Scripture as Fuel
Regular Bible reading is not mainly the fruit of the Christian life; it is the food of Christian survival.
If you are thinking (whether consciously or subconsciously) that reading your Bible or getting into a Bible study is the proof that you’re a Christian— the receipts that can prove your validity to yourself or others—then your relationship with the Bible will likely always be performative and fraught. But when you understand Bible reading as the means, the food, the fuel, the sustenance of your Christian life, then you will consume it with joy, like a hungry person eats bread.
The word Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Bethlehem was the place Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried; it is the place where Samuel anointed David to be king of Israel, the place from where Naomi and her husband fled because the “house of bread” was experiencing famine, the place Naomi and Ruth returned to be provided for in every way, and the place of which Micah prophesied:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days. (Mic. 5:2)
Yes, this “house of bread,” Bethlehem, was the place where the true bread was born, the Lord Christ. It is also the name of my church, the people of God I gather with in Minnesota. The name is fitting, is it not? God’s people are a house of bread. And when the house of bread gathers, we are fed the word of God week after week after week, served to us by faithful men who are holding fast to the trustworthy word as handed down to them by the apostles and the prophets. But bread isn’t just for Sundays; we are meant to be a house of bread all week long. Yet how many of us are fasting from Monday to Saturday, only to have a vague, pathetic appetite come Sunday. It seems when we stop eating, we lose the gift of the hunger that is meant to remain in this life.
A Banquet of Excuses
There is a saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” From the beginning of time, humanity has been doing just that. It’s not that we have actually been able to wound or hurt God by biting at him, but we’ve been gnawing and angry about his food, his provision, even while we can’t take one breath or make our heart beat one thump or chew one morsel of food or produce one ounce of life apart from him.
Jesus says his kingdom is like a great banquet. When one man heard him say this, Jesus responded:
A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” (Luke 14:15–24)
The man assumed that if the Lord was giving a banquet, what a blessing it would be to eat his bread! Yet Jesus shows us that most people don’t want his bread and are simply too busy to come and eat it.
Women in Need of a Meal
Most women today are incredibly busy. Maybe it’s a calendar full of events and obligations, or maybe it’s simply busyness caring for people at home. Busy nights, busy mornings, busy afternoons, and crazy-busy dinner times. I’ve got a soft spot for moms of littles especially! You may be so busy that you can’t remember to eat lunch. I remember those days. On more than one occasion I’d get to suppertime, and my husband, Tom, would get home from work, and all of a sudden I’d realize that I’d barely eaten all day. I’d have my lunch plate with two bites taken out of whatever lame sandwich I’d made, and I would have missed breakfast altogether. On a good day, I would have had my coffee, but on the worst ones, my coffee cup would be sitting in the microwave, having been reheated for the fourth time, yet I’d never managed a sip.
Tom is a helpful picture of God’s love on days like these. I remember him getting home from work and observing my spiraling, low-blood-sugar state of disarray and saying to me, “It looks like you need to sit down for a little while. Why don’t you take a break?” Then a few minutes later he’d come over with a plate of food that he’d prepared for me and a drink and just set it in my lap. And I would slowly start to eat. Can you see the Father’s love in that kindness?
He could have said to me, “Come on, why didn’t you eat today? What’s wrong with you? We have a whole refrigerator full of food!” But, instead, he fed me the way Paul spiritually fed the Thessalonians—tenderly and gently. He covered me in grace, and I was restored with a meal.
That picture of the busy mother who has missed a couple meals may very well be where you are spiritually. Your life is full because you are taking care of the very important and needy gifts (e.g., children or aging parents or jobs or fill in the blank) the Lord has given you. You are doing a good thing; you are fulfilling the call that he’s placed on your life when he gave you your children or your folks or your job.
What you need right now is to sit down and receive the pure spiritual milk of the word that God has prepared for you.
And what you need right now is to sit down and receive the pure spiritual milk of the word that God has prepared for you. Your job is not to fret that you haven’t eaten yet today but to simply receive what he has for you now, in this moment. Taste and see that he is good. Eat this:
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Ps. 145:8–9)
God’s word is a place for receiving. My hope is that if you’re tired and hungry, you would stop trying to go without the life and food found in the Bible.
Don’t worry about tomorrow either. Just eat what’s put before you: that kid’s memory verse, that chapter in Romans, those three verses jotted down on a folded-up 3x5 card. God’s words are meant to be consumed the same way we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner—every day. The meals don’t need to be fancy. Better a peanut-butter-and-jelly read-through of 1 and 2 Chronicles than no read-through at all. Better to eat up the book of Numbers on the audio Bible app with some confusion and scratching of the head than to avoid it altogether. Better to have chaotic family Bible time over supper each night with distractions and diaper changes and toddlers falling out of chairs and sleepy moms trying to stay alert during prayer time and tentative dads trying to lead their families in something they’ve never seen modeled and twelve-year-olds being occasionally bored than to give up altogether. Better to have God’s word be a daily, regular meal than to ping-pong from feast to famine as you are beholden to whatever is (or isn’t) offered in formal study or spoon-fed to you by the famous.
This is a little like securing your own face mask on the airplane before you try to help anyone else. You may think you don’t have time, but trust me—you’re not helping anyone by going on a spiritual starvation diet. The food is prepared. Eat up.
This article is adapted from Bread of Life: Savoring the All-Satisfying Goodness of Jesus through the Art of Bread Making by Abigail Dodds.
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