It’s hard to the think of the Bible as junk food. But that’s what it can be, in a way.
Despite the fact that the Bible is the Word of God Himself, breathed out by Him, written down through human agents as vehicles for revelation of the Holy Spirit. Holy, inspired, inerrant, infallible in all its parts, the Bible is the very word of the living God—living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the deepest recesses of our being.
How, then, can the Bible be empty calories for the soul? How can something so substantive not nourish? If God’s Word is truth, how can truth not build up the muscles of faith by its intake?
The answer has to do with the nature of the Bible.
I saw this in my Roman Catholic days, where the Bible was venerated as a holy book. Just to own one brought blessings. It was taboo to place another book on top of a Bible, so holy it was.
I see this in my Protestant days. Where the words of Scripture uttered word perfect are thought to have power to transform the deadest of souls. Bible passages become incantations.
The former is superstitious. The latter is magical. Neither is correct.
Just how does God’s Word nourish our souls? Have you ever sat down and read a portion of the Bible, risen from your seat, and not been able to remember anything you read, except perhaps the book you read from? How does that happen?
It’s because we read without engaging our minds. Just by exposing ourselves to the words we expect effect. But that’s not the way it works.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q&A 90) instructs us in gaining benefit from the preaching of the Word. We are to “attend to the preaching of God’s Word with all diligence, preparation and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.”
Just as we can walk away from a sermon without benefiting from it, so we can rise from reading God’s Word without benefiting from it. As our mothers might have expressed it, it goes in one ear and out the other. And that is decidedly unhelpful.
My working title for this article was “The Danger of Devotions,” the idea being that rote, mindless, perfunctory reading of the Bible or recitation of prayer can do more harm than good, appearances to the contrary. We think we’ve done something worthwhile. We haven’t.
To the point of our topic, we can be reading our Bible faithfully but be starving ourselves.
To reap the nourishment it holds, we must engage our minds, prepare our hearts, and present our wills to the God with whom we meet every time we read His Word. Engaging our minds necessitates reading, relating, exegeting, mulling. All of this aided by the digestive juices of prayer that engages God as we interact with the text in assimilating the truth of God’s Word for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.