Has Facebook Made Us All Busybodies?

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

BUSY-BODY, n. biz’zy-body. [busy and body.] A meddling person; one who officiously concerns himself with the affairs of others. 1 Busybody is an old-fashioned word. It sounds as though it could easily be featured in a grandmotherly scolding along with words like snooping and pilfering. Excepting matronly tongue lashings, we probably don’t think about it with much precision. What is a busybody exactly? More importantly, what does the Holy Spirit mean when He warns us in the Bible against being a busybody?

Busybody in the New Testament

The English word busybody appears three times in the New Testament. If we look at each one briefly in its context, we form a good description of the word.

  1. “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). The Greek word, περιεργαζομενους (periergazomenous), is here translated busybodies. It is a verb, so Paul wrote that some Thessalonians were not working but rather they were busybodying. The word literally means to work around and conveys the thought of busying oneself with business other than one’s own. This verse pairs with 1 Thessalonians 4:11 where Paul instructed the Thessalonians to do their own business. So in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 Paul is complaining that they had not followed the admonition.
  2. “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13). Busybody here is translated from a different form of the Greek word from 2 Thessalonians 3:11, περιεργοι (periergoi). The word denotes being busy with trifles and refers to dabbling in magical arts in Acts 19:19. In the context of the verse, it is paired with idleness, wandering from house to house, babbling about inane things, and speaking things they ought not. Paul is here describing a woman whose husband has died and she doesn’t have any children and otherwise is not set to any useful employment. She has become an idle gadabout and gossip.
  3. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). The underlying word here is different from the other two we looked at. Here it is αλλοτριοεπισκοπος (allotriepiskopos) and means overseeing others’ affairs or meddling in others’ affairs. It is a compound word formed by joining allotrios, “belonging to another,” and episkopos, “an overseer.” Allotrios is the opposite of idios, which is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 when Paul says to “do your own business.” The word in 1 Peter 4:15 does also have a legal connotation in the form of a charge brought against the early Christians as being insurrectionists.

From this we have a good picture of the term. A busybody is one who meddles in the affairs of others. It can include such things as gossip and slander or go more maliciously to inciting discontent and rebellion in families, churches, businesses, or even against governments. Inherent in all those definitions is the understanding that there are things that belong to us and things that do not. There are things that are our business and things that are not. A busybody is a person busy in the things that are not their business. The Bible has plenty to say about the kind of damage that busybodies do (Proverbs 6:16-19; 11:13; 16:27-28; 17:9; 18:8; 20:19; 25:9-10, 23; 26:20).

What are we to do about busybodiness?

The sin was similar in the three instances we referenced above and the solution was also similar. The sin has to do with meddling in business that doesn’t belong to us. The solution was to avoid it and give attention to our own affairs.

  • The answer for the Thessalonians was to busy themselves with their own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
  • The answer for the widows was to get married, have children, and take care of their own house (1 Timothy 5:14).
  • The answer for the Christians was to ensure that whatever suffering came on them was because they were busy doing what belonged to them and what they ought to do (1 Peter 4:16).

If we return to our wizened matriarchs, we need a good dose of, “Mind your own business!” Be busy doing good and taking care of your own affairs. We have ways of rationalizing meddling. We call it “concern” or consider it “spiritual” to meddle in the business of others. Jesus had just told Peter what Peter should do and he immediately asked about John, “What shall this man do?” Jesus responded, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:21-22). Get it? Take care of your own business and let others take care of their own business.

You said something about Facebook?

Now we get to that sharp thingummy that justifies the needle’s existence—the point. Social media gives us a facility to pry into the affairs of others that would have made long-tongue Lucy of bygone days win a blue ribbon for proper impression of a mastiff on hot, summer days.

I’m afraid that along with the capability we have accepted the perfidy that anything posted publicly is the right business of the public. I realize the mint-tithers could chop and dice this up into impressively precise cuts, but I think we’re better off to heed the biblical admonition to mind our own business and not go wandering about in things we ought not. And I think the Bible said something about creeping things, but maybe that was about something else.

So, has Facebook made us all busybodies? The answer is: No. I must also admit it is a trick question. Facebook doesn’t make anyone a busybody or a sinner in any other way. Facebook is like any tool—it can be used for good or bad. It can be a strong temptation to people with a penchant for gossip and too much time on their hands. What are we to do? I believe the Good Book somewhere says that if Facebook causes you to sin, you should logoff and unsubscribe, for it is better to be disconnected from social media and have actual friends you know than it is to know what your “friends,” whom you don’t know, were wearing on Wednesday, March 30th and what they were eating for lunch. And cat pictures.

Notes:

  1. Webster, Noah. (1828). American Dictionary of the English Language. Retrieved June 2. 2015. http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Home?word=Busy-body

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