I went to a Lutheran grade school, high school, and college. I had religion classes, catechism classes, doctrine classes, and church history classes. I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday and VBS every summer. We had devotions at home. I knew all the Bible stories backward and forward. I could recite the catechism for memory and quote the liturgy word for word. So it finally dawned on me—I know all this stuff. Why bother going to church or Bible class anymore? I’ve got this down.
Have you heard people make arguments like that? I know I have. Have you perhaps even made such a claim yourself? Ah, I know all this. Why would I need Bible class anyhow? Well, let me ask you something. What language did you take in high school? Do you consider yourself a fluent speaker of that language? Can you even remember how to carry on a basic conversation in said language anymore? Or what about math? What was the highest math class you took in high school? If you took a test in that subject today how would you do? Barring math whiz teachers like my sister-in-law, I bet most people wouldn’t even get a passing grade. Heck, I don’t even remember what trigonometry is anymore. What about anatomy? I used to know the names of all the bones and muscles backward and forward. But unless you happen to be a doctor, I’ll wager you can’t name more than a handful anymore. You see, if you don’t use something, you lose it. That’s why they invented such game shows as Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Because most people forget stuff they learned unless they are actively using that knowledge. I can play my flute and the organ well only because I’ve practiced and practiced over the years. Those who didn’t choose to go into music, on the other hand, are often heard to say, “I used to play the trumpet. Now I couldn’t even play a scale anymore.” So why should we expect it to be any different with religion?
For the record, the background info in my opening paragraph is all quite true. I did go through years of religious education. I did learn every conceivable Bible story there is to know. But believe me, there never came a point when I felt like I knew everything. On the contrary, I find the following axiom to be true—“The more you learn, the less you know.” Sure, maybe I can quote you many of the familiar Bible stories, but there’s so much I don’t know. I’ve read every book in the Bible multiple times before, but I still can’t tell you much at all about any of the minor prophets. I can’t keep straight which ones were sent to whom, and what their messages all were. Then the other night we were reading Psalm 52, which was written by David after Doeg’s betrayal. I knew I’d read that account before, but I couldn’t tell my kids the story of Doeg off the top of my head. And that’s certainly not the only Bible account I need to brush up on.
But it goes even beyond “knowing” the Bible accounts. When I first saw Our Town years ago, I didn’t think much of it, honestly. It was depressing and sort of aimless in my view. But as I’ve gotten older, the underlying message becomes more poignant. The same is true with Bible accounts. As kids, sure, we can quote the Christmas account from Luke for the Christmas program, but as we get older the whole meaning of Christmas becomes deeper as we realize how incredible it is that God Himself would dare to become a tiny, helpless infant. We know exactly how helpless babies are, and that they need everything done for them. For God to stoop to that level for our sake, wow. That’s how great our Savior’s love is for us. And as we get older, we gain more than just the head knowledge of what the Sunday School accounts are—we can better comprehend the “what does this mean” behind those accounts. I actually get excited when I read a footnote in my Bible or a paragraph in a commentary that gives me new insight on a familiar passage. I’ve even been known to text my best friend about it, and she gets excited as well. Her background is just like mine in terms of religious instruction and schooling, but she understands as well that there’s never a point where we “know it all.”
So no matter how much Bible knowledge you have in your background, please don’t ever be lulled into thinking you know it all. That’s exactly what the devil wants you to believe. He wants you to think that you don’t need church or Bible class or devotions. Don’t let him fool you. Take to heart the words of St. Paul to Timothy on the importance of staying in the Word of God: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work… Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 4:2). You ‘re never too old to benefit from Bible study and church. And speaking of which, it is Sunday, after all. Excuse me for now. It’s time to get ready for church.
January 18, 2015 at 10:35 am
Amen. A much needed reminder. Thank you for taking the time!
January 25, 2015 at 5:21 am
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