This morning, I was sitting on the couch in my typical reading spot (right next to our largest, southern most facing window), reading my Bible for my morning devotions, when I turned a page and suddenly felt my pants saturated with icy cold water. I threw the Bible off my lap and jumped up from the couch to see that I’d tipped over my water bottle, right onto myself and my Bible. I’d soaked my pants, all the way through to my underwear, a sensation I can’t recall having since I went for a swim, fully clothed, to chase after a canoe (click here to read about that soggy experience).
The cushion was soaked. I picked it up and watched as the scotch guard pooled some of the drops, while most of it saturated the foam core. Throwing the cushion aside, I bent down to examine the Bible. I’d been reading Revelation, so thankfully, it looked like the most waterlogged parts were the concordance and the last few chapters of that book. John’s letters and Jude got a little drippy, but overall, it could have been worse. I could have been my coffee that spilled.
After I changed my clothes, I sat back down on a different cushion and resumed my reading.
This afternoon, I was reading an article called “The Novelist and the Bible,” written by Chaim Potok, the highly acclaimed author of The Chosen, and I was struck by a statement he made about the reverence Jews have for the Torah, the first five books of the Bible:
The very book itself was sacred: its printed words, its paper, its binding. If you dropped a copy of the Five Books of Moses, you quickly picked it up and put it to your lips in a reverential kiss. If you placed a copy of the Five Books of Moses on a table, you were not to place any other sort of book on top of it; ultimate sanctity was not to be demeaned by serving as a prop for any works of lesser consequence.
This Jewish author made me recognize what little regard I have for the Bible, as a book. I treat it as I do all my other books. I was careless enough to sit with an open bottle of water precariously balanced next to it, and when I spilt it, I was quick to throw the book down to preserve my own comfort. I didn’t even take the time to lovingly dry it out. I just threw it on the floor and hoped it would dry decently.
I do have some lines I don’t cross with the Bible, though. We have Bibles in every room of our home except for the kitchen and the bathrooms. In the Kitchen, I’d get it encrusted with food. As for the bathrooms, I just have a hard time justifying reading the Bible on the toilet. Yes, it’s a great book for reading at all times, but I think it deserves a little more honor than that. I can still “meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 199:97) without introducing fecal matter to God’s holy Word. Leave the Readers Digest or Crossword puzzles in there for that purpose.
Compared to other religions, we Christians don’t have much honor to bestow on our most holy of books. After reading Potok’s description of Jewish practice toward Torah books, I did a little research about other religions and how they treat their holy writ.
According to one news article I read, very orthodox Jews will fast for 40 days if the synagogue’s torah scroll is dropped. If they are torn or the letters have faded, the Torah scrolls are buried in a Jewish cemetery. They get a whole burial ceremony. If I abided by these rules, my Bible might be R.I.P. right now, in one of those cute, miniature coffins from the pet store.
Devout Muslims won’t even touch the Q’uran unless they’ve ritually cleaned themselves first. On a bookshelf, the Q’uran gets top shelf, so no other books are above it. (I wonder if there’s a ranking system among Q’urans? For shipping, do the nicer ones go on top?)
In Buddhism, their holy texts aren’t supposed to touch the ground (so much for throwing my Bible on the floor after it got wet). In addition, the texts are often wrapped in silk cloth when they’re not used. We Christians like to put our Bibles in zippered cases that look like purses or other fashion accessories (or is that just me?). It’s less about honoring the Bible than making it more convenient or pleasing to the eye.
I probably won’t be putting my Bibles on the top shelf, mostly because my least read books go up there (I can’t reach them as easily). And, I’m not going to stop writing in my Bibles, because that’s how God and I do a lot of talking, right there in the margins.
But, I can show some more respect to the best book I’ve ever read. People have died to secure copies of this book (If you’ve never read God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, put that next on your list), and the authors who wrote it could have just have well written it in their own blood. I should honor their sacrifice and the God who gave us his Word.