Aug 10 2017
Last Sunday, I got a question after the service that I wasn’t able to answer when we were together. It’s a really good one, and it’s worth investigating, so let’s do that together right now.
To give a quick summary, I said in the sermon that authentic discipleship is about obedience to Jesus, and obedience comes when we hear the word of God and do what it says (actually, Jesus said that—I just said what he said).
The problem is that our sin gets in the way of our obedience, and we need God’s grace to overcome our sin and enable our obedience. God’s grace reveals to us the value, the truth, the necessity, and the power of his word.
I also pointed out that in order to obey God’s word, we have to know what it says. But according to a recent survey, 40% of Christians haven’t actually read the whole Bible. In my mind, that makes it pretty difficult to be obedient. Without knowing what the Bible says, our obedience will always be incomplete.
The question that I got is basically this: is that actually true? After all, there were many years when the Bible wasn’t readily available to Christians. In the days before the printing press and before the Protestant Reformation, the Bible was fairly inaccessible because there were few copies, and the copies available tended to be in Latin, which only the highly educated folks could read.
So how can I say that reading the whole Bible is critical? Other Christians who have come before us couldn’t read the whole Bible—did that make them immature?
That’s a really good question, and I’m grateful to the person who wrote it (who chose to remain anonymous).
First off, I want to acknowledge that the observation is true. There were, in fact, a number of years when the average Christian couldn’t read the Bible. And even today, there are people groups who don’t have the entire Bible translated into their language, and they can’t read the whole thing because translators are still working on it.
I want to make it clear that I’m not making any comment on the validity of the faith of those people who don’t have access to the Bible, or who didn’t have access to the Bible in their lives. It’s a question that I can’t answer.
So, if there are people who don’t have access to the Bible, why is it important for us to know the whole thing?
The answer comes down to the principle of stewardship. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable of a wealthy man who went on a journey, and, before he left, he entrusted his money to three servants. Two of the servants took the money and invested it, and they doubled their master’s money. But one servant—who hadn’t been given very much to begin with—took the money, buried it, and kept it safe until his master came back.
You’d think that the master would be happy—after all, the servant didn’t lose the money, and the master got back exactly what he had given. But that wasn’t his reaction. Instead, he said, “You wicked and slothful servant!” And then he proceeded to take away the money and throw the servant into the outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
That seems like a bit of an overreaction, but it’s actually entirely logical. The master expected more than just to get his money back, and his servants knew that (which is why two of them risked the money in order to make it grow). He wanted the servants to do with the money what he would have done—put it to work. The third servant’s failure to do that was a failure of stewardship; it was a violation of the trust that his master had placed in him.
Then the master says something else: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The fact is that we have access to the whole Bible, and our job as disciples of Jesus is to steward that treasure well. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what other people have and what they do with it: the only thing that matters is what we do with what we’ve been given.
That’s why we have a responsibility to know the word of God, and, more importantly, to know how to use it. We have been entrusted with a great treasure—the very word of God. Our job as authentic disciples is to fulfill our master’s expectation for us—not his expectation for anyone else—and be faithful to his call.
This week, we’re looking at the story of Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8:22-25. Take some time to read that passage before Sunday and write down any questions you have. Then, on Sunday, think about the sermon and ask more questions. Then we’ll do what we did last week and take some time to discuss them together after lunch.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. See you Sunday.