You Probably Shouldn't Read Through the Bible Next Year

Many Christians make it their goal to read through the Bible in a year. They start with a plan or a new bible and they jump in. I regularly hear pastors say that everyone should read through the Bible in a year. I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that pastors should do this every year. 

I wonder if there is a risk of legalism whether you fail or succeed. Those who  can't keep it up feel guilty they didn't get it done. I don't believe that shame and guilt should be the motivator in the Christian life. Feeling guilty that you failed at a goal the Bible didn't command is legalism. Those who succeed might have just checked something off their box. We aren't made righteous by what we do so reading through the Bible doesn't add to righteousness. 

I do think that every Christian should read through the Bible at least once and probably many times in his or her life. I just don't think it has to be done in one calendar year. More ideas on that at the end.

Who shouldn't read through the Bible in a year?

Someone who doesn't have a regular quiet time shouldn't read through the Bible in a year. If you don't have a regular quiet time (bible time, bible reading, etc.), then you should start with the goal of having a regular quiet time and not with a huge goal like this. Reading through the Bible in a year is a commitment of 20-30 minutes every day. This would be like a person who never exercises committing to running a 5k every day for 300 days. This is not the right starting goal.

Someone who doesn't remember what she read shouldn't read through the Bible in a year. If you have a regular quiet time but don't remember what you read, then you shouldn't start by adding more reading. Reading through the Bible takes somewhere around 4-5 chapters per day. If you don't remember what you read, then you should lean in to meditating and reflecting on Scripture so that you can learn from it and grow. Don't just cram in more words.

Someone whose life is quite hectic and busy shouldn't read through the Bible in a year. This is a big goal to read for 25 minutes every day for 300+ days. If your life is hectic and busy because of caring for small children, caring for an aging family member, or have a busy and stressful job, then you should not have such a large goal. If you are retired and have lots of extra time and low stress, then this might be a doable goal.

Someone who doesn't understand the storyline of the Bible shouldn't try to read through the Bible in a year. The Bible is a long book. If you don't understand how the whole thing fits together, you can get lost around Leviticus. A better way is to find a plan that helps you understand the whole Bible and then you can dip into sections that you haven't read before.

What should you do instead? Here are three ideas:

  • Read a paragraph or chapter and reflect on one line from what you read, and then turn it into a prayer. This is the right first step to someone who doesn't have a regular quiet time and wants to learn to do that. It's also good for someone who doesn't remember what he reads.
  • Find a plan that hits the high points of the Bible. Read all the famous stories of the Bible. Pick a plan that introduces you to all the big stories and maybe a chapter from each book. This is a great introduction for someone that doesn't understand how the whole Bible fits together. This will keep you from getting lost.
  • Get a plan that has you read through the Bible in 3 years. This is around 1 chapter a day. You can get a plan that will have you read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament three times in 900 days. This is a doable plan that focuses on quality rather than speed.



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