“Helpful” is a computer with internet access, the car starting on a cold morning in Minnesota, coupons at the grocery store, and extra ranch. But the Bible is not helpful; it is essential.
Too often I view my Bible like many others view their coffee; I just need the dose of spiritual caffeine to get me going, and then I’ll be fine. While the Bible does provide inspiration and encouragement for my day, I need to view it as something more than that. The Bible is not the dessert after a big meal. Rather, it is more akin to the daily ration of a weary soldier. The problem is that I view the Bible as something nice for my day and not as Jesus did in the wilderness: absolutely essential.
Consider the setting with me from Matthew 4. The Spirit leads Jesus to fast for 40 days, and Matthew sums up the situation with one of the great understatements in Scripture, “he was hungry.” Here in the wilderness, Jesus’ humanity is on full display. He’s hungry, tired, exposed, weak, and facing temptation. Seizing on perceived opportunity, Satan appears intending to destroy the Lord.
Satan’s first temptation is simple enough. “You’re hungry! Why not eat something? Why not just make some bread for yourself? Oh, you’re supposed to be fasting and following the leading of Spirit? That won’t work well if you die of hunger, will it? C’mon, just one loaf of bread!”
Jesus’ response reveals his view of Scripture.
Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
In this desperate situation, Jesus relies on Scripture to support him. He knows that the sustaining power of God’s Word to the soul is greater than food to a starving man. The principle follows: if I fail to eat food my body will die, but if I fail to take in the Words of God, I risk the death of my soul.
The rest of the Bible claims the same priority for Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says a believer without Scripture is unequipped for life, Jesus asserts in John 8:31 that a mark of a genuine believer is that he abides in the Word, and Psalm 119:105 claims a person is stuck in darkness without God’s Word. The reality is that you can’t live without your Bible.
Why, then, do we neglect it?
The short answer is that we take God’s Word for granted. Like the “helpful” computer with wi-fi access, we think, “It’ll be there when I need it. I’ll just log on and get the answer to my questions when I have them.” But the Bible doesn’t work like that. It is the believer’s feeding tube. Remove it, and you starve your soul.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a growing child needs food, and it shouldn’t take a super theologian to understand that a growing Christian needs God’s Word.
Essential, not helpful.