Is It a Sin to Skip Daily Bible Reading?

No.  But I guess you want me to elaborate. 

The idea for this post came in a small group I was co-leading.  Trying to explain that idolatry does not require having a physical idol, I constructed a hypothetical situation in which a boy idolized getting into a grad school.  When I asked, “Given how competitive it is to apply, what do you think he should do?”  Many of them said things like, “Kill the other applicants!”  I should have known better.  I’ve never been a part of a small group that would not respond that way.  Once it was clear that a better answer was, “Study really hard,” I started mentioning things that our boy would omit by idolizing studying.  He wouldn’t go to church.  He wouldn’t help his parents with household chores when asked.  He didn’t have time for his friends, regardless of their needs.  All because he was constantly studying.  However, with each additional crime I listed, one guy (let’s call him Fitzgerald) in the group was unconvinced our boy was in sin.  Instead of wasting time trying to explain why certain things were sinful, I just added other things to the list until I finally stumbled upon, “He doesn’t read his Bible, because he’s too busy studying.”  Fitzgerald exclaimed, “Oh!  That’s bad!”  Which raises an interesting question: is it indeed a sin to skip Bible reading?

Let us first play devil’s (pharisee’s?) advocate, and answer, “Yes, it is indeed a sin to skip Bible reading on a daily basis.”  What are some implications of this?  Consider Christians anytime from after the fall or Rome until the reformation.  How many of them had Bibles?  Easily less than one percent.  How many of them had regular access to Bibles?  Still easily less than one percent, either because they couldn’t access the church Bibles, or because those Bibles were in languages that they didn’t understand.  Or consider Christians today in closed countries where the Bible is illegal.  Is a recent convert who has not yet been able to obtain a contraband Bible in sin?  Or consider people during biblical times, before the Bible was completed.  Surely they had many of the same access problems to manuscripts of the Old Testament as Christians would have to the Bible during the middle ages.  If we make it a sin to skip daily Bible reading, we tell ourselves that almost all Christians from vast periods of time and many different places were (or are) in sin.  What about children and the disabled?  Perhaps something is off.

Let us, therefore, turn to the Bible  Perhaps if we examine its commands regarding the knowledge of Scripture we shall have an answer.  Consider the famous commands of Deuteronomy and Joshua.  These do not command, “Read the Bible daily,” but rather, “Know the Bible so well and meditate on it so often that it is inseparable from you.”  Or consider Psalm 119.  We have statements like, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Reading the Bible daily helps hide God’s Word in our hearts, but we can just as easily read several chapters of the Bible a day, close it, and soon forget what we read.  That would not be hiding God’s Word in our hearts at all. 

When we turn to the New Testament we see the same thing.  We see a Jesus who knows the Word so well He rebukes Satan’s misinterpretations without needing a physical copy of the Old Testament.  We see Bereans who searched the Scriptures following each sermon they heard.  We see commands to preach the Word, in season and out of season.  We see preaching instituted as God’s primary means of spreading the Gospel.  What we do not see is a command to read the Bible through in a year or read a chapter every day.

It becomes clear from Scripture that it is not a sin to skip daily Bible reading, rather, it is a sin to be ignorant of what the Bible says, or at least to continue in a path that odes not remedy one’s ignorance of Biblical teaching.  Without orienting our lives to know the Scriptures inside and out, how can we hide God’s Word in our hearts to prevent sin?  How can we keep our ways according to God’s Law?  How can we flee wolves in sheep’s clothing?  How will we efficiently search the Scriptures to see if these things are so?  How will we put Scripture to its proper use of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness?  How will we capitalize on having the mind of Christ?

It is immediately clear that daily reading of the Word is instrumental in attaining the scriptural literacy mandated by biblical commands.  That is why read through the Bible in a year plans are popular, why so many Christians can tell you the quality of their spiritual lives based on the quality and regularity of their devotional time. Simultaneously, we can understand how someone who meditates on one verse may be doing themselves far more spiritual good than someone who read ten chapters (depending on several unstated variables).  Such in depth understanding and memorization of Scripture is exemplified in many saints God gives us as examples.  But the broad understanding and familiarity acquired through regular reading is also vital to understanding the whole of the Bible, which is in turn fundamental to interpreting its smaller portions.

Perhaps it is understandable to confuse daily Bible reading with fulfilling God’s commands to know His Word.  But the distinction between means and ends is important to preventing pharisaism and hypocrisy.  Judging a person based on knowledge of his personal Bible reading or literacy alone is tempting, but legalistic.  Once we understand the goal of biblical familiarity to which we press, we see how we fall short, and how we are struggling alongside our “weaker” brothers in this area.

Much like Jesus’, “You have heard it said…but I tell you…”s in Matthew 5, by asking whether skipping daily Bible reading was a sin, we found that really we already sin on a much deeper level in our hearts.  And to make matters worse, the standard is unattainable.  To enter the kingdom of heaven, our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, and reach this impossible level.  Jesus used that portion of the Sermon of the Mount to point us to our need for Him.  While I do wish to encourage you to study your Bible harder and know it better, really what matters is most is that I take an opportunity to point you to Christ, and with that I will end this post.


Administrative Announcement:

When I helped start this blog, I intended to write once every three weeks, with my coauthors doing the same. What has happened instead is that I have written close to twice in each three week period covering my coauthors. I’m not going to do that anymore. It’s OK, the lack of posts never bothered you anyway. I’ll just be writing once every three weeks. Thanks for reading!

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Is It a Sin to Skip Daily Bible Reading?

2 thoughts on “Is It a Sin to Skip Daily Bible Reading?

  1. JBush says:

    “How many of them had Bibles? Easily less than one percent. How many of them had regular access to Bibles? Still easily less than one percent, either because they couldn’t access the church Bibles, or because those Bibles were in languages that they didn’t understand.”
    I am very skeptical of this claim. Do you have any way of substantiating it?

    Like

    1. thebeardedone says:

      Hi Mr. Bush, (Jeb is that you?)

      I don’t have specific evidence to support the quantitative claim; however we know in order to read a Bible at this time before its translation into common tongues by Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale, etc. and dissemination on the Gutenberg printing press, that people who had access to Bibles had to:

      (1) Know either Latin or Greek (for a Septuagint NT) and possibly Hebrew.
      (2) Have access to one of the rare and expensive hand written Bibles.

      These caveats eliminate all the lower classes, most of the middles classes (with the exception of some of the clergy), and most noblemen and royalty until close to the Renaissance. If you have support for your skepticism though I’d be glad to hear it.

      Also if you have concrete evidence I’ll gladly issue a retraction. Otherwise, since it’s at most tangential to the main argument of the piece, I’ll leave it as is with this discussion visible for curious readers.

      Like

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