Why Should I Read the Bible?
The Bible can be a valuable resource if you seek guidance and inspiration. But since the Bible is not infallible and frequently uses metaphorical, symbolic, and poetic language, it is important to read it critically and with an open mind.
The Bible provides wisdom and insight.
Stories, parables, and teachings in the Bible have endured the test of time and can still offer important lessons to readers today. Because the human condition is constant, lessons previous generations learned firsthand help us learn from the past. We see what didn’t work and what does work to create meaningful lives.
For example, the Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-37), teaches us about compassion and the value of helping our neighbors. Similarly, the story of Job shows us the importance of perseverance through adversity.
The Bible reveals the life path Jesus taught us to follow.
We study the Bible for its overarching message of living according to Jesus’ example. Jesus advocated a way of living based on generosity, integrity, compassion, forgiveness, and prayer. Because his lessons are strongly rooted in the Old Testament, we return to those texts for context, insight, and inspiration.
We may doubt the historical accuracy of many biblical accounts. But we can test the truth of scripture experientially. For example, after foregoing the path of retaliation and wrath for the path of forgiveness, don’t you find that Jesus’ teaching rings true?
Here is a list of other biblical principles to test for your life that I suggested in the sermon, I’d Like to Believe, But Can I Trust the Bible?
- Engage in a community of trust, accountability, and mutual support.
- Be generous and kind and forgiving.
- Take time for prayer and express appreciation for all the goodness in your life
- Connect to nature and nurture the goodness that is planted inside of you
- Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them, grow from them
- Don’t live just for your selfish desires. Show restraint, live modestly, and do things that are sacrificial, and that make a difference. Contribute to the greater good.
- Instead of discounting the poor and hurting, connect to them and stand up for the vulnerable and lost, and rejected.
I have a friend who likes to say even if none of it happened the way the Bible tells it, the way of Jesus is not a bad way to live, and it creates a meaningful and fulfilling way of going through life.
Guidance on Ethical and Moral Issues.
The Bible’s direction on moral and ethical matters is another motivation to read it. The Bible is filled with wisdom that may guide us through the challenges of contemporary life, including lessons on love, justice, and assisting the less fortunate. For instance, the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7:12, which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a straightforward yet effective idea that can aid us in making moral choices during the day.
Inspiration and Spiritual Nourishment.
The Bible can also provide motivation and spiritual sustenance. We can connect with something greater than ourselves, discover meaning, and find purpose by reading passages that resonate with our hearts and spirits. These readings are especially helpful when we feel lost or alone during difficult moments.
Scripture presents the whole spectrum of human experience and emotions. Many Psalms, such as Psalm 137 and 22, are so raw it’s hard to believe they found their way into the Bible. Yet, the fact that they made it into the Bible reveals that it’s a document of real people who wrestled with life and endured the worst that can happen to people. Even so, they still reach out to God and look to the Spirit for comfort and guidance.
The Bible is a library by many authors throughout a long time.
However, it is important to remember that the Bible is a collection of texts created by humans in various historical and cultural contexts, with diverse authors and purposes, rather than a literal, scientific, or historical source. Imagine the Bible as a collection of 66 volumes written by diverse authors over the course of hundreds of years. Every passage reflects the time and culture of the author, so we should apply its lessons in light of that context. (For more, see the series by David Lose on Making Sense of Scripture).
Additionally, the Bible uses metaphors and imagery to illustrate deeper ideas and realities. For instance, the reference to being “born from above” (John 3:3) refers to a spiritual rebirth rather than a bodily one. Instead of a bodily alteration, it transforms the heart, mind, and soul. It is a more thorough comprehension of oneself, one’s relationship with God, and the outside world. This is a profound lesson that we can apply to our daily lives, but we can only get to it if we read the Bible critically and with an open mind.
A quote attributed to a Native American elder perfectly captures this idea: “It’s all true. Some of it happened.” This quote reminds us that even if certain events described in the Bible did not precisely happen as presented, they could still contain the essence of truth. The stories and teachings in the Bible can still offer valuable lessons and insights, even if they are not historically accurate.
For instance, regardless of whether such a thing ever happened in history, the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us about compassion and the value of assisting our neighbors. Whether or whether it is an actual historical account, Job’s story illustrates the importance of tenacity in the face of difficulty.
How to Deal with the Tricky Parts of the Bible.
Doubtless, much of what the Bible presents is hard to swallow, and the key is not to get lost in the details and search for the lesson the authors are trying to present. And then, we can ask if there is something within the text we can appropriate to our lives. Let me give a few examples of this approach using some of the most problematic Bible stories.
One may legitimately doubt that God literally made the world in six days. But one can still believe there is a creative God whose Spirit of love is alive in the universe and runs through all things. Therefore, we can choose to live to express that love to others and look to God for help and love.
The point was never to show that Adam and Eve were two actual people who talked to a snake. But we can see how they represent the human condition and our struggle between good and evil. We can take the lesson from this story of how good and evil are part of us, acknowledge both parts of ourselves, and try not to let the bad overwhelm the good.
We get hung up on the wrong details in the Jonah story. It’s hard to believe Jonah got swallowed by a fish for three days. But we can see that this story was presented like many children’s stories with fantastical creatures that deliver a moral message with a punch. Think of the fable about the tortoise and hare–the story’s truth is not about the historical veracity of talking rabbits and turtles. The animals are a device to help one see the truth of the moral that “slow and steady wins the race.”
In the same way, the story’s point isn’t the fish. It’s about a God of steadfast love, slow to anger, ready to relent from punishing, and who gives people who intentionally go against God a chance to turn around—even wayward prophets. Therefore, when we read it, we can seek to pay forward to others the loving-kindness God has first expressed toward us.
I could go on with these, but you see the methodology. We look to see the lessons we can gain from scripture, considering their context and what the original authors were trying to express. We sift out what we can gain and what is helpful and let those lessons shape our lives.
It’s not a bad way to live.
You may find reading the Bible helpful if you are looking for knowledge, direction, and inspiration daily. Though it is not infallible and frequently uses metaphorical, symbolic, and lyrical language, it is crucial to examine it critically and with an open mind. We can gain insight and inspiration that can help us navigate the complexities of modern life and live more meaningful and fulfilling lives by being open to different interpretations, understanding the context in which the texts were written, and being open to other sources of wisdom and inspiration.