Back in college, an American was helping me and my friends explore the Bible. He was a crazy fellow in his thirties who came up with the silliest jokes and the most outrageous stories. And he loved God’s Word with great passion.
He and his wife always had food—chips, brownies, chocolate—on the table during our weekly meetings. One Monday evening, there was a bowl of spaghetti on the table, one fork beside it. I hadn’t had dinner yet, and was secretly wondering how we would all share the small serving of pasta.
I should have known my crazy friend had other plans.
He started forking the pasta, chewing on it in between sentences. And then, without warning, he spewed half-eaten pasta back into the bowl! He swirled his fork to gather more pasta, chewed on it, and again spewed food from his mouth back into the bowl!
“Spaghetti, anyone?” he lifted the bowl, a mischievous look on his face. His offer was met with “Eeew” and “Yuck!” from the group. I was hungry, but surely not enough to partake of half-digested food!
As it turns out, my friend’s demonstration of gross table manners wasn’t pointless. There was a valuable insight to be learned: When we rely solely on what other people write or say about the Bible, we might just as well be eating pre-chewed food! Writers and speakers have digested our spiritual food for us and served it to us in bite sizes. If “processed food” is our major source of spiritual nourishment, we are surely missing out on the really good stuff!
Using devotional books and listening to sermons are great. But they shouldn’t take the place of our reading and studying the Bible on our own. The real excitement of spiritual growth comes in discovering for ourselves the truth in God’s Word, and letting it transform us. Other materials and sources should only serve to enhance our discovery.
Now, I know the Bible can be an intimidating book. As if pronouncing foreign names wasn’t hard enough, you need to consider things like culture and context to understand the Bible’s meaning. Because of this, it is wise to enlist the help of other sources, written or otherwise, to help you navigate the Scriptures better. It is also wise to interact with others in engaging the Scriptures.
What is not wise is forgoing a fresh, nutritious buffet to binge on servings of half-eaten food.
Think about my crazy friend and his bowl of yucky spaghetti. Remember that no matter how inspiring they may be, the words of other people about the Bible will never be as powerful and life-giving as the very words straight from the Bible.
[This piece was written a few years ago for youth. The “crazy friend” was Kuya Craig Meyer who is now in heaven, enjoying an eternal feast with Jesus Himself. A few days ago Daphne and I had a chance to catch up with his wife, Ate Deb, who was visiting with their kids from the US. I will be forever grateful for the lives of men like Kuya Craig who have modeled for me how it is to strive to be a man wholly for God.]