I came across the question “When is too much Bible study bad for you?” on Yahoo! Answers a couple of days ago. The asker was concerned that his mother spent too much time reading her Bible instead of doing other things. It was obvious from the rest of what the asker said that he was convinced that any Bible study at all was bad for a person.
As Christians we believe that we should study Scripture. It is God’s revelation to us and our guide for a relationship with Him and our instruction for how to live our lives. 1 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).
Is it possible to spend too much time studying the Bible? I am reminded of a story shared by one of my former seminary professors. My former professor told us that when he served in the Navy, one of the men on his ship became a believer in Christ. After becoming a believer, this man had a desire to read and study the Bible. His desire to read and study was so strong that he neglected his daily duties on the ship. The man thought he was doing God’s will because he was studying God’s word and learning so much. My former professor had to pull him to the side and explain that while God was pleased with his desire to study and grow, God also expected him to fulfill his responsibilities as a sailor on the ship. Besides, what kind of example was he to all of the other non-believing sailors who watched him disregard his work each day? The best way to honor God was to balance his daily Bible study with his daily responsibilities of being a sailor.
So while the asker on Yahoo! Answers asked a question that he was not wanting a serious answer to, I do believe there is a point where we can spend too much time in Bible study. That time occurs when it causes us to neglect the other God-given responsibilites in our lives. If we neglect our parental responsibilities or if we decide we would rather read than go to work (or school), we can say that we are spending too much time reading the Bible. Or, if we would rather read our Bibles than help someone we know is in need of our assistance, we can say we are spending too much time reading the Bible.
Few of us have this problem. Let’s be honest. Most of use are on the other end of the spectrum. We are not spending too much time reading and studying God’s word, but far too little.
I think this is a good question. “Can too much of a great thing ever be bad”? I think the answer lies in how the study of the Word would interfere my God given duties, roles and responsibilities. If and when this would occur, then the study of God’s Word has actually become an idol in my heart and does not glorify Him.
And I agree, relatively few people – myself included – find themselves debating such things.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, because my new roommate spends so much time reading her Bible, she doesn’t do her homework, which has been putting her behind in her classes. I think that this approach fails to see daily activity as a form of worship. It undervalues relationships with friends and family, and in the case of my roommate, this approach fails to recognize that learning can be a form of worship that equips us to serve God better in the future, after college, because we will know how to do our jobs well.
The bottom line is that all of life can be worship if we intentionally try to honor God with our activities. I hope we don’t miss out on this because we spend ALL our time reading our Bibles!
When I was in seminary, I remember discussing this issue. We came to the conclusion that God had put each of us at the seminary for a certain amount of time and for a certain purpose. In order for us to honor Him, we needed to take advantage of our time in school and learn as much as we could so we could be best prepared to serve Him and His Church when we finished. It would have been easy to neglect classwork to read the Bible and pray, which are good things, but in doing so, we would have been dishonoring God by not accomplishing what He had put us there to do.
When we realize that all of our lives are to be lived as an act of worship, it begins to make more sense. There is a book titled The Dangerous Idea of Academic Faithfulness that touches on this issue and challenges Christian college-bound students to honor God in their studies.
God wants us to be complete and balanced Christians. If we choose to cloister ourselves in our bedrooms and read the Bible, we could be neglecting other things, such as service to others.
I agree. I guess we could also ask a similar question and say, “Can we spend too much time at church?” I think that we sometimes spend so much time doing “church stuff” that we neglect doing the things we should be doing (i.e. serving others outside the church and showing them the love of Christ). It seems like we can spend so much time at church that we become inward focused. Maybe sometimes less is more – even when it comes to church.
Of course, this must be balanced. It is no help to read your Bible less or spend less time at church if you are still neglecting your other responsibilities.