The Top 10 Reasons Why People Don

The Top 10 Reasons Why People Don't Read The Bible<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Americans revere the Bible-but, by and large, they don't read it.  And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.                              GEORGE GALLUP, JR.
To read part one and reasons 7-10 visit: 

          When I was growing up some words in my Bible were more than a little difficult to understand.  When James instructed us to "lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness" (James <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />1:21), I admit I was a bit puzzled by what that meant.  And when someone in church went to the pastor admitting, "Pastor, I have been guilty of evil concupiscence" (Colossians 3:5), I can just see the puzzled look on the pastor's face and hear him say, "Let me get back to you on that."

          Actually, the more I read the Bible the less difficulty I had even understanding Elizabethan English.  When I encountered a word I didn't understand, I looked it up.  That's what I did when reading other books too. 

          Years ago it was easy to blame the language of the Bible for our lack of Bible reading.  "It's King James' fault.  His language is so old fashioned.  If I just had a Bible in modern English, then I'd read it," everyone argued.  Well, now we have dozens of Bibles in easy-to-read 21st century English and we are reading less now than ever before.

The best way to make the unfamiliar language of the Bible familiar to you is not to set your Bible on the shelf but to hide it in your heart.

          There may be words and concepts in the Bible that puzzle you still.  But don't let that stop you from reading it.  After all, the more you read unfamiliar words or concepts, the more familiar they become. 

          You're right.  The Bible is a big book.  In fact, the Bible is a library, a collection of 66 books.  Some are quite long-Genesis, Matthew, Isaiah, Acts-but others are quite short-Philippians, Malachi, Colossians, Zephaniah.  In fact, five books in this library have only one chapter.[3]  One book has just two chapters.[4]
"Maybe you think of the Bible the way you think of Tolstoy's War and Peace. You know it's supposed to be a classic, and you've got nothing against it. But it's too long,[5] and it's just not your thing. Well, it might be okay to skip War and Peace, but the Bible isn't just another literary classic. It's the one book you can't afford to neglect."[6]
But is the length of the books in the Bible really the reason why people don't read them?  Did you read any of the Harry Potter books? The first, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was the shortest at 309 pages.  By book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling was up to 734 pages.  Book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was 870 pages.  No complaints or excuses there.
Don't you find it odd that Harry Potter readers wait outside bookstores at midnight to get the next HP release, but when it comes time to reading the only Book God every wrote, we say it's too long.  I don't think God is buying that.
          Sometimes the Bible doesn't seem to speak to our 21st century needs.  After all, think of all the words that aren't in the Bible:  AIDS, computer, text messaging, NASCAR, Alaskan cruise, etc.  But maybe the Bible would speak more to us if we read more of it and were more sensitive in applying to our lives what we do read.  Let me give you an example.
          Bill Armstrong was a young businessman in my church.  He and his partner sold and installed security systems in homes.  Bill was a Christian but Jack, his business partner, was not.  Soon a conflict arose between Bill and Jack over a security device that Bill knew was overpriced and inadequate.  Jack wanted to up sell the customers on features that both Bill and Jack knew were just bells and whistles.  Bill was hesitant because he knew the device was not as reliable as one with fewer features.  He prayed and asked God for guidance.  Bill wanted to check out his Bible but didn't know where to look.  Had Bill been more familiar with his Bible, he would have easily drawn principles by which to conduct his business.
God told the Israelites always to be fair in business.  "You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light one" (Deuteronomy 25:13), implying that some merchants would cheat their customers with a weight that was lighter than the standard.  Bill had apparently not read any of the apostle Paul's comments about honesty in business.  He told the Corinthian believers that they must provide all things honest or honorable, "not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Corinthians 8:21). 
          One day Bill couldn't take it anymore.  He came to me seeking advice.  I steered him to some of these verses and when he left he knew what he had to do.  Bill bought out Jack's interest in their business (2 Corinthians 6:14).  He quit selling the overpriced but inferior alarm systems.  He told his customers what features could be added to any system, but let them decide for themselves.  People appreciated Bill's new candor and today his business is booming.
          The Bible's relevance to our lives isn't determined by what it says; it's determined by what we know of what it says.  If you can't put your finger on any passages of Scripture that speak to your needs, that doesn't mean there aren't any.  More familiarity with the Bible through reading will bring more relevancy for the Bible in your life.[7] 
          If some portions of the Bible seem boring to you, you're not alone.  Even a spiritual giant like John Bunyan, author of the classic Christian allegory Pilgrim's Progress, once said, "I have sometimes seen more in a line of the Bible than I could well tell how to stand under, and yet at another time the whole Bible hath been to me as dry as a stick." 
Bunyan's candor is exactly the point.  There are portions of the Bible that are not as exciting as others-Leviticus, Ezekiel, Obadiah-but the whole Bible isn't like that.  Let's be fair.  You may have to slosh through some places in Scripture and look closely for application to your life, but the vast majority of the Bible has ready application.

19% of Americans say they study the Bible daily;
29% say they never study the Bible.
In the Bible you will find love stories (Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and Mary), war stories (Joshua and the Amalekites, Hezekiah and the Assyrians, David and the Philistines), stories of international intrigue (Daniel, Moses, the Magi), and stories of family conflict (Jacob and his sons, the prodigal and his father, Cain and Abel).  You'll also read of death threats (Mordecai), attempts on one's life (Paul), and even a story about a boy king hidden from his own grandmother so she wouldn't kill him (Joram and Athaliah). 
So what's your interest?  The Bible has it all-danger, intrigue, passion, jealousy, betrayal, love, honor, it's all in there.
          Sometimes it does feel like your reading someone else's mail when you read the Bible.  But that's true of every other book too.  The fact is, there is more addressed to you personally in the Bible than in any book ever written.  The reason is clear: the Bible is God's love letter to you, and whether He is telling you someone's story or predicting the future, the bottom line is how you fit in the plan of God as outlined in His Word. 
          In our "Top 10" list the reasons for not reading the Bible are becoming both more honest and more to the point.  How much you read your Bible depends on how valuable you think that time will be. 
Rabbi Daniel Lapin makes an interesting observation about time.  He says:
Most people who travel for business spend about the same number of days per year on the road as our great-grandfathers did.  The reason for this synchronicity is clear.  Most people subconsciously calculate the amount of time they are willing to spend away from family and friends and the amount of discomfort they are willing to endure.  They then plug this figure into their economic ambition, massage the resulting equation a little, and emerge with a figure representing roughly how many days each year they are willing to travel for business.  All of this is done subconsciously; it even gets updated from time to time.6
The rabbi's point is this: you do only what you think is valuable.  You will read God's Word only if you deem it personally profitable.  If you see the Bible as of little value, you will place little value on reading it.  It won't be a priority.  If, however, you see it as the only book God ever wrote, as God's way of communicating with you, as the only reliable guide for successful living, reading the Bible will become your priority.

Among those individuals who are identified as Christians,
only half (50%) rate themselves as being 'absolutely
 committed' to the Christian faith.
 "Today, unless you were brought up under a rock, or in a stone age tribe in a jungle somewhere, you know in your heart that there is a book called the Holy Bible, that you should be reading.   Biblical illiteracy is 99.9% a matter of choice."[8]
          The most common excuse for not reading the Bible is our busy lives.  We don't seem to have time to do the things we know we should do.   There's work and school, running to the store, soccer practice, dinner-life is just a bit harried.  Who has time to sit and read?
You do.  Here's why.
Time is a set quantity.  It's not elastic.  We all have 60 seconds in every minute, 60 minutes in every hour, 24 hours in every day. Time may fly, but it doesn't change.  You have one thousand four hundred and forty golden minutes in every day and so do I. 
The issue is never about time, it's always about what we choose to get done in the time we have, and that takes us right back to our priorities.  Is reading God's Word, meditating and benefiting from it, something you wish to take some time each day to do or not?  If not, the convenient way to express your lack of desire is to say, "I don't have time."  But we both know time isn't the problem.
A couple of years ago I took a stopwatch with me everywhere I flew.  I would read my Bible while in flight and time how long it took to read each book of the Bible.  Once returning from Frankfort on a flight to Chicago a flight attendant saw the stopwatch around me neck and asked, "Are you timing our service?"  I chuckled and said, "No, I'm timing how long it takes me to read my Bible."  With a puzzled look on her face she inquired why someone would want to do that.   I said, "Because everybody tells me they would read their Bible but they don't have time.  I want to know how much time they don't have."
Did you know that you can read half the books of the Bible in less than 30 minutes each?  You can read 26 of them in less than 15 minutes.  The whole Bible, cover to cover, can be read by an average reader in less than 72 hours. 
Maybe it's time we rethink our reasons for not reading the Bible and just call them what they are--excuses. 
Take another look at these "Top Ten."  How many of them are excuses you've given to God for not reading His Word?  If you can see through them so quickly, imagine how easily He can see through them.
The Bible is read by people who choose to read it.  Bible reading is neglected by people who choose to neglect it.  It's just that simple.
          No excuses.  Just honesty.

[1]  There are many fine guides to reading the Bible that will help you read the entire book in a year or more.  Back to the Bible provides seven such guides in a READ ME Bible guides packet.  Some reading schedules are found on-line.  Wherever you start your reading, the important thing is to start, and don't quit.

[2]  In the King James Bible, there are 31,373 verses.

[3]  Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude

[4]  Haggai

[5] Leo Tolstoy's book is one of the longest classics in history.  The W. W. Norton & Company 1996 second edition translated and edited by George Gibian contains the 15 books and 365 chapters of War and Peace in 1,300 pages.

[6]  The Good Book, October 6, 1996, (

[7]   To learn more about what the Bible says regarding various topics, see:

6  Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Lapin, America's Real War.  (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 27-28.

[8]  The High Cost of Illiteracy (

Be sure to watch for Woodrow Kroll's newest book:
How America Forgot the Bible and Why It Matters To You
(Crossway Books; Release Date:  March 8, 2007)

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