As a culture we love bite-size. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing. We love (or at least I do) sliders for lunch—I can eat those things in one bite literally. They just seem more satisfying to me than working through a 1/2 pound angus burger. HGTV hosts a show called tiny homes. The ingenuity of the craftsman is simply stunning. There is even a stream of Facebook videos that consist of people masterfully creating tiny, REALLY tiny pastries, cakes, etc. My wife and I used to be fascinated with watching these. The glory of Twitter is the ability to scroll through mass amounts of content because of its’ bite-size quotes and thoughts. We are a bite-size culture and that’s okay…until it begins to influence the way that you read your Bible.
Let me put it this way. Reading the Bible is not like scrolling through your Twitter feed. Yet with the influence of a bite-size culture it’s easy to treat it like such. It’s tempting to skim it (reading it like a zombie—see previous blog) and to latch on to a verse that seems to meet your need for the day. It’s almost as if we are just looking for a bite-size quote that explains how we feel or that confirms a decision that we want to make. Let me emphasize something: that is a really dangerous way to read your Bible. The reason for the danger of this is bound up in the importance of knowing the “context.” I am convinced that modern readers do not wrestle with the context of a passage or verse enough in personal Bible study. It is time consuming. It can be mentally exhilarating or exhausting. And it’s not always easy.
Here are some good thoughts to digest that may help shed light on the importance of context. Consider the historical lens of Scripture. What I mean is that the Bible didn’t float down on a cloud bound in genuine leather to King James in 1611. It was written by more than 40 inspired authors and spans several thousand years of human history. Think about all those different scenarios and settings. It is wise to remember that a single verse in the Bible is always surrounded by multiple verses that paint light upon what scenario invoked the need for that specific writing in history. It isn’t always as simple as reading the other verses but sometimes that is all that is needed to understand what the author of that verse was intending to communicate. The reverse side of this is what is dangerous. If you do not study the context then you may, and very likely will, misinterpret the meaning of the verse and thus miss the glorious truth that God really wants to communicate to you.
I’m not saying that if you open your Bible and point to a verse and read it that The Lord can’t use that one verse, without reading any other verses, to speak to you about your specific need. That is absolutely possible and I believe it happens from time to time. What I am saying is that making a habit of hoping for a bite-size miracle is not a good Bible study strategy. It is not formative for your walk with Christ and will more than likely result in frustration that discourages you from studying the Bible in the future. So, don’t read The Bible like you read your Twitter feed. Read the surrounding passages, read the whole chapter, and if possible read the whole book in one sitting to begin your study on it. I recommend starting with a smaller book, if you have never used these strategies, such as Jonah or Ephesians. Ask The Lord in prayer to show you which book He would like for you to study. It’s going to be tough because it’s not a bite-size approach, but it will lead to a deeper understanding of The Bible. And in my experience an even greater joy.
What’s next? Make sure you subscribe to the blog to stay updated. Next time we will look at a specific book of the Bible and walk through various strategies that I believe will help you make more sense of The Bible when you read it.