There is a way to study the Bible solely to be more knowledgeable, more academic, and in itself there’s nothing wrong with being more Bible literate and scholarly. But there’s a huge danger in studying the Bible to know it so well you can add letters to the end of your name. It’s the danger the men who studied the law in Jesus’ day fell into. But that danger did not lead Jesus and should not lead us to steer clear of studying the Bible. There are two practices that will keep you and I from falling into the mouth of pride when it comes to studying the Bible:
1) Look for Jesus
The Jesus Storybook Bible is for me one of the greatest works ever written on the Bible. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but pastors and teachers, Bible scholars and lay people studying the Bible should use it as sort of a danger-meter to see if their studying is leading them to fall off the cliff of pride. The tagline for Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book is, “Every story whispers his name.” But Sally Lloyd-Jones didn’t make up this good idea. Jesus did.
In Luke 24, after Jesus is raised from the dead, he joined a conversation two men were having while walking to a town called Emmaus. These men were disillusioned and dejected followers of Jesus. They witnessed the horrific death of the one they thought was the promised descendant of David who would lead Israel to victory over their enemies and bring peace to their land again. But Jesus broke into their conversation and said, ““O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) These men knew their Bibles, but they missed Jesus. Jesus helped them see that the whole message of the scriptures they clung to was about him.
When you pick up your Bible you should study it. You should ask the text questions. What is this telling me about God? What is going on here in this text? What does this word mean? But in your examination of the scriptures don’t fail to ask the most important questions, “Where is Jesus in this? How is this pointing to Jesus? How is Jesus needed here?”
Jesus is God’s word (John 1:1-3). That book on your shelf or in your phone that says Holy Bible on it is just the manuscript that speaks about Jesus. Study the words and listen for Jesus.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. ” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
2) Study so you can love someone else like Jesus and deliver his message to them.
Paul, when instructing the early church said, “…knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (In context from 1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
We fear what we don’t know, and knowing things is good. It’s good to be educated, to gain knowledge, especially when it comes to God’s message to us, but we can’t avoid the pitfall of getting puffed up if we only seek knowledge and not love.
The great command of God is to love him with your whole being and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). As with everything we do as Christians, the aim of our practice is to love God and others the way Jesus did. Studying the Bible should never be just for increasing your knowledge.
If you have the entire 66 books memorized and can quote famous theologians and understand difficult doctrines and can whip out the four spiritual laws like a citation for every person you meet but you don’t lower yourself to lead the next generation to Jesus, pour yourself out for those who can’t give back to you, and lay down your life for your spouse, your children, your neighbors, speaking the hope of the gospel into their lives and living the hope of the gospel with your own life, you’re just a loud, annoying Bible-egghead.
The practice of studying the Bible is listening for Jesus and the aim of studying the Bible is love. I study the Bible with a group of ladies who’s chief purpose is to pull out of the text a message we can feed to children about the hope of the good news of Jesus Christ. When we get together it’s a feast! We aren’t looking for clever insights that build our resume. We’re looking for life-giving truth we can digest and regurgitate for the kids we’re going to teach on Sunday. Like mamma birds, we aren’t gathering morsels for ourselves only, we’re gathering so we can feed our little ones.
Study your Bible. But be ware of the danger of pride. Keep yourself on the safe path by looking for Jesus and feeding what you find to someone else.