by John Chrysostom (c. 347-407)
Don’t let anyone make excuses like these: “I’m too busy with politics.” “I’ve got this or that public duty to fulfill.” “I’m a skilled worker. I must get on with my job.” “I’ve a wife and children to feed; I must provide for my family.” In other words, “I’m a layman; it’s not my business to read the Bible. I’ll leave that to professional Christians like monks, nuns, priests and theology students.”
What on earth are you saying? It’s “not your business to read the Bible” because you’ve got too many other things to bother about? But that’s the very reason why you need to read the Bible! The more worries you have, the more you need the Bible to keep you going! People like monks and nuns who have left the troubles of the world behind are quite safe; they are like ships sailing on a calm sea, or moored in a quiet harbour. But you are in the middle of this godless world’s stormy sea, and so you need spiritual help and sustenance far more urgently. They live far from the battlefield, out of the sound of gunfire; but you are in the front line, face to face with the enemy, and you are bound to suffer frequent blows and be severely wounded. So you need the medicine chest close at hand.
Your wife irritates you, you worry about your children, your enemies are waiting to catch you out, someone you thought was your friend is jealous of you, your neighbour spreads rumours about you or picks quarrels with you, your colleague acts behind your back, someone sues you, you suffer from poverty, you lose your nearest and dearest, success gives you a boost and then trouble brings you down to the depths again . . . Where can you find a suit of armour, or a castle from which to defend yourself? Where can you find ointment for your wounds, but in the Bible? . . .
Haven’t you noticed how a smith, mason or carpenter, or any other craftsman, however much his back is against the wall, will never sell or pawn the tools of his trade? If he did, how could he earn his living? That is how we should think of the Bible. Just as mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes and hatchets are the tools of the craftsman’s trade, so the books of the prophets and the apostles, and all scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the tools of our salvation.
A version of this article appeared in a past issue of the Bible Advocate magazine.
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