Tony Evans tells the story of a young man who ran afoul of the law and was sentenced to a couple of years in prison. Despite his wrongdoing, his mother continued to love him and pray for him. One day while talking to his mother, the man asked her to send him something that would be useful during his days of incarceration.
Within about a week he received a package from his mother, and inside was a new Bible. He looked at it, shrugged, and thought, “What good is this? I need something practical.” A few days later the inmate had an opportunity to call his mother again. She asked if he had received the Bible. “Yes, I got it, Mama, but I need something practical.” “Read your Bible,” his mother replied.
As time passed the man would receive letters from her, and she continued to urge him to read the Bible. During one of her visits he said, “I know we used to go to church together and all that. I get it and yeah, I’m reading the Bible, but Mama, I need something practical.”
About a year later the young man finished his sentence and was released from prison. After returning home, he hugged his mother and then said, “Mama, I asked you to send me something practical. But all I ever got from you was that Bible.”
Looking her son straight in the eyes, she replied, “Son, at the front of each of the 66 chapters of that Bible, I placed a $100 bill. But you never saw that – because you never read your Bible.”
There’s a powerful moral to that story, even if you’ve never found a Bible containing even a single $100 bill – or any currency, for that matter. Every year the Bible, in all its various sizes and shapes and versions and translations, is proclaimed the best-selling book in America. But each year, sadly, it also ranks as perhaps the least-read bestseller.
In our home we have well over a dozen Bibles, some that I’ve bought and others that I received over the years from publishers while I was the editor of a Christian magazine. One thing I’ve learned about each one of them – they don’t read themselves. We have to physically retrieve one, hold it, open it, and then proceed to do the hard part: Read it.
Thanks to technology, it’s even simpler. We have the Bible available online. It can be downloaded to our tablets and smartphones. We can even get audio versions of the Bible – again, in the translation or paraphrase of our choice. And yet, biblical illiteracy remains alarmingly high.
Maybe if Bibles came with cash embedded people would be more inclined to read them, but it’s unlikely, as Pastor Evans’ story points out. And yet there’s no escaping the priceless treasure we can find if we commit to spending time consistently – even daily – in the Word of God.
What value does it offer? The list could go on indefinitely, but here are just a few examples of its worth for everyone who professes to know and follow Jesus Christ:
1) It can keep us out of trouble. As King David wrote, asking and then answering his own question, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I will seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11).
2) It teaches us right from wrong, shows us the way to live properly, and prepares us for all God wants us to do: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
3) It enables us to know and understand God and His ways: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path” (Proverbs 2:6-9).
That barely scratches the surface, but if we really want to make a difference in the world around us, if we’re concerned about the course society is taking and the values being espoused, perhaps what’s needed is less complaining and hand-wringing and more Bible reading, studying, meditating, memorizing and applying.