eating: mandatory or optional?

Sunday morning’s study revolved around a discussion of the importance of a Christian spending regular time in God’s Word. Our church has a statement in its covenant that reads We will seek to maintain private devotions as we pray for ourselves and others which is a bit curious when you consider that the covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. Why should my private devotions be anyone else’s business? Additionally, why should I covenant to maintain private devotions–doesn’t that carry a whiff of legalism?

The latter of these two questions received the majority of our attention (the corporate aspect of private devotions is a discussion for another time). So, do I have to read the Bible daily? every other day? weekly? when I feel like it? when I don’t feel like it? Here’s a brief sampling of some of the suggestions put forward:

(i) regularly reading the Word may not carry the same weight as you move from one person to another. One man reads and another prays but both commune with God in their respective ways.

(ii) to assert that we must read the Bible is to create a rule or a duty that undermines the freedom & grace found in a relationship with Christ.

(iii) time in the Word should be a joy so a Christian is better served when he is moved to the Word by a sense of longing or need.

(iv) spending time in the Word is accomplished in a variety of ways–sermons, podcasts, Christian books, etc

(v) the Word is to our spirit what food is to the body–I can choose not to eat but I shouldn’t expect to stay healthy.

What do you think? Is reading the Word mandatory?

to be continued…

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

2 thoughts on “eating: mandatory or optional?”

  1. I wonder if making reading of the Word mandatory wouldn’t be counter productive. But how can we grow as Christians without regular studied reading of God’s Word. For me it is along with prayer the basis for my Christian growth. I would encourage fellow christians to read the Word for their edification and enlightenment. I can share the joy I find in it. But I’m not sure it can be forced. For those sincerely seeking Christ and developing a relationship with Him it is essential. He IS the Word. The Word IS the truth and thoughts of God. It IS our intruction book.

  2. I’m going to base my humble and possibly erronious thoughts on the assumption that God knows what we need more than we do. Given that assumption, if He commands us to abide in Him, and we established in class that that occurs through His Word, then it is “mandatory” to have daily time in the Word. I think where we may be off is in thinking that mandatory = legalism. We cross into legalism when our motive is off, not necessarily our actions. If our heart says begrudgingly, “I have to read my Bible today, as it is a requirement from the Lord. Others must see my great act of obedience and know I am close to God,” then our righteous acts will be counted as filthy rags. If however, even when we don’t “feel” like it, we in obedience read the Word daily, with a heart that say, “My God knows what I need better than I do and even though I’m not into this today, I want to obey to honor God and to do my part to foster growth in my relationship with Him,” that’s a far cry from legalism.

    The standard may be a daily time in the Word, maybe even multiple times a day in the Word (shudder the thought). God isn’t tallying our verses and chapters on a spread sheet, however. I think we need to prayerfully consider our motivation, our desire for growth, and our trust in God’s ability to know what we need in order to foster that growth.

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