Occasionally, somebody goes on a long journey with no money, food, map, change of clothing, or protection. Such a person is either a saint or a lunatic – perhaps a bit of both. Generally, the wiser choice when taking a long journey is to go provisioned with at least the basics.
Our soul is likewise on a journey; heaven is the hoped-for destination while life on earth is the path. Does God, the King of heaven, leave us travelers without provision? Assuredly no; He gives all the necessary supplies for our long pilgrimage. One of the most needful supplies is the Holy Scriptures and this article looks at seven reasons why.
1) We know God better. When I was young, I memorized why God created me: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next life.” Jesus likewise affirms that the essence of eternal life is knowledge: “That they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Heaven is first about knowing God.
We hope to ultimately know God through the beatific vision. Is this boring? No, because knowledge generates love and utter delight. Yet why wait until heaven to know Him? Through the Bible, we realize that He is Father, Shepherd, Savior, Friend; we learn also that while He is demanding, He wants us to know Him now through Jesus. For this, He supplies the Scriptures. As St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
2) We know ourselves better. St. Gregory the Great says, “Holy Scripture is set before the eyes of the mind like a mirror, that we may see our inward face in it; for therein we learn the deformities; therein we learn the beauties that we possess.” Scripture helps us know our dignity as children of God but also challenges us, “Do I treat others as I want to be treated? Am I clean of heart, non-judgmental, and forgive others seventy times seven times?” Unless a person is altogether blind, the words of Scripture are a shining mirror that helps us realize our nobility and our defects.
3) We avoid the wrong roads. It’s no fun realizing we’ve taken a wrong turn and gone way off course. If we simply follow the map and directions, such a predicament may be avoided. St. John Vianney puts it well, “The commandments of God are the guides which God gives us to show us the road to heaven; like the names written up at the corners of the streets to point out the way.” As the Psalm says, “your words are a light for my path and a lamp for my feet.” (Psalm 119:105) The path is often dark – the words of Scripture illumine the way, point out the pitfalls, and suggest the back trail rather than the broad highway. (see Mt 7:13)
4) We gain strong legs. Our instinct when discouraged is to take a seat, perhaps even take a nap. Our bones seem to lose all power to support. Yet we need strong legs for the long journey before us. The promises of Scripture not only revive our droopy legs but even give us wings, “They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31)
5) Greater Protection. I live in a rural area, so when I go for a walk, I occasionally take a walking stick in case I meet with growling dogs. It’s happened. How much greater is the need for protection for our long and perilous voyage to heaven? St. Paul assures us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.” (Eph. 6:12)
Thus, we need a good stick for the expedition, nay, even a sword. What better sword than the word of God? Jesus used it three times to defeat Satan’s temptations. Interestingly, one Desert Father, Evagrius Ponticus (c. 4th-century AD), compiled a list of scripture verses to be used in over 500 situations. Some samples may be found here.
6) We nourish our souls. Our bodies need food – our souls need food. God provides both in abundance. Will you walk very far without eating breakfast? Nope – you will soon feel worn out. Scripture also is food: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3)
It’s important to nourish our body with healthy nutrients to prolong our life. Yet this poor mortal body is destined for the earth while our soul is immortal. Is it not more important then, to give our soul life-giving sustenance? The good Lord loves to see chubby lambs feeding heartily on the pastures of Israel (the Scriptures).
7) Suffering makes greater sense. The Bible reminds us in a multitude of ways that suffering is not meaningless if we believe in Jesus; “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13); “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:17). “Blessed are those who mourn.” (Mt 5:4)
It is also through the Scriptures that we learn that God Himself experienced suffering as a man on earth. He was hungry, he experienced sadness, he knew betrayal of friends, was beaten down, and ultimately killed in a shameful manner. Not only that, but He experiences our sufferings here and now, “In all their afflictions, he was afflicted.” (Is. 63:9)
Our Father’s House
Why read Scripture? In a word, we want to hurry to our Father’s house and join in the heavenly banquet. If we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly now, then our feet will one day walk along the river that makes glad the City of God. Here we have no lasting city – our home is in heaven, so let us keep the map ever at our side and our way will be golden.