The world is full of good advice. Take showers. Brush your teeth. Wear a coat in the cold. Eat regularly. Sleep.
All of us agree with such basic good sense and would counsel others in line with it. “You simply must sleep, and here’s why.” “Brushing your teeth is more than a nice idea.” And so on.
If someone we know began to ignore such advice, we would urge them to reconsider. “Things are so hectic that you are no longer finding the time to put on clothes? You know what, clothes are not one of the optional things — you are going to need to change your habits to make putting on clothing part of your routine.” “Life is so busy that you decided to quit eating and feeding your children? Apparently life is not so busy that you aren’t making time for your upcoming hospitalization and arrest!”
“The value of the Bible is not in the accessories we bring to it.”
When we believe that something is absolutely critical to a healthy and decent life, we don’t excuse not making time for it — in the same way many of us do not ask ourselves every morning if we can find the time to put on underwear or drink coffee. We have the time, we make the time, we assume the time, we use the time. Whatever it takes, we will have the coffee, and we will wear the underwear.
Spiritual Bad Breath
Why, then, does the very fundamental practice of reading the word of God fall so badly by the wayside for many Christians? Because when it comes down to it, we don’t think it actually matters. If we did, this practice would not be the monumental struggle it is for so many women — women who are drinking coffee, wearing clothing, organizing offices, feeding themselves and others, coordinating all manner of activities, throwing birthday parties, and thinking ahead on Christmas. In short, women who have the time and intelligence to do the things that they prioritize and believe matter.
I think we have let this category of spiritual eating go by the wayside for silly reasons, and no doubt the enemy is pleased with our apathy. We have told ourselves that it is not essential to a healthy and happy life. It does not affect our physical body directly and immediately, so we do not think it is having a serious effect on us. Because it is not immediately visible to all of our Christian friends how much Scripture we have been reading lately, we let it slip. But we are in a situation where spiritually bad breath, spiritual malnourishment, and spiritual nakedness are all commonplace and look normal to us in other Christians.
The more Scripture-soaked the saints are, the more essential they believe reading the Bible to be. Why is that? Because they understand the nature of it. They have come to see how much it affects their life and shapes their thoughts. They know what it is to have a renewed mind (Romans 12:2), to be clothed in Christ (Ephesians 4:21–24), to be strengthened and washed by the word (Colossians 1:9–11). The thought of doing without the word would feel like going without showering or brushing your teeth.
Doing Without the Word
Imagine if you thought that in order for a green bean to nourish you, you had to eat it in a calm place with nice lighting and no kids. What if a shower cleaned you only when you had a journal on hand to write about it? Or what if toothpaste worked only in Instagrammable moments?
Many Christian women do without the word of God. We have set our standards so unbiblically high for the moments in which we will read the Bible that we have devalued the word itself. The value of the Bible is not in the accessories we bring to it. It is not in study guides and long talks with friends. The nourishment of the word is not found in our organization, or in our self-discipline, or in our achievement of any kind. The word has priceless value without us — and we are invited to partake of it all the time.
“The word has priceless value without us — and we are invited to partake of it all the time.”
We do not know exactly what God’s word is doing for us each time we read, just like we don’t know exactly what our breakfast is doing each time we eat — or which fingernail is being reinforced by which bite of food. We may read Scripture that does not immediately feel like nutrition or hot, cleansing water. But our feelings are not what give value to the process. This is a gift that we are not the makers of, and by some trickery of the enemy, we have cut ourselves off from receiving it. Maybe we will read it later, when we don’t need it so much.
Time to Make a Change
If you have recognized yourself in any of this, I would like to invite you to make a change. Not a change of increased intentionality or thoughtfulness. A change to start believing in faith that the Bible really is what it says it is. We call ourselves Christians — and Christ himself said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
What does following Christ look like when it comes to Bible reading? It looks like believing him. It looks like taking up the Book and reading. It looks like listening on audio while you get ready, snatching some reading throughout the day as naturally as you might grab a few crackers or eat an apple. It looks like walking in faith to begin eating this word we have been given and waiting to see what God does in you with it. For we know he will begin doing something. And years down the road, when someone wants to know what is most precious to you, the word of God will not be a made-up answer, but a reality.