Is It That It Is Hard to Understand?

May 25, 2013
Written by: Brian

If you already know how to read and you have access to a Bible, why does it at times seem that the Bible is hard to understand and is boring?

Maybe what we overlook is that we already read in a variety of ways. Maybe what gives rise to the feelings that the Bible is difficult to read and is boring has more to do with the reading style you take rather than something about the Bible itself.

Without even being consciously aware of it, you already adapt your reading style to the variety of things you read. You competently read books, newspapers, maps, directions, street signs, personal letters, computer manuals, menus. In reading them, you naturally alter your reading style to what you are reading.

Think about how you read a newspaper. Do you start on the first page, first column, and read every paragraph on every page? Typically not. You scan; you look for interesting headlines, a compelling opening paragraph, and you skip around looking for something that will capture your attention.

You don’t read a phonebook that way. You don’t flip through the book looking for an intriguing name or number. You target; you open the phone book looking for specific information. That’s the way you read a dictionary as well, targeting the information you are intentionally seeking.

A recipe card is read in still a different fashion. You don’t scan for interesting ingredients. You don’t look for only a specific step or two. You read for the details; reading over and over again to make sure you are following the instructions step by step. You read once to get the ingredients together. You read a second or third time as you put things together. You might even re-read the recipe once the item is in the oven just to make sure you haven’t skipped anything.

And what about a novel? Do you have any unfinished novels? Most people do. It’s because you read casually; you start the novel, glance at the back cover, read a few pages, try to determine if this is really a worthwhile read.

Do you adopt any of those approaches when reading the Bible? Many do!

Sometimes we scan, looking for something we find intriguing. Or we target, having some particular thing in mind we hope to find as we scour the Scriptures looking for what we think is there. At times we read for the detailed steps, approaching the Bible as a recipe for life and hoping to find the steps we need to take to “make life work.” Sometimes we just read casually, in the hope that something we find might capture us.

But what if the Bible is really not like any of those things—not like a newspaper or a phone book or a recipe card? What is the Bible is more like a love letter?

If you’ve ever received a love letter, can you recall how you read it? (And can you imagine what it would be like to read a love letter if you have never yet received one?) You read every word; you try and squeeze sense out of everything you find there. You listen carefully for the flow of thought; you read as if this really has something special to say to you . . . in all that it says.

So, think. What would you experience if you read a phone book like you read a recipe? Or a recipe like a newspaper? Or a phone book like a novel? If you end up reading with the wrong approach, what kind of conclusion would you likely reach regarding what you were reading?

You would conclude that what you were reading was hard to understand and (most likely) was boring and unhelpful!

And this is exactly what many conclude about the Bible! Is it possible that the real problem is not with the Bible as much as it is a matter of taking the wrong approach to how one reads it?