Is Your Bible a Tool or a Treasure?

For years I seldom opened my Bible. 

Like my favorite purse, I’d carry it to church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. When the pastor introduced the text of his sermon, I’d flip to the passage and follow along. If I attended a Bible study, I’d look up verses in my Bible and pencil in my answers onto the worksheet. My Bible was a tool, not a treasure. 

Today I read about Chinese Christians who are memorizing huge portions and even entire books of the Bible. At a recent seminar, 18 of the 22 Christians attending had been imprisoned for their faith. One woman shared how, in prison, “you have lots of time.” She spent much of it memorizing Scripture. 

Although guards confiscate Bibles and other Christian material, believers smuggle in portions of the Word of God on scraps of paper. “We memorize it as fast as we can,” the woman said, “because even though they can take the paper away, they can’t take what’s hidden in your heart.” 

Amos 8:11-12 prophesied what this woman described: 

"’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.’” 

Chinese Christians' love for and commitment to God’s Word has shamed me. Because of the Bible’s scarcity in her world, even one verse of Scripture a precious treasure. Every encounter she has with the Bible is a feast and a delight. 

Compared to my brothers and sisters in China, I’m a Bible glutton. There’s enough contraband in my house that if I lived in their country, I’d be imprisoned for life. Or executed. 

A quick scan of my bookshelves unearthed more than 20 Bibles: The Chronological Study Bible I read every morning; three copies of my favorite Bible, the MacArthur Daily Bible; the cardboard-cover Holy Bible I received at Vacation Bible School; the Scofield Reference Bible I received at my baptism; my late mother-in-law’s Bible, my late brother-in-law’s Bible, the Bible I bought to give to my granddaughter on her birthday, and so on, and so on, and so on. 

I’ve come a long way in the 35 years since I carried my Bible as an accessory. Now I read my Bible almost every day. But it’s been more than a year since I memorized a passage of Scripture. The days are coming—and in some places are already here—when there will be a famine of the Word of God.

If all 20 of my Bibles were taken away tomorrow, would I have enough spiritual food in my mental refrigerator to stay alive? To thrive? To share with others? I suspect not. 

It’s time to remedy this. First Corinthians 4:2 (NIV) says, “He who has been given a trust must prove faithful.” In light of this trust, the amazing privilege of being able to own a Bible—or enough Bibles to stock a small bookstore—I must faithfully steward the gift God has given me. I must begin committing significant portions of Scripture to memory. 

What about you? When was the last time you memorized a portion of God’s Word? If it’s been too long, we can remedy this. Will you join me in honoring the God who gave us his Word and the believers all over the world who are starving for a piece of it by starting, today, to hide it in our hearts? 

I plan to begin by memorizing Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” 

If you’ve never memorized Scripture, or if you’ve struggled to find an effective method, let me describe a method that’s worked well for me in the past. 

1. Write the verse on an index card, including the Scripture reference. 

2. Write the first letter of every word and the reference on the back of the card. 

3. Put the card where you’ll see it every day. On your bathroom mirror, beside your bedside table, taped to the refrigerator. I keep my card in my car and redeem the time I spend waiting at stop lights. 

4. Read the verse on the card several times every day. After I’ve read it a few times, I flip the card over and try to recite the verse using only the first letters to prompt me. After a day or two (or more) I begin with the side containing only the letters. 

5. Attempt to say the entire verse from memory with no prompts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you’ll learn the verse. 

6. Once you've learned a verse or passage, add it to your stack of verses and review it at least once a week. The keys to long term retention is repetition and review.

Finally, at the bottom of each card I write a reminder: Pray for the persecuted church. This reminds me, every day, to pray for those who are suffering for Christ’s sake. Like the Chinese Christians, I want my Bible to become more than a tool. I want it to become a treasure.

So what do you think? Are you in? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts, including what verse or passage you intend to memorize. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. 

If you’d like to read the full article from, Chinese Christians Memorize Bible in Prison: Gov't "Can't Take What's In Your Heart" that prompted this post, click this link. 

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  1. Anonymous6:30 AM

    What a great post! I love the question you pose to yourself. My answer too is an emphatic "No." Followed by a convicting "Why is that Jim?" Thank you so much for this much-needed kick in the pants.

    1. Friends don't let friend get lazy. Somehow, though, I kicked myself in the pants, too. Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit kicking us both. Ouch.

  2. To me is both, a tool and treasure

  3. What a great way to memorize Scripture ! I am looking for my index cards right now. :-)

    1. It makes what used to be hard much easier. Let me know how it works for you, Melissa. God bless!


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