Video by BibleProject, words by Sarah Davies.
I’ve always been a reader. My parents joke that when I was little, it wasn’t a punishment for me to go to my room because all I would do is read my books. Stories have always been something I’ve loved. I even studied history because of my love for stories and desiring to learn from them. Something I think we fail at sometimes though is reading the whole story, not just our favourite parts.
Let’s take one of my favourite novels, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. If I were to give you this sentence you would have no clue what the book is about:
“Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity, is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand; and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world.” (Chapter 27, Literary Lessons)
You can guess one of the main themes, looking at poverty and wealth in society, but you don’t know the whole picture. You don’t know who the characters are; you don’t know that the book is about four sisters and their mother while their father is off in the American Civil War. You don’t see the other themes come out, like a coming-of-age story or what it means to be family. With no context you can make assumptions, but won’t be able to see the beauty of the whole story. That’s the problem when we focus on only certain parts of the Bible.
See I think we’ve missed out, specifically when we talk about the Bible. We focus exclusively on the New Testament, or we focus instead on one verse that we think sounds nice rather than reading sections. We take the verse out of context and miss out on the whole story, and when we do that, not only do we miss out on the little stories of redemption throughout, but we miss out on the overarching themes that are seen from Genesis all the way to Revelation—themes that show who God is.
I love the way that the Bible Project describes the Bible in their video, What is BibleProject?:
[The Bible] is one epic narrative about how God has appointed humanity as his partners to oversee this amazing world; it’s about how we ruined that partnership; and how God is restoring us and our world through Jesus.
It takes work to know how to read the different types of literature in the Bible; but once you do learn how you’ll discover the Bible is a work of literary genius that can transform how you live and how you think about everything.
It takes effort on our part to understand the Bible. It takes time. It takes a teachable, humble spirit. We’ll need to develop perseverance when we get bored or don’t see why it matters—like when we’re reading a challenging novel (anyone else tried reading Vanity Fair by William Thackeray?).
But I hope we will take the time to read the whole story, trusting that the author had reasons for all that’s included. I hope we will keep encouraging others with Bible verses, but also looking at and studying the context of the whole story so that we can better see Jesus throughout all of Scripture. Most of all though, I hope we keep reading our Bibles so that God will change our lives, and therefore the world, for the better. That’s his story of redemption and restoration, and I hope we’ll keep reading that over and over again from beginning to end.