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How To Stop Skimming Your Bible

February 22, 2018

You are reading this on a screen. I am neither a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet. Be that as it may, unless you were feeling pretty snarky and printed this to read on paper, you are reading it on a glowing rectangle of some sort.

 

There are zero things wrong with that in principle.

 

Words and texts do not change just because one transfers them from one medium to another. If things were that simple, I wouldn’t write this. But things are not that simple, and here’s why:

 

Consider you recently repented of sin and believed on Jesus for salvation. You’re walking in a way you never before walked. You’re denying yourself to conform to Christ. Old habits die hard, but you’re waging war on them. Waging war on habits means every day has its own battles. You’re pushing yourself to show patience to your spouse, children, and co-workers. You receive disappointing news, but you know you should do something other than wallow in sad histrionics over it. You’re supposed to be different now; the Christian who told you about Christ also taught you this.

 

Are you in this frame of mind? Don’t read on until you are. 

 

Which means more to you?

 

     A. Your Christian friend gives you a new ESV Bible he or she purchased at her own expense, so             you can study God’s revelation to man together

 

     B. Your Christian friend tells you to download the ESV for free on the Kindle app you have on your       phone

 

Before you object, read the question again. Which means more to you? Both are fine, in principle. The digitized ESV is a fine thing. Which one communicates the desire of your Christian friend that you know the living God who saved you? Which one communicates their love for you as a new brother and sister in Christ?

 

Choice A has weight, size, dimensions, and it passes from one hand to another. Choice B exists virtually. The words you read on a page or on a screen are the same. They’re the exact same words. Yet, which of these texts has any likelihood of being a treasure to you? One you might carry with you into a church sanctuary, keep on your bedside table, show to your children or grandchildren. Your child or grandchild might be glad to possess it when you die. 

 

Choice B will reside on your phone along with a host of apps and texts. It’s just another app. It’s a convenience on an object you will not own two years from now. What does it say if our primary way of seeing the revelation of God consists of a convenience? If your friend lays in a hospital bed clinging for life, do you want to hold your phone over him as you read the Bible? Does that seem appropriate for the gravity of the situation?

 

If you want to stop skimming and start reading, get yourself a physical Bible. 

 

When the Bible (I won’t say your Bible when it’s an app) becomes virtual, it takes on less meaning in your life. You associate it with throwaway things. It becomes a plastic bauble. Why would you expect a knick-knack to speak into your life? Has a curio ever challenged you? Will you ever weep into a trinket in the dark night of the soul? 

 

“Well hey there, mister. You’re being awfully negative. This handy Bible app on my phone came in handy that one time. These things are handy.”

 

I deny this not, sir. On this site, I often link Bible Gateway for quick reference to Bible verses. Blue Letter Bible provides an excellent resource for original language studies. These days, one will always be sure to have his phone with him, and so appropriate times exist to pull up the text of your favorite translation. I found Bible Gateway when I forgot my Bible at home one day. 

 

 

This article runs about 10 pages in length, but provides much food for thought on why reading a piece of paper contributes more to learning than reading from a screen. I actually printed the article out to read it. I found attempting to read it on a computer screen harder than necessary. Reading from the printed page proved simple fairly quick. Please do read it; the article does not flippantly dismiss all screens and e-readers. Rather, it cites actual studies. According to the article, reading for comprehension on a screen has a higher difficulty for many reasons. 

 

So what does all this have to do you with you skimming the biblical text? 

 

Given the difficulties a screen presents, as well as the association of less value with the object, we scan the words instead of reading them. We look for the part that jumps out at us. We expect a sort of magical verse to jump out and bless our souls right down to our tippy toes. When that does not happen, we grow frustrated or discouraged. Just get through it, we think to ourselves. Just move through it; you’re supposed to read the Bible. Just read it and pray and be done. 

 

Instead, go grab the dusty old hard copy your grandmother gave you off your shelf. Open it up to Galatians. You can see how short the book is. It’s such a small part of the Bible, yet it promotes one of the most central doctrines of the faith. Start reading, and you can see you don’t have to go far to get to the end. It consists of only 149 verses. Put the screened thing away and give this a try. You may find you like it.

 

Step 1 to stop skimming your Bible: read a hard copy. 

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