Here's an oldie from 2008, ten years ago, but still relevant today. Where did you get your Bible?
I’m sitting in my home office, my desk covered with four different Bibles used during my weekly work-at-home day of Bible study development. One of these Bible’s is my wife’s old hardback NIV that the publisher released with the cover mistakenly printed upside down. Gosh, how goofy I would feel using a Bible in church with the cover upside down. People would think I was just playing church if they looked at me. We bought a Bible cover for it to cover its deficiency, otherwise it’s just unusable, isn’t it?
That Bible got soaked in a rainstorm many years ago. Many of its pages are wrinkled and crinkled. I think someone spilled tea on it. There are big brown blotches on a lot of the pages. I use it for reference once in a while, but heavens no; I would never use it in public; it’s a mess.
Then there’s my ESV. I like that translation though I confess I still prefer the NASB. I bought my ESV last year on a trip in the States. It’s got a sleek super-soft cover and feels cool. It’s almost frictionless! Yes, isn’t that what a Bible is all about? Of course the corners are now turned up a bit. Darn it. I like my books in good condition. Don’t you know it’s a sin to open a book more than 90 degrees? What? You fold over your cover ALL THE WAY! You could go to hell for that! What is wrong with you?
That ESV is okay, but the upturned corners really bug me. I’m not anal. No I’m not. I’m not.
My Big Blue NASB, now that’s my favorite. My mother-in-law gave it to me and I’ve never had a Bible I’ve cherished more. Big text, great margins, good study notes. Nice leather. Best of all it’s heavier than a 50 pound bag of concrete! Perfect for smacking my opponents with in a debate! But heck, it’s starting to look just a little worn. I can’t have that! How can anyone in his right mind use a copy of God’s word that isn’t kept in pristine condition? Isn’t that disrespectful to God? Don’t be dissin’ the word fool!
Suddenly it all comes into perspective for me as I read over a report from our Steppe-by-Steppe team just back from a two-week stint in the countryside showing movies and teaching Bible studies to thousands of attendees. In one community they met a lady who didn’t have a copy of the Bible. But she desperately wanted one.
In the Mongolian countryside it’s not like you can just run down to the local Barnes & Noblebaatar and pick one up. God’s word is rare, to say nothing of being so precious. So one day she walked into a public outhouse to relieve herself, looked down the hole at the muck and the crap and a caught a glimpse of a Bible that someone had thrown down the pit. Immediately she thought that this would be her opportunity to own a Bible for herself. Her long hope to have her own copy of God’s word had been fulfilled.
That old woman crawled down into the muck, and the urine, and the crap, retrieved that Bible, cleaned it off, and it is now her own treasured copy of God’s very word.
I’ve heard and read claims that countryside Mongolians are deeply committed to their Buddhist or Animistic beliefs. Certainly for many that is true. But there is also a deep hunger for something far greater than the shallow and superstitious that is so often peddled here as wisdom. It’s hunger so great that some, like the woman in this story, will go to any length—or any depth—just to have a chance to hold God’s word in their hands. They want God to speak to them, and are willing to do anything, ANYTHING to have a chance for God to speak to them through his word.
Just a chance. ANY depth.
So here I sit looking at my desk and my myriad of Bibles, study books, and reference materials. I still prefer my Big Blue NASB. But honestly, I don’t know that I’d crawl down the bottom of the public toilet to retrieve it. Reading this woman’s story makes me ashamed. Then I realize that for all my 35 years in Christ I often lose the simplicity of being nothing more than so hungry for God’s word that sometimes, just sometimes, nothing else matters.
Nothing. Else. Matters.
Suddenly those crinkled pages and the upside down cover don’t look so bad. You know, they are kind of endearing now that I think about it. The leather corners that are turned up? That’s because it’s been USED. Maybe one day I can get them to point to the sky? My Big Blue? It’s got a few of its own crinkles along with my oily fingerprints mixed with Mongolian dust blowing through the window, but that’s okay. It’s still God’s word, and God’s word is worth every effort, every sacrifice, and even the lowest abasement to attain, cherish, and obey its life changing truth.