Reading is active. It requires processing of information, cognitive imagination, and moral navigation. Think of the last thing you read. Was it a newspaper, blog, or a book? In reading that piece you chose to cognitively and actively process the information, develop a complex understanding of the words you read, and (chances are) made a moral outcome from the piece – even if the moral outcome was that you probably should eat an apple a day. Every time we choose to read we are choosing to actively be impacted by what we read. There is however a misconception that reading and watching translate the same way in our minds, but I do not find that to be true. When you sit down to watch a television show or a Netflix movie, that content is happening to you. As engaged as you may feel in the plot or character development of that piece, your brain is not necessarily actively engaged with the video. Think about it this way – have you ever sat down to watch a movie with your family and during the movie you either get up to use the bathroom, check your phone, or talk with your family during it? If so, this is an example of how your brain is not actively engaged with the content before your eyes. Sure, you can remember scenes, character names, and even plot; but video media happens to us. More often than we realize we are passively involved with our digital media. When reading words we are choosing to have to process the information and develop complex interpretation. Our imagination develops the “inner-movie” that brings to life the words we are reading. Even choosing to read the next chapter is a cognitive choice! Karen Prior in her book, On Reading Well, said,
“There is something in the very form of reading – the shape of the action itself – that tends toward virtue… Reading well is, itself, an act of virtue, or excellence, and it is also a habit that cultivates more virtue in return.”Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well.
There is a subconscious activity to reading a physical book. Virtues and morals are being evaluated and formed while we trace through stories. Reading shapes us and most of the time we are not even aware of it. Even more so, reading the Bible shapes us; not just in a moral evaluation but in supernatural interaction with the Creator of the universe. God wrote us a book. When we read the Bible – stories of kings, prophets, and priests – we are narratively being taken through God’s chosen stories to show us Himself. In every word of the Bible, God is displayed! Look at a few verses from God’s word:
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training for righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16, [ESV].
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”Romans 15:4, [ESV].
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12, [ESV].
It is clear that God intended for us to read the Scriptures because by them we are taught, encouraged, trained, and shown our own selves! I once heard a wise man say that the Bible is the only book that reads the reader. What he means is that in reading the Bible we don’t just see the story we see how we fit in the story – for better or worse. It is through this process that we are taught morality and find conviction through the Spirit. Therefore, realize how powerful the supernatural word of God truly is! You do not have to earn a masters degree in greek to read the Bible and have it change you. God intended for the reading of His word to be transformative for the reader. Every time you read even one paragraph, one sentence, you are being formed. God’s word is meant for the believer!
I encourage you to read your Bible. Whether you’ve never picked one up or you’ve gotten into the busyness of life and have neglected it for awhile – read your Bible. Whether you realize it or not, by habitually reading God’s word, you are being transformed into the likeness of God’s Son – Jesus Christ, our model of holiness and savior. Let the God-breathed word fill your thoughts, impact your responses to people, guide your emotions in difficult situations, guard your eyes from impurity, spur you to love your spouse better, and endure in faith.