5 Reasons We Don’t Read the Bible || Jason Leonard

Posted on February 27th, by Jason Leonard in Head, Uncategorized. 8 comments

5 Reasons We Don’t Read the Bible || Jason Leonard

I was ten years old when my grandmother gave me an NIV Adventure Bible.  I was jazzed.  I doodled something inside the front cover.  Made sure I signed my name in it.  Grabbed a highlighter from her desk.  Laid down and the floor and started reading.  I highlighted everything important… like Methuselah living to 969.  Whoa!!  I got through Genesis 5 before I scribbled the date next to where I stopped reading.  Why the date?   I wasn’t ever planning on reading this thing twice…. have you seen the size of the Bible?!  I wanted to make sure I picked up where I left off.  Three days later I was bored and went back to reading comic books.  I picked it up again at 16 years old after I broke up with my girlfriend, but it was confusing and dense and didn’t immediately answer all the questions I had.

In the past 23 years since I received my first Bible I’ve read it a lot.  Though I love the Bible more than ever before, every time I pick it up it’s a challenge. Every. Single. Time.  

Here are five of the biggest reasons I think we struggle to read the Bible.

1 || First Impressions

Perhaps you were forced to read it as a kid.  Maybe a News Year’s resolution led you to start reading Genesis or Matthew but you didn’t really know why.  Or maybe all you had at home was a King James Version.  You might have been taught to use it as an instruction manual for when things break in your life… so you read it about as much as you read any manual.

For many of us, our memories of our first encounters with the Bible aren’t filled with devotion and wisdom and inspiration and getting swept away.  I wonder sometimes if that’s like comparing our grade school romances with marriage.

2 || History & Context

Often times the hardest thing for us is familiarization with the culture and context.  Two weeks ago I read Deuteronomy.  I spent some time reading up on the context of Deuteronomy and how it fits in the whole story of the Bible.  By the time I started reading chapter one, I had this image in my head of Moses and the Israelites standing on the brink of the promised land.  These people didn’t experience the Exodus from Egypt… these were their children.  Moses was recounting for them the mighty acts of God and trying to prepare them to go take the land God was giving them.  These people had never lived in a city or village and had only known a nomadic, desert existence, so he was offering them wisdom for the new life they were about to have.  Reading Deuteronomy with that in mind helped me understand it better.  Why the ten commandment story was recounted again.  Why the collection of random wisdom near the end.  Why the warnings of blessing and curse.   Context helps!

This is true with everything in the Bible.  Knowing what was going on in Corinth will help you understand Paul’s letters to them.  Knowing a little about why John wrote his Gospel account will help you understand why the tone of it is different than the other Gospel stories.

3 || Our Method

Imagine if you read Shakespeare one stanza at a time.  Imagine if every time you finished a stanza you sat down and tried to process it and understand it.  Imagine if you didn’t move on to the next bit until you felt comfortable with the last.  How far would you get before you stopped reading any more?

I realize that some of us might read small bits because we are daunted by the whole.  But any good teacher of Shakespeare will tell us to soak in it first.  Read the sweep of the play and be engrossed in it.  That teacher (if she is indeed a lover of Shakespeare) will undoubtedly want to discuss and wrestle with little bits later, but not before we have begun to grasp the whole.

The same is true for the Bible… we read so little at a time that we never understand how it all works together.

4 || Sin

We don’t read the Bible because we don’t think we need it.  We surpress the truth and exchange God for idols we prop up (Romans 1:19-23), not recognizing that the powerful word of Jesus sustains, or upholds all things (Hebrews 1:3).

We try to sustain our lives without Him and His words of life.

5 || Obedience

Regardless of how much we understand the Bible or love reading the Bible… reading it as the Word of God will always be an act of obedience and submission.  I think the biggest reason we don’t read the Bible is because doing so is an admission that He is God and we are not.

We can heap on piles of bad teaching, bad experiences, clunky words, no time, etc to explain why we don’t read the Bible, but it has much more to do with a skewed view of God and self than anything else.


Helpful Tools:

  • A good study Bible should have introductions before each book.  Reading these can offer tremendous help for understanding books.  Here is an example from the ESV Study Bible.  The mobile app version of this contains all the study tools as well.
  • A book like God’s Big Picture can help to give you an idea of the whole story of the Bible.  When you read a book of the Bible, do you know how it fits within the whole story?  Here’s an article which discusses the importance of understanding the whole story (it’s a little scholarly, but way shorter than a book!)
  • Read the Bible with friends.  It’s a shame how little this has been exampled and taught.  There is rich value in quiet times and personal study, but recognize the vast majority of the Bible, in its original context, was read or heard in community.  Learning to read with others and discuss what we are reading will make this thing come to life.

Jason Leonard Jason is a university pastor in Chattanooga. He is married, has three kids, a dog, and a problem keeping his mouth shut. Connect with him @jasongleonard
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8 Responses to “5 Reasons We Don’t Read the Bible || Jason Leonard”

  1. Nathan says:

    Great post. This is something I really struggle with as a Christian. Reading the Bible is something I know that I need to do, but have always lacked the discipline to actually take action.

  2. Jason Leonard Jason Leonard says:

    I struggle as well, Nathan… if that’s not already obvious from this post. Narrowing it down to five reasons was the hard part, because it seems as if all of Heaven and Earth conspire against my time in prayer and reading the Bible.

    I think it’s important to slow down, think through the underlying struggles, and ask God for help – all the while expecting certain challenges to continue to be there.

    Hopefully, since it’s direct wisdom from God, it will be worth it. :)

  3. […] enough I seem to get the same way about reading and memorizing scripture. I greatly enjoyed Jason’s post, and see some of the problems that are a result of not spending time in the word. When God’s […]

  4. Liz says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have been a sister in Christ for 8 years 7 months..but who’s counting. I must admit that I have never read the bible cover to cover. I bet that I have only read barely 50% of the bible. I have the NASB Inductive Study Bible and an NIV Student Study Bible. Both are helpful in different ways, but because of my ADD and hard time with comprehension…without having to read something 10 times…it gets a bit difficult to read it and so I give up.

    I have yet to find a bible reading plan that doesn’t make me feel like a failure because I have fallen behind on the scheduled reading. Yet, I also have issue with just picking up where I left off. If I don’t have a schedule, I feel like I’m just winging it. If I have a schedule that is too strict, I tend to give up after a few days.

    I love my Bible, I find comfort in just holding it…but reading it is a different story.

    • Liz, thank you for your response. It’s taken me quite a bit to respond. Sorry!! Obviously, I think all of what I typed above is relevant, but I’ve found that reading with other people (not necessary out loud, just reading quietly in the same space even) and reading larger chunks at a time is so helpful! If you didn’t watch this, watch this 7min clip about reading larger chunks of the Bible. http://vimeo.com/31700217

  5. […] I keep searching so desperately for.  Most of the time, I am disappointed with another “5 Reasons Why We Don’t Read the Bible” blog that isn’t particularly brilliant.  Now and again, however, something strikes me […]

  6. Kari says:

    i just came across this today. Thank you for it. I think you are spot on. The best way I found to get back into my Bible was through my children. If I wanted them to know and appreciate God’s word, I had to read it to them and help them work through it. Can’t do that without actually reading it. Kind of impossible. Haha.

  7. ZA says:



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