We live in a world of dos and don’ts. We use them every day: Do brush your teeth. Don’t drive too fast. They seem to impact our lives from minute to minute. Our consciences, our faith, and our knowledge of the world help us manage all the dos and don’ts we encounter. This goes for our relationship with God as well. When reading and applying the Bible to our daily lives, a few simple dos and don’ts will help us bring the Bible more clearly into our daily lives.
Do: Read the Bible frequently, daily if possible.
Don’t: Let your Bible go unread today.
–This one is simple in principle and difficult in practice for many of us. An analogy may help. The Bible is commonly referred to as a love letter from God to his people, the church. But, what good is a love letter when it is rarely opened, read with anticipation, and absorbed into one’s heart and mind? We, as members of the church, as God’s beloved, should relish the opportunity to read God’s love letter one more time.
Do: Focus on the big-picture of the Bible.
Don’t: Get caught up in too many details.
–There is no doubt that some details are important. But, they can become distractions when we fail to see the bigger story of God coming to us.
Do: Read the Bible expecting to encounter God.
Don’t: Read the Bible to prove someone wrong.
–Reading the Bible is an opportunity to commune with God, who made us. It is a chance to find out about who we are made to be and to learn about the one who made us. It is not supposed to be a book of arguments that can be used against someone with whom we disagree. I know from first-hand experience the turmoil that can occur when we use the Bible as a weapon in an argument.
Do: Read the Bible slowly and prayerfully.
Don’t: Read the Bible for dos and don’ts.
–The Bible is not just a book of what we are to do and not do. It is a book about a relationship that God forms with each of us and His pursuit and forgiveness of us. So do read the Bible slowly and prayerfully seek to understand God’s word and live it in your everyday life.
Do: Stop reading when you are struck by a word or phrase.
Don’t: Chug right through until you reach the end.
–The first to reach the end of the next chapter doesn’t get a gold medal. If something affects you when reading Scripture, then stop and reflect on why it moved you.
Do: Use good solid Bible commentaries.
Don’t: Neglect reading the text of the Bible in favor of them.
–The point of using commentaries is to supplement one’s reading of the Bible, not to take the place of it.
Do: Get a good Bible.
Don’t: Get caught up in which translation is best.
–One of the more common questions Catholics ask is “which translation is best?” For most people, the best translation of the Bible is the one you read. However, there are different translations to explore, if that is your choice, with a range of choices. If you want a specific recommendation, I would recommend the RSV-Catholic Edition.
Do: Make changes in your life when challenged by Scripture.
Don’t: Put the changes off for another time.
–Christ is the Great Doctor. Christ’s grace is the medicine He offers us. One avenue of receiving that grace is through reading and applying Scripture to our lives. If we fail to apply it, then it is as if we went to the doctor and were diagnosed with a disease (realized our need for God’s grace); were given a prescription and bought it (read the Bible); but then never took the medicine that could make us healthy again (failed to apply the Bible to our lives).
The Bible is a great gift from God to His people. May all of us take the time to unwrap the gift and share it with others by living it out.