“A classic — something that everybody wants to have read and no one wants to read”

My podcast listeners will remember I made reference recently to a collection of quotations from Mark Twain, perhaps the most beloved of all American writers.  Although he was a masterful storyteller and social critic, he is perhaps best known for his quippy one-liners and witticisms.  He knew better than most that truth gets through hard skulls better when accompanied by a bit of humor.  We all (well, most of us) instinctively are inclined to laugh at ourselves; when we give ourselves a chance, we may motivate ourselves to grow.

One of the sayings I found that has particular relevance for me as a preacher (which, most definitely, Mark Twain was not) is the following commentary on literature: “A classic — something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”  I love that, because that statement is me all over.  For years I have wanted to read a Tolstoy novel, or the collection of Sherlock Holmes books I purchased years ago, or biographies of various public figures I have admired (or despised) over the years.  But mostly I keep reading the same Michael Crichton books over and over, or else fire up YouTube.  I’m doing better this year, but I have a long way to go.

Whether I succeed or fail in that venture — or that other perpetual goal, be more physically active — matters little in the big picture (1 Timothy 4:8).  The real discussion for a Christian, of course, centers around the classic of all classics. 

We have made a concerted effort at East Hill this year to read all the way through the Bible — and not just so that we will have checked a box, but in such a way as to see it as part of a unified whole.  A Christian needs to have a working knowledge of the Bible if it is actually to provide light for his path (Psalm 119:105), if he or she is to be equipped for the work God gives His people to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  I hope that the members have been participating — and more than that, that they are deriving the intended benefits.

It is undeniable, though, that many Christians have little interest in reading the Bible.  They claim to be short on time (although they would not miss their team’s games on a dare), or have a “short attention span” (although they will stare at their Facebook wall through a kitchen fire).  And they will ease their conscience by saying that “one of these days” they will find the time and motivation to do better.  They keep thinking, like Felix (Acts 24:25), that a more convenient season will come one day.

But, of course, it doesn’t.  Because the problem is not with the nature of the season.  The problem is with the nature of the heart.

Don’t be one of those people who is satisfied with valuing Bible knowledge in other people.  There is absolutely no reason why you cannot read the Bible for yourself.  By putting it off indefinitely, you are only reinforcing bad habits and making it harder to make good ones.