You may not actually be reading this blog.
Here’s what I mean:
The digital revolution has changed the way we process information. Reading on digital devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.) has become the virtual norm for most people. These devices are quick. They connect us. They offer distraction and fill in the gaps.
Within a matter of seconds we can learn a wide variety of facts, opinions and news from first-hand eyewitnesses across the world as well as those next door.
What’s the President doing? I can know in less than two clicks of a button.
Who won a cricket match in Lebanon? Three clicks.
Do they have cricket in Lebanon? Zero clicks – just ask Siri.
As reading has largely become digitized, another phenomenon has materialized. While we may be reading more than ever, we are actually reading less.
By “less,” I mean our ability to sit with and comprehend the written word has diminished. In large part, this is because of the massive amount of bite-sized information we ask our minds to process each day. In order to keep up, our brains are programmed to skim, pick up keywords and find 140 character sentences we can share with others instantly.
This is why online articles and blogs are becoming shorter. Even paragraphs are smaller. Key thesis statements come pre-bolded and ready to share online with a single click.
Writers know they have less time to hold our attention, and what we are often looking for is not just information but expedient information.
We are a society of skimmers. We read much, but actually read less. We have moved from reading chapters to reading sections of chapters. Instead of sections, we read paragraphs. Instead of paragraphs, we read sentences. Instead of sentences, we read memes. Instead of memes, we just post emojis.
When we digest the written word in 140 characters or less, written works that do not fit that paradigm must be either changed, altered, or go the way of the buffalo.
As society becomes more and more immune to large portions of copy, what is the result? What about works that cannot be changed? What about those that should not be changed – those that are telling a bigger story?
What about the Bible?
While the modern church would not think of changing the Scripture, we have certainly changed how we digest it. The majority of our reading plans or daily studies are broken up into bite-sized digestible morsels meant to allow us to be able to actually read the Bible, but do so in a way that accommodates our busy lifestyles or doesn’t offend our modern appetites for smaller, less intimidating portions of text.
We like the Bible quick. We like it expedient. We like small portions with big impact.
In essence, we like a twitterized Bible.
I’ll admit that as I read my Bible, instead of thinking “What does this mean?” I often find myself thinking, “How could I tweet this?” or, “How much more do I have to go until I’ve reached today’s goal?”
My mind has been trained to think in short bursts of thought. I am much more interested in finding a flashy phrase than contemplating a cumulative and cohesive idea.
It is easier for me to check the box on reading a chapter of the Bible than ask myself if I have really read the Bible that day in the way it was intended for God’s glory and my good.
As a modern culture struggling to digest large amounts of text, it seems we are increasingly relying on chapters and verses as goals rather than complete thoughts, stories or compositions.
We read a chapter at a time. We read a verse at a time. We read part of a verse. We set goals based off units and sections.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we must recognize this is not how the Bible is given to us.
God’s Word is not meant to be skimmed. In fact, I would argue that it cannot be merely skimmed and thoroughly understood. You cannot simply pre-bold the good parts of the Bible and ignore the rest. God’s Word must be seen, savored, considered and ingested. In fact, God told Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:1) and John (Rev. 10:9) to literally eat His Word.
Is His call different to us today?
If we are going to be people of the Word, we are going to have to read the Bible counter-culturally. We are going to have to fight for our mind’s focus, attention, and read in ways that serve not us but the Word itself.
The time, environment and pace we use to read God’s Word must allow for prayer, contemplation, thought and investment.
I’m not saying we have to spend hours every day locked in a Wi-Fi-free basement in order to please God. We should, however, question how our reading habits serve our reading comprehension – particularly when it comes to God’s Word.
We may need to make adjustments in our Bible studies, devotionals or even ways we read the Scripture in order to not only skim it and check a box, but to read it and understand.
We must read the Bible like we read nothing else because nothing else we read is like the Bible.
You can tweet that.