Two conversations with B2Y’ers in the last week brought up the term “ticking the box” in relation to bible study. Both individuals mentioned how they don’t like to do the daily reading just in order to “tick the box” and say it’s been done, without retaining any of the information. One mentioned how it is valuable to read whole chunks at a time, rather than have them broken up into chapters, because you get more of a sense of the big picture, or meta-narrative. I’ve experienced this myself…A few chapters at a time can help slot the pieces together, especially when you’re not reading in a hurry.
This got me thinking about perceived vs. actual benefits, superstitious religiosity,and why we are committed to the plan.
I’m not looking to provide glib answers to the problems surrounding this, but rather get us thinking about it. Here are some thoughts.
If we can’t remember what we read yesterday, was there really any value in reading it at all?
On one hand, no. A key part of learning is to be able to retain acquired knowledge and store it for future reference. But, then again, is that all there is to it? Do we really know what we have learned, or are there subconscious lessons as well? How readily should we use that as an excuse to fall behind?
Daily reading is also about an act of submission to God and his word. Attempting to maintain a kind of regularity and consistency can help throw into relief the difference between God’s constancy and our undulatory natures: his faithfulness and our fanciful desire. The act of doing the bible study when we don’t feel like it exposes our very humanity, where setting it aside misses that opportunity. So there are benefits to us (even painful ones) that come from daily reading, even if we don’t fully understand, even if we don’t fully retain what we are being taught.
Naturally, though, it is also our responsibility to look for learning aids, to make our devotional times more productive: things which work for us. We’ve got to be careful and brutally honest about how we do that, because it’s so easy to excuse laziness and call it an “erratic learning style”. If we waited for all the environmental variables to be just right before we did anything, how much would we achieve?
I’m aware even as I write this that it’s a lesson for me, not just in my bible study but other parts of my life. If I want to achieve something worthwhile, I need to be so careful about how I excuse myself.
Is this unfair? Am I attempting to burden myself and other B2Y’ers unfairly? It’s our natural tendency to say “It’s not your fault!” when people admit failure. But does this really help? Should we be encouraging on one hand and attempting to downplay the risk of failure on the other?
Reading your bible daily is important. Reading and understanding it is important. Reading and remembering it is important. Failing to do all these things puts us at serious spiritual risk, but doing them is a way through which God will grant us great spiritual victories. This is no small matter we are talking about! There are great rewards and great risks.
We do not need to spend our time looking for ways to excuse ourselves, because the delight of Christianity is not in finding yourself to be guiltless, but in finding yourself forgiven and atoned for. There is a new mercy every morning! The pain of discipline becomes welcome in the light of sanctification.
So, I guess the question is this “Is it OK to fall behind instead of reading scripture only to tick boxes?”. Yes, I suppose so, but how often are those the only two options? Check your motives. “Ticking boxes” is about pride. It is as much about pride as making excuses for ourselves is. Are you really only doing it to tick boxes? Or are you painting that picture to excuse yourself? Aren’t we devious? We must examine ourselves, our motives, and the results of our actions and decisions.
Pray that God would use the very act of bible study to teach us about ourselves, and that we would discover afresh his grace and forgiveness towards us as we falteringly seek after him.