Statistics show that few people take the time to actually read the Bible. A survey conducted by Lifeway of 2,930 Protestant churchgoers indicates that only 19% read the Bible everyday and that 18% rarely or never read the Bible. Furthermore, only 1 in 5 Americans claims to have read the Bible from cover to cover. The American Bible Society also reports on the distressing Bible reading trends.
The trouble with these reports should be self-evident. As Christians, we make the bold claim that the Bible is the very Word of God, but many of us do not regard as such in practice. The average churchgoer can probably tell you a number of books that they have read, but the Bible, strangely, is not on that list.
So, why is it so important to read the Bible? Here are a few reasons that I can think of right off the top of my head:
- It is the Word of God. This should be sufficient reason alone for someone to want to read the Bible in its entirety. Indeed, this is good enough reason to make Bible reading and study a lifelong practice.
- It is in the pages of Scripture that we learn about Jesus Christ – the one and only path to the Father.
- It prepares us, as Christians, to engage with the world we live in. Christians should make Bible reading and study a habit so that we know what the Word says. We should not be part of the number that thinks Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, or that “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible. In order for us to engage the world with a developed Biblical worldview, we must read the Bible.
- It provides the ethical and moral system by which God expects us to live by.
- It allows us to see the Bible as a whole and not as a bunch of random texts that are often read without context.
- It has had a profound impact on our culture throughout history that can be seen in numerous places, including literature, art, music, and history.
I am sure that you can probably add your own reasons to this list, but these are what popped into my head first.
While reading the Bible as individuals is important, I also think it is vital that families read the Bible together. This allows for questions to be asked and answered; deep, thoughtful discussions to take place; doubts and concerns to be expressed in a safe and supportive environment; and it can help families have aligned values. Reading the Bible in its entirety as a family is also important because it exposes difficult passages that are often overlooked. Christians should be aware of difficult passages and have some idea, or framework, for how to deal with these. This framework may vary depending on your theology (Arminian, Calvinist, etc.), but it will help guide you in understanding the Bible as a whole.
This last point, understanding the Bible as a whole, is of critical importance. I have strange suspicion that a lot of people know bits and pieces of the Bible and build a caricature of the whole thing from those parts. Similarly, I think many Christian try to engage culture with a very keen knowledge of a very small amount of Scripture, but do not have a good grasp of the whole Word of God. Having an understanding of the Bible as a whole is of enormous value to mature faith. After all, the canon of Scripture was given to us for a reason, and that is to learn what God has to say to us.