How Valuable is a Bible?

One of the first verses I ever memorized was Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.”

It seems like one of those verses that we ought to commit to memory.

For the past three or four years, I’ve focused a lot of wonderment towards the Bible. I’ve questioned whether it’s as important to me as it ought to be. I’ve thought about Mongolia and the scarcity of the word of God there. I’ve read stories about missionaries taking bibles to people who’ve never held one before – in places where they might be killed for it. I’ve read NIV, NASB, King James, ESV, New Living and more translations than I even remember. I’ve hosted the Gospel Marathon two years in a row; I’ve read the Bible in its entirety multiple times. I’ve forced myself to read when I didn’t want to, forced myself to stop reading when I didn’t want to pray, and I’ve carefully studied and wondered about my relationship to this book and its Writer. I’ve wondered if I know it and Him well enough and if I’d risk death just to hold this book. I’ve wondered whether I’m a silly American who holds the most valuable of treasures in this world with a sense of entitlement and flippancy.

When I was a baby Christian, I refused to leave my Bible on the floor or at the bottom of a stack of books. I also kept one in my car and stacked it on top of valuables so that if anyone ever robbed me, he’d have to go through the word of God to get to my laptop or wallet; maybe he’d even take the Bible with him as he ran away with my worldly possessions. God works in mysterious ways, right? Conversion by robbery seems like something my God might just implement.

Yet it seems like the American church hides its bibles at the bottom of a stack of CJ Mahaney and John Piper books. It seems like our bible studies are less about the bible than they used to be and that we throw King James in the trunks of our cars, because we don’t believe it has the power to change lives; in fact, we sometimes see the word of God as a hindrance to changing lives.

A friend and I were getting coffee last week and I asked her a question that’s been stirring in me for a year or more: Could you stay at a church that didn’t use the bible at its small groups? Is that a deal-breaker?

We discussed the fact that Jesus Himself didn’t cart around a physical bible because He knew scripture by heart. And Jesus certainly didn’t do anything wrong in that. We talked about how the bible is an intimidating book, and perhaps it would make non-believers more at-ease to attend a small group that talks about God, but doesn’t pull out 1500 pages of book the world hates, fears and rejects. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the temptation of Jesus and how God Himself quoted scripture as He faced the Devil, so I have to wonder what makes men think we can convert the world better without our bibles with us. I wonder what makes us think we’ll succeed in battle without the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).

Then, our conversation went somewhere I didn’t expect it to go… what if we all memorized the bible?

What if those 1500 pages were a part of our hearts, souls, minds and identities?

The New Testament was written in a context of memorized scripture, and as far as I can tell, the coolest thing about having portable translated bibles is that we can better reach the masses. Yet, let’s consider that society is changing and that a physical bible might not be as valuable in the U.S. (and other educated 1st-world nations) as it used to be. We might better reach the masses through different means.

If we are a society that is no longer transformed by the turning of red-inked pages, then perhaps we are a society that can again be touched by words spoken from memory – words spoken from God’s word hidden on the transformed heart.

Our challenge, then?

Memorize the bible. Cover to cover.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to answer that same question I asked my friend at coffee: Could I stay at a church that doesn’t use the bible at its small groups? Is that a deal-breaker?

My answer: it’s absolutely a deal-breaker unless all believers memorize all 1500 pages of the word.

I’m about to get really radical, here – ready?

I’m going to start today and commit myself to hiding God’s word on my heart.

All of God’s word.

It’s going to take time.

Like a lot of time.

I might not even finish before I die because I’m slow and inconsistent.

But the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, so here’s step one:

I’m starting with Hannah’s prayer because prayer is one of my deepest weaknesses:

“Then Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; My strength is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.”

1Samuel 2:1

And in a year or two, we’ll see whether the word of God is worth more than $30 to me… if it’s worth a lifetime.

We’ll see.


10 thoughts on “How Valuable is a Bible?

  1. This is so awesome I almost can’t bear it! Yes, I am with you, Katie. Memorizing the Word so that it is written on the tablet of our hearts is powerful stuff. It’s really how it becomes alive and active as Hebrews 4:12 says. When our minds can bring Scripture up throughout our days to remind us what we should do through the power of the Holy Spirit. You brought us Jesus. As in everything, He is our perfect example. He should be – He is the Word incarnate.
    Do you have a plan to memorize it? Are you just starting at the beginning and going through? I seriously feel like joining you in this. Even if it takes our whole lives, IT WILL BE SO WORTH IT. Please let me know your “plan” if you have one. Getting seriously into God’s word over the past 5-6 yrs has changed my life! I can think of nothing more important to know and remember that the Bible.
    We also don’t know if we will always have the access we now have to the Bible. I think the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to this more more reasons that just that it will be good for you personally. This is totally Deuteronomy 6:4-6…We are to have God’s word on our hearts so that we can talk about at home and as we walk along the way, at night and in the morning.
    I think you may have hit a big, important idea!

  2. Katie, this is so good! And Hannah’s prayer is powerful and simple and great! Wonderful place to start. You know I’m right there with you. Take me along with you if you think about it. Let me know what you’re memorizing as will I. Yes God!

  3. A few people have asked what my plan is, so here we go:

    I’m planning on going through Hannah’s prayer one verse a night. I’m starting at verse one and saying the entire prayer 10 times a night, but only up through the verse I’m currently on. So last night, I read verses 1-3 ten times each. Tonight, I’ll do verses 1-4. When I finish the prayer, I think I’m going to go back to ch. 1 of 1Samuel and do the same thing with each chapter. 🙂

    I’d love for everyone to join me, and we can hold each other accountable.

  4. OK, so after my initial excitement, the overwhelmed feeling settled in. I was thinking that for anyone else out there like me (easily overwhelmed by BIG goals) this might be helpful. I feel God telling me to just keep learning Scripture, one verse or passage at a time. In that way, I will continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom of His word, allowing Him to scribble it down on the tablet of my heart. One step at a time. He is leading me (and all of us).
    I am still very excited about your idea! Many who love a challenge will want to do this! I, too, want to do it…just more in my baby-stepping way 🙂
    Love you, dear sister in Christ! BTW, I see some stellar leadership and motivational gifts that God is using in you throught this post/idea!

  5. It is a very good idea. I don’t know the bible word for word but I am familiar with it’s words to the point that I can tell if someone is making something up or not. My former church use to choose a scripture passage and the congregation would strive to learn it by the next sabbath. When I was a child our school always had chapters (in our religious classes) we needed to know. It’s funny but I still remember those chapters-they were from psalms.

    • That’s awesome that you still remember psalms you learned as a child. Sometimes I’m envious of others because they’ve had upbringings where God was present (I know envy is sinful). I remember some poems I memorized in sixth grade, but it would have been such a better use of my time to memorize scripture. Sometimes my friends will start singing VBS songs together and doing the hand motions too – that’s another time I get envious.

      I don’t mean to say that others’ upbringings were a bowl full of cherries or anything like that. I’m sure growing up with a Christian education/upbringing can have downsides too, depending on the circumstances.

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