Growing up my nightly bedtime routine consisted of pulling down my black leather King James Bible and turning to Psalm 23—I had heard that Psalm recited at several funerals, so I knew it had to be important. I eventually memorized it, but the truth of it never seeped into my heart.
I would pull out my Bible every night and then somehow manage to miss the entire point.
This article is part of our New You series, produced in partnership with Unite Health Share Ministries.
In short, I was reading the Bible wrong. You might not think there is a wrong way to do something that’s so right, but there is. And here are a few ways to know if you are.
1. You Only Read the Bible for Information and Facts
If I were to tell you I know about Michael Jordan you probably wouldn’t be that impressed. A lot of people know about him—he’s the greatest basketball player of all time. However, if I were to tell you that I know Michael Jordan, your reaction might be a little different. Saying I know him would imply a relationship.
It’s only one word, but there’s a big difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone. The primary reason we’re given God’s Word is so we might know Jesus, not just know about Him.
There’s nothing wrong with expanding your knowledge and learning interesting facts about the Bible, but if that’s the only reason you’re reading it, then you’re reading it wrong.
You can know a lot about Jesus, but not truly know Him. And I say that from experience (see John 5:39).
2. You Read Out of Duty Rather Than Devotion
It’s easy to think that reading the Bible in a dutiful manner will earn you brownie points with God, but it won’t. God isn’t impressed by how many verses you read, how many neon highlights you make or how many verses you post on Facebook. What God cares about is your heart.
So, the question is, are you opening your Bible to “earn” His approval? Or to discover His grace?
Are you studying Scripture because you feel like you have to? Or because you want to learn more about His love?
Are you reading His Word to mark it off a checklist? Or are you reading to draw closer to His presence?
It all comes down to your motivations. Jesus desires heartfelt devotion, not religious duty.
3. You Read a Translation You Don’t Comprehend
Reading the Bible in a translation you don’t understand is like reading an IKEA instruction manual in another language. It doesn’t make any sense to do so.
There are literally hundreds of Bible translations available—ranging from paraphrase to word-for-word translation. If you don’t understand or comprehend all the thou’s, thy’s and ye’s in the King James Version, check out a more modern translation.
When we get to Heaven I really don’t think you’ll earn any bonus points for what version you read. The best version to read is the version you understand best.
4. You Only Read to Argue with Other Christians
Social media mudslinging—you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. When it comes to Christians and social media, there’s no shortage of controversy. With outlets like Facebook and Twitter, we can share our opinions with the entire world in an instant. In some cases, this can be encouraging and beneficial. But over the past few years of writing online, I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of seeing countless Christians publicly destroy others.
Disagreements about doctrine, hit articles about worship style, hate comments about homosexuality—I’ve seen just about all of it.
As Christians, we’ll probably never come to a complete agreement on everything, but if all you get from reading the Bible is ammunition to attack other Christians—you guessed it, you’re reading it wrong.
5. You Cherrypick Bible Verses
The Bible is more than just a big book of inspirational verses and some do’s and don’ts. It’s a story. And like any story, it requires proper context. The Bible we hold in our hands today has been translated across multiple languages and was originally written in a culture much different than ours.
This is important to understand because without proper context you will ultimately read the Bible out of context. This potentially could mean reading verses like Genesis 9:4 or Leviticus 19:27 and deciding you should never eat a medium-rare steak again and refusing to cut the sides of your hair. Yikes!
The truth of Jesus is found throughout Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation—but it’s vitally important to read it within the necessary context. If you’re not sure where to start, pick up a Study Bible and dig in.
These aren’t the only Bible reading mistakes you can make, but they are a few good signs to watch out for. The Word of God is living and active. It’s filled with the life-changing truth of Jesus from cover to cover. But if you want to read it the “right” way, it simply means reading it know Jesus above all else.