The other day, Shamu one of the college students who cooks for Bapu, myself and whosoever comes, made pancakes.
Talking to Ethan a young man from Canada who is here helping Bapu, I said, “These pancakes aren’t very good.” Ethan who loves pancakes and is considered an authority on pancakes, muffins and assorted bakery stuff, countered, “They are good.” I continued, “He should have put bananas in”. Ethan’s reply, “But he did.” “Oh,” I said. “But he also should have added some vanilla extract that would have made them tastier.” “He did that too.” Ethan replied. “Oh!” I said again and then continued, “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t eat any.”
I come across a Pancake Story all the time with young and even not so young people, people who visit or come as volunteers to our home in Nagpur, except it is not about pancakes but about the Bible. At the end of the conversation, though not admitted, it comes to the same thing; “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t read any of it.” This is not fully true as at least they read the cover page, “Holy Bible”.
The other day I read that 80% of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily; and I am afraid, monthly and yearly would not be too much of an exaggeration. The obvious reason behind this is not just laziness but the deeply rooted belief that the Bible is not worth reading. That it contains nothing of value for their daily lives. It has nothing to offer. They come to this conclusion not because they studied the Bible but rather the reverse – they never did.
At my first year in Bible College, I am not sure it was discontinued; we had to fill out what I called the “weather report” – whether or not we prayed and read the Bible, and of course how long. I prayed three minutes or did what I considered to be prayer and read unconnected verses from the Bible. The bits and pieces I read, most of the time, didn’t make sense because they were unconnected to anything else. It all was drudgery.
It seems many Christians have not graduated from that perspective. We feel sort of proud just to have “labored” through today’s reading of Daily Bread. We are not interested to get to know God just fulfill a felt obligation. The idea is that every interaction with God be it prayer, Bible reading or ministry is an unpalatable duty. We are like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son, we serve our father out of duty not love.
That is why there is no joy in serving God. There is no “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42; nor is there “I was glad when they said unto me; Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122.
Yet to read the Bible is no more a duty than looking at your GPS while driving. It is our ignorance of the Bible that makes us turn to famous people about their idea about Jesus Christ and are thrilled when they think he is a nice guy. We are disturbed by the late Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who flew around the earth in a spaceship and proclaimed, “I didn’t see God anywhere!” Or Stephen Hawking when he stated “there is no heaven.” No doubt for him there will not be. The only people who can talk authoritatively about God and the things of God are the people who read their Bible and are in constant communion with him.
Therefore, the majority of Christians are like a drying lake that has stopped being fed by a stream of fresh water. The level sinks below the outlet on the other end. And our dullness and dryness affects the whole congregation. After all, we cannot teach what we don’t know. And therefore there is no “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
We are not doing any exploits great or small. We seek for job satisfaction and not for satisfying God – our ultimate employer. We seek for joy in what we are doing and not in him for whom we are doing it because – having surrendered the Bible to the attic of our lives we neither know him nor know what he expects from us.
And so the tragedy is rather than abandoning ourselves joyfully to the tasks we are engaged in we flee from job to job in the hope of finding God’s will for our life, the will he clearly stated in his word – “making disciples of all men!”