Loaded question. Because it’s easy to get offended when told you are doing something wrong. It can be offensive even if we are asking, “Am I doing this right?”
We’re just prideful people. We don’t want to be wrong or embarrassed or feel inadequate. That’s part of the reason why it can be so hard to submit to God, admit our sin, and call Jesus the Savior AND Lord of our lives. But I recently needed a reminder: am I studying the Bible wrong? Should I feel differently about spending time reading the Bible than I currently do? The questions go on.
Sometimes there are dry seasons. Sometimes there are dark seasons. Sometimes there are seasons of plentiful nourishment. I never know why I’m going through a hard season or when it’s coming, but I know there will always be something on the horizon. I also know that the Lord is already on the horizon before I can even see the new day dawning.
During a dry season I was experiencing, God was good in giving me a husband to support and encourage me, a book to remind me of truth, and His grace and discipline that produces growth in His child. As I looked on my bookshelf for something that would provide guidance on studying the scriptures when I’m not in the habit of doing so and when I don’t even really feel like it, I came across a book I bought nearly a year ago and just hadn’t read. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin was recommended by a mentor, and I purchased it knowing I would someday read it. On the cover it spoke of learning to study the Word with your heart and mind, exactly what my husband had told me a few days before that he observed I needed.
God is so good in providing! I love moments like these that remind me He is present, active, working in the everyday. I cracked open the fresh spine and read a chapter a day, only making it through chapter two until I realized I needed to share what God was teaching through Jen’s writing. So I will share Bible study habits as shared by Jen Wilkin in Women of the Word that we should break in Part I, as well as why we should break them, which is just as important to know. I will share Bible study habits we should pursue in Part II. But I’ll do the abridged version of both dos and don’ts to save you from some extra reading. 🙂
So. Part I!
Bible Study Habits to Break
- The Xanax Approach – Short and sweet: we look up a verse to make us feel better. A lot of times this could look like a day full of anxiety that ends with us looking at the topical index for verses on anxiety to make us feel better. But why is that a problem? Doing this makes the Bible a book about me. We do a lot of different things that ends with us trying to make the Bible about us, sometimes without realizing it. But the Bible is a book all about God. It’s dangerous to our spiritual life and health if our learning is based around us and our lives instead of God and His story.
- The Pinball Approach – Have you ever flipped open the Bible to a random page, read the chapter, and asked God to teach you through whatever page the Spirit leads you to? I have. This approach gives no room for cultural, historical, or textual context; authorship; or original intent. It also means we treat the Bible with very little respect. You don’t flip a novel open to a random page and read through it that way, hoping you make it from beginning to end eventually. That makes no sense when trying to read a story. Why would we treat the Bible that way?
- The Personal Shopper Approach – This is probably my go-to when I don’t feel like committing to a consistent daily Bible study: find something I’m interested in and just read about that. A topical study. Or maybe we choose a well-known author, speaker, or preacher and their podcast, book, or commentary to walk us through a topic because they must be an expert on said topic. What’s wrong with that? Well, these approaches can certainly help us grow, but they don’t allow us to take ownership of the scriptures and to understand their full intent and meaning. We bounce from passage to passage as we read through a book. We call it a “Bible study” when it’s really just a book or podcast about the Bible. These can be good supplements to scripture but not good substitutes. They aren’t foundational to our faith. If we only do this method, we miss the richness of the Bible. We must labor in the Word to reap fruit.
- The Telephone Game Approach – Plainly, this is when we read books about the Bible instead of actually reading the Bible. We read what someone thought about what someone thought of what the Bible says. Sometimes it’s way more removed than that. It can get distorted over time, or multiple authors we read or speakers we listen to say different things about the same passages. What now? Again, books are helpful, but not foundational. We are called to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, strength; not someone else’s mind, heart, soul, strength. We must know the Lord in our own right; not ride the coattails of someone else. And if we know what someone else has to say about the Bible, but not what the Bible actually says for ourselves, we are in dangerous territory. Our Bible literacy is weak, and in turn our faith in God or understanding of God is weak. Our foundation is shaky because we didn’t build it with the proper bricks.
- The Picky Eater Approach – Jen refers to this in her book as the “Jack Sprat” approach. Maybe you only like Psalms and Proverbs. Or you think the only books that truly matter are the Gospels. Or maybe you don’t want to read about anything but Christian lifestyle by Paul. We need a balanced diet to grow and mature; same goes for the Bible. If your diet is very limited and one sided, you’re missing vital nutrients. We need men and women of the Bible to show us Godly living. We need history, poetry, law, and parables to understand the fullness of God. We need the savory of the Old Testament to truly appreciate the sweetness of the New Testament. Don’t sell yourself short. We need a well-rounded understanding of the Bible in order to know God in all His glory.
I’m so thankful for people like Jen Wilkin who have been there, done that, learned the lesson, and shared it. But once I’ve been reminded of these things, I have to make sure I’m still looking to the Bible first for daily fulfillment, and not a seemingly brilliant author and their own self-help book. Women of the Word is a great supplement, but it could never be a substitute for digging into and abiding in the Word of God.
I’m looking forward to sharing good Bible study habits from Jen’s book in Part II. You can find Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin on Amazon.