My daughter made me this and I’m sure that you will agree that it looks great. She had put so much effort in to presentation and even added sprinkles, but I couldn’t eat it because it was made out of play dough.
I felt sad packing it away after she had gone to bed, but there was nothing else to be done with it. It looked like food but it wasn’t edible and the play dough needed to go back into its airtight container in order to be usable another day.
Jesus said: ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4.4
In the same way that we need food to survive and to be healthy, we also need God’s teaching which we find in the Bible to survive and be healthy in life.
When we have gone without food for a while we get hungry and we go and make something to eat.
When we haven’t read the Bible for a while, how do we feel? The answer to that question will show us what we are really relying on in life. If we can take or leave the Bible then it would indicate that we aren’t really relying on it.
I have had the experience of seeing someone who I care about refusing to eat and it is soul-destroying watching someone waste away physically. The same thing happens spiritually for any Christians who don’t read the Bible for themselves and this too is upsetting.
Lots of Christians talk about sermons in church as being the time when they ‘feed upon the word’ this metaphor of sermons being like meals is taken from passages such as this one in Hebrews 5:
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
The funny thing is that this passage is saying that if you still need feeding through Bible teaching then you are immature in your faith. The mature ‘have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong’ and so they don’t need to run and find a Bible teacher because they are mature enough to read and to interpret the Bible for themselves.
Modern Christians put a consumerist spin on these verses and then they can blame their church leader if they are not being fed properly, but to do this is to misunderstand the passage. Think about the analogy, babies need feeding but adults can cook for and feed themselves. Bible teaching is helpful to any of us at any stage of our faith and church leaders do have a responsibility to help people learn but our core Bible reading for growth and learning about our faith is our own responsibility.
Back to my play dough meal, I couldn’t eat it because it was not proper food.
I wonder what is nourishing us in life?
What gives us our energy and nutrition for life?
Is it the Bible or something else?
Some people say that they find the Bible hard to read and these are a couple of things that I have found helpful:
1. Use a modern translation. Unless you like Shakespearean English, avoid the King James version. Most Christians I know use the New International Version, but I have found the New Living Translation more helpful in terms of the modern language it uses.
2. You can read on the go. I use the website www.biblegateway.com where you can read the Bible in lots of different translations. There are also Mobile phone apps out there.
3. If you struggle with the Bible, pick an easy bit. If you are new to the Bible, then pick one of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that tell us about Jesus.
4. There are also Bible study guides out there you can use. I have to be honest that these worry me a bit because people can spend more time reading them than reading the Bible itself which isn’t good, but if they are used properly they can be helpful.
5. God created us for community, so why not read with someone else and then talk about what you have read either straight away or maybe once a week.
To understand the Bible properly, you will usually need to read more than a few sentences at once. It’s easy to misquote people by taking something they said out of context and the same is true of the Bible.
When the Bible seems confusing, it often points to our need to understand the culture of the situation that it was written into. For example the Bible says that ‘a woman must learn in quietness and submission’ (1 Timothy 2.11) which feels pretty offensive to many people today. The ironic thing is that Paul who wrote this was being revolutionary in saying that women could learn at all as he wrote these words into a society where women weren’t usually allowed an education at all. Couple this with the fact that in that culture you had to quietly learn from a master in submission and all of a sudden you have a verse that appears to demean women which actually is valuing them immensely when it is understood as it would have been by its first readers.
Sometimes though, when the Bible is confusing it’s because we need to change our thinking. Reading the beatitudes in Matthew 5 makes no sense until you stop and think about them from God’s perspective. These statements challenge the way we live our lives and show us that there is a better way.
If you come to a difficult bit of the Bible and you are stuck, then ask someone in you local church or message me and I will write about it if I can.
As we eat food, I hope that we are grateful for it.
As we eat, I hope that it also acts as a reminder of the importance of the Bible and that we would all be inspired to read it for ourselves.