Do You Read Your Bible Like Your Newsfeed?

I am definitely a news junkie. This became most apparent one Sunday during the icebreaker time of a biblical womanhood course I’m teaching to the young ladies in our church.

“What’s your favorite hobby—what do you do, like, for fun?” one girl asked.

Puzzling for a moment, I ran through the possibilities: playing the piano, singing, gardening, cooking . . . “Well, I really like to read,” I began. A few eyes lit up, a few began that quintessential upward roll. “But actually,” I continued, “my favorite thing to read is . . . news.” A room full of teenagers and moms became a sea of blank faces, while I imagined them planning their exit strategy on the first week of class. Nice job, Teacher, I thought to myself. Maybe you should stick to writing, huh?

When the News Becomes News

Truth be told, I get it. Most people don’t consume the day’s events with the voraciousness of a tired mom hiding in the pantry with her hand in the M&M bag. But, well, I just love news! And boy, has this year been a whopper for news junkies. Even more so recently, when the news itself has become news.

From the “fake news” phenomenon to “made-for-late-night” press briefings, nearly every news outlet has been forced into an unplanned period of self-reflection. Each network, website, and radio show has undoubtedly spent some time asking itself a few pointed questions:

  • Who is our audience?
  • What do they want to hear/see?
  • How can we best position our voice to be heard?

Oh, and of course this one—Will this make money? A quick reading of these questions presents quite a contrast between the way the news is actually reported and the who, what, when, where, and why you heard so much about in school. Do writers still ask themselves those questions when deciding how to frame a story? Sure. But every outlet must face the fact that the way people consume news has changed dramatically since the advent of social media.

The ramifications of these changes range from divisive to dangerous, according to Cass Sunstein in his new book #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. The basic premise is this: Our usage of social media enables us to consume only the news that we want to hear, only when we want to hear it, only from a bias we agree with. This, Sunstein surmises, has contributed to your newsfeed becoming a giant self-perpetuating echo-chamber.

What in the world does this have to do with my Bible, you ask? After listening to Sunstein, I couldn’t help but wonder—if it’s that easy for modern news consumers to slip from balanced, well-rounded consumption of news to a string of opinion pieces blindly supporting our already-formed biases, how easy is it for us to consume Scripture the same way? So my point (finally, I know) is this: Do you read your Bible like your newsfeed? Do I?

Three Warning Signs You’re at Risk

The New York Times called it “The Choose-Your-Own-News Adventure”—our love of consuming news and programming catered to our individual desire to see only what we want to see, when we want to see it. On your Facebook newsfeed this comes by way of a complicated algorithm. In your consumption of Scripture, it might be more subtle. Here are a few warning signs that you might be headed toward a Create-Your-Own-Bible adventure of sorts.

  1. You frequently gravitate toward certain literary forms or sections of Scripture that make you feel good, at the expense of studying the whole counsel of God. Maybe you love the poetry of the Psalms—I know I do! Whether I’m elated or discouraged, the Psalms seem to have the perfect complement to my mood. But if I seek the Lord for mere affirmation instead of complete revelation, I am at risk of missing that complete equipping for every good work with which Paul extolls Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
  2. You tend to skip or skim Old Testament passages when they come up on your Bible-reading plan. The Gospels? Check! Proverbs? Awesome! Esther? Cool story! But Leviticus? Ugh . . . If we are honest, how many of us get that sinking tell-me-when-it’s-over feeling when we are compelled to read or study the less-frequented Old Testament books. Do we skim them out of duty, neglecting to see and savor the goodness of God on every page?
  3. You’ve had the same Bible for ten years, and you still find pages that are stuck together like new. Okay, this one seems a little silly, but I have to admit that this has happened to me in the past year. I think we all know what this means: While a chunk of evangelical Christianity embarks upon a yearly journey through the whole of Scripture, I have neglected to complete the voyage even once in the last ten years. Um, ouch. That’s all I’ll say about that one.

Why It Matters

Perhaps you already know the answer to this question. Perhaps you see, as I do, the itchy ears of Christianity at large, creeping ever nearer toward what Paul described when he said, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4).

The remedy? Paul actually gave it before the problem in this case, back in verses 1–2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (emphasis added).

Did you catch that? With complete patience and teaching, meaning, with complete patience and with complete teaching. We must sit ourselves under the whole counsel of God, lest we “wander off into myths,” namely, a religion of our own creation.

Why are we tempted to wander toward self-guided tours through, for example, only the pleasant pastures of New Testament Scripture when we are promised that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4)? Behold our God! Behold His Word! Here are a few tips for how to find that blessed hope on every page.

Three Preventative Measures for a Balanced Bible Feed

  1. Make sure your Bible studies actually study the Bible. Jen Wilkin wrote a great article contrasting Bible study with other types of church community gatherings here.
  2. Sit under expository preaching with regularity, perhaps even from multiple sources. If your pastor spends the majority of his messages studying a book or passage from start to finish, you probably hear a decent amount of expository preaching. This is great! But perhaps your pastor is going through the book of John and expecting it to take a year or more. Consider listening to additional messages from trusted sources who are preaching from elsewhere in Scripture. There’s no harm in supplementation to contribute to a balanced diet!
  3. Forget the “one-year plan” if you have to, but find a Bible-reading plan and commit to its eventual completion, regardless of how long it takes. Cross out all of the dates if it helps. If you miss a few days or weeks, get back to it. Don’t skip the long stuff. Don’t skip the hard stuff. Read each day like the hungry mom in the pantry with the M&M bag. Look for the hope of the gospel on every single page.

My friends, your Bible is not your Facebook newsfeed. There is no option to click “See more stories like this” or “See less of that.” God gave us His complete revelation—“all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises" (2 Peter 1:3–4).

This is the real “huuuggge,” dear sisters. Let’s not be content with a fake-news, partial gospel when complete truth is available to us. This day’s news will be gone like a vapor in the twenty-four-hour news cycle. But the Word of God stands forever. Amen!

Have you found yourself breathing a sigh of disappointment when it’s time to read your less-beloved passages of Scripture? What steps can you take today to make sure your “Bible Feed” is balanced?

About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Born and raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott and her husband, Michael, now call Minnesota home. Laura is the mother of five sons and one daughter and serves as the marketing content manager for Revive Our Hearts. In … read more …

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