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A Dirty Old Bag 

06-09-2021 Blog pic

I read a story of a grandfather encouraging his grandson to read the Bible more.

“I don’t want to,” the boy replied. “I can’t even remember what I read yesterday. How am I to memorise the whole Bible? What good would that do anyway?”

The old man thought for a moment, then said “Do you see that dirty old bag of coal? Empty it and use the bag to collect some water from the river, then bring it to me.” The boy grudgingly obliged, went to the river, scooped in some water and hurried back to his grandfather. On the way all the water inevitably leaked out. When the boy showed his grandfather what happened the old man told him to do it again. This happened again and again until finally the boy got back to his grandfather and said that it is completely useless to carry water in a coal bag as the water will always leak out.

“Exactly,” said the old man. “You may not have been able to keep any significant amount of water in the bag, but look at how clean the bag is now. Similarly you will not be likely to memorise all of Scripture, but the effect of trying will change your whole life for the better.”

I often find myself echoing the boy’s sentiment: I don’t want to read the Bible! It can be confusing at times and I forget what I read anyway! And then, when I’ve neglected it for long enough I feel guilty and feel even less inclined to take up my reading plan again.

But this story reminds me that the end goal of reading the Bible should never be to merely know Scripture off by heart (however impressive and noble that may be!), but to get to know Jesus better. Jesus even describes the knowledge of God as eternal life (John 17:3).

Unfortunately, in my experience, time spent in the Bible is not always as exciting or straight forward as I hope. I often have to wrestle with a piece of Scripture, discuss it with a friend, read up on it and pray about it before I get what it’s about. And that’s okay. Real growth happens in working through the uncomfortable bits.

Here’s what I do when I read Scripture:

  1. Read more than just a couple of verses. See what goes on before and after the specific passage. Read it in context, as a small part in a much bigger whole.
  2. Ask what this passage says about us (people). Look for characteristics or truths about humanity that may not be fully obvious. Look for things that might point to who we are.
  3. Ask what this passage says about God. Look for characteristics of God or deeds He has done that might point towards getting to know Him better. Look for things He is called (Lamb of God, Son of Man, Prince of Peace, etc.) and how He is described.
  4. Ask myself what this passage is telling me right now, in my current circumstances. There’s a reason why you read this passage today. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you why. Listen. Then apply this truth to your day.
God promises in Isaiah 55:11 that His Word will accomplish what it set out to do. May we continue in the transforming power of reading the Bible and may our lives be transformed to the glory of His name.

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Nico Marais, 06/09/2021