“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-14).
Every year I read aloud Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to my family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My kids have grown to know the characters. They laugh when Mrs. Cratchit reluctantly refers to Mr. Scrooge as, “the founder of the feast” and indignantly adds, “indeed.” The little ones get nervous and scared at the description of the Third Spirit, and we all feel the sadness when we see a future where Tiny Tim has passed.
Even beyond the reading of the book itself, they now understand references to it in everyday life. From Dad being grumpy and apologizing for being a “Scrooge,” to drawing comparisons to greedy characters in other books, or simply asking questions about why Scrooge is so mean, or even making fun of him, my kids engage with the story. My children not only get to know Dickens and his characters, but they also get to know more about me and my character. They see a dad who delights in reading this story to them, and in the story itself.
My children are “acquainted” with A Christmas Carol, and somewhat acquainted with Dickens himself. I hope their “knowledge” of both story and author has been such a delight that they treasure it long after I’m gone.
In this same vein I invite you to consider what Paul said of Timothy in his second letter to him.
“… from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15a)
Who gave Timothy this acquaintance or knowledge of the scriptures? Presumably, Timothy’s mother and grandmother, to whom Paul referred in the first part of his letter.
“ I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith in the God of the sacred writings with Timothy from the time he was young. They told him the stories of God’s faithfulness. From adolescence, Timothy was acquainted with the stories of God’s people, and Paul declares scriptural acquaintance to be a far greater blessing than having an acquaintance with other writings. Unlike Dickens’ novels, God’s word comes with transformative life-giving ability. God’s story, in fact, has the power to make the reader or the listener wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Bible Reading for Performance
The problem is that as Americans, and maybe just as fallen humans, we turn everything into “a thing” to accomplish, even knowing and reading the Bible. Consider what Paul E. Miller states about prayer, but apply it to reading Scripture as a family:
“American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray [or read the Bible]. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray [read the Bible], we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer [and Bible reading] is nothing but talking [getting acquainted] with God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.”
Bible Reading for Acquaintance
Bible reading is neither done for accomplishment or entertainment, but acquaintance. The goal is to know God. How beautiful for Paul to teach Timothy that instead of our using the Bible to become wise enough for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, God uses His word to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The Word does the work. What a picture of the good news. Paul tells Timothy that his exposure to the sacred writings from a young age was a blessing, because those sacred writings have God’s wisdom-giving ability. Engagement with Dickens from a young age may make our children wise to virtues like generosity and contentment, but engagement with the Scriptures is able to make them wise for salvation from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the type of wisdom that far exceeds gold and silver.
Unknowingly, and unintentionally, I learned Scripture as a child for accomplishment and entertainment. It was either for the “verse quiz” at my Christian school or merit badges at Awana, or the entertainment of Veggie Tales. When I got older I read the Bible in order to “have a quiet time,” or for a “test.” What I realized in college was that I had never read the Bible, or enjoyed the Bible, for itself, only for the purpose of something else. It’s not surprising that I struggled to read it unless I had a “reason” to.
Bible Reading for Enjoyment
D.A. Carson tells the story of running into one of his seminary students outside of class. The student was reading the book of Obadiah (or one like it), and when Carson asked, “What for?” the student said, “because I like it.” Wow. Reading the Bible because you enjoy it for itself. In God’s mercy he had shown me that I can’t use the Bible to make myself wise. When I engage with God and his Word, he uses it on me. I began to love reading my Bible when I stopped reading it for any other reason than knowing it was written by God himself to me.
Acquaintance, enjoyment, and wisdom are the benefits of reading the Bible aloud to our children. Not only will our children grow to know the characters, they will be perplexed at the folly of Pharaoh, convicted by the disobedience of Israel, and awed at the mercifully mysterious ways of God. Not only will they understand references to the Bible in everyday life and culture, but they will also be able to draw comparisons, ask questions, and engage their imagination. Not only will they see a dad who delights in the story and in discussing it with them, but this is the only book they will ever read that has the actual real life power to grant them the treasure of God’s wisdom.
Lord willing, the Word’s work in their lives will produce such transformation that their Bibles will never collect dust on their shelves like Dickens’ books do. May their Bibles be opened, treasured, and enjoyed for all of their days.
 “A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World” by Paul E. Miller pg. 3