Reading the Word for Yourself
By: Dick Karman

I read a review of the book “The Emperors of Chocolate” by financial journalist, Joel Glenn Brenner (New York, Random House, 1999). The review was written by John Attarian and published in “The World and I” (July 1999 issue). I am fascinated with history, and I was struck with Mr. Attarian’s review.

Near the end of the review Mr. Attarian pointed to the work of Ms. Brenner and her description of the two emperors of Chocolate, Milton Hershey, and Forrest Mars Sr. He drew a moral from the book that was not necessarily the conclusion of the author: that Hershey spent most of his life caring for the welfare of others, and Mars spent most of his life caring only for profit, and that one is better than the other.

Just as I have reported on Attarian, who reviewed Brenner, who reported on the lives of two men, long since dead, we may often be tempted to report on a review of a commentary of scripture, without looking at the scripture or its context. How often have you heard someone expound on someone else’s explanation of what a pastor said about God’s word? On occasion I have heard myself come forth with fairly accurate quotes of another person quoting scripture (or at least it sounded like something in the Bible). Because we are Christians we feel that if someone said it was a Biblical principle and it sounded right, then it probably was. We may be basing our faith on a book report written from Cliff Notes?

God’s word is important. It is available. It is understandable. God did not provide it to only a few to read and interpret it for others. He gave us his word so that we might know the mind of Christ. (I Corrinthians 2:16). I don’t set one group of believers ahead of any others, but I like the Bereans who were mentioned in Acts 17:10-11. When they were taught, even by the disciples, they searched the scriptures daily, to see whether those things were so.

It is easy for mothers and fathers to take the words from a paraphrase of scripture or even from a book of devotions and use them while teaching their children. Easier yet, a book of short inspirational stories is given to the child to read, “because it is easier to read than the Bible.” Some parents may even be guilty of discussing the booklet’s opinion of the scripture without even opening the Bible. (You may at this point claim that I am meddling in your private affairs.)

It is easy to defend this practice by saying, “Oh, I agree with his doctrine.” or “I believe he came from my same denomination.” Do these defenses make the practice right? Lest I be accused of casting stones, I too use works like Chafer’s Systematic Theology, Halley’s Bible Handbook, or Strong’s Concordance. And I accept what those scholars have placed in their books, but that does not replace simply being in the Word for myself and looking up the verses and reading the context.

Today society as a whole suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. It is not unusual for parents to be “too busy” to know where their children are, or what their children might be reading or watching or listening to. A common axiom is: "If you’re too busy for your family, you’re too busy." This is not usually the case with home educating families. They have chosen to take the time to know what their children are doing, but there is a hazard to home schooling.

Home school parents easily get into a mentality of using textbooks where it is all spelled out: what lesson needs to be done by when. Sometimes we carry that mentality over to God’s Word; we tell our children to read this chapter or that passage and then all is well for another day. Have we ever asked them to follow a principle through the Word, or to a concordance search until they understand a given scripture? Have we ever asked them to do a research paper on the consequences of sin, or the blessing bestowed at the point of salvation? When they do such work, we need to explain to them the pitfalls of reviewing someone else’s review of a book written about someone else. Have them get in and write their own BOOK review. With only a little encouragement they may become like the Bereans who daily search the word to know if these things are so.

Be on guard and train our children to be on guard so that they can rightly divide the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15) We don’t want to find our children writing a book report on a book they’ve never read.

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