A game sits on the shelf of the library in the church. The game was donated to our church a few years ago, and dates back to the mid 1980’s, when Trivial Pursuit was at the peak of its popularity. It is a Bible trivia game, with categories in Old Testament, New Testament, history and geography, prophets and prophesy, names, wisdom and letters, numbers and sequence. A few years ago, I pulled it out at a church game night and read some of these questions from a randomly chosen card:
“Which ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel attacked Judah and broke down the wall of Jerusalem?” *
“What geophysical effect did the sixth vial (bowl) have in Revelation?” **
Apparently in the mid 1980’s, these were considered difficult, but answerable questions for the average Christian (and these weren’t even the hardest questions on the cards!). Our brief foray into 1980’s Christian culture left us reeling like failed contestants on “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader,” and we moved on to easier games, like charades.
Now, we can look at this game from a couple of different perspectives. On the one hand, we can see this as more evidence of the biblical illiteracy in our country, in spite of the fact that we each own an average of 3.6 bibles. We should read and understand our bibles more. There isn’t any one of us in the church who is able to legitimately say “I know everything about God’s word.” From this perspective, we ought to be reading our bibles. As a natural consequence of a growing familiarity with scripture, we will get better answering questions about the history, geography and theology of the bible. But it would be an error if we made trivia the point of our bible reading.
The second way of looking at the Bible Trivia game failure is understanding that the point is not whether we are able to dominate a trivia game, but whether we are able to humbly live out the clear biblical principles that we do know. When the first century church leader Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the church that Paul founded in the city of Corinth, he praised them for their character.
“Moreover, you were all distinguished by humility . . . and were more willing to give than to receive. . . . Carefully attending to His words, you were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. . . . You had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, and with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, you stretched forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful to you. . . . You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbors: their deficiencies you deemed your own. You never grudged any act of kindness, being “ready to every good work.” Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, you did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts.”
In this letter, Clement echoes the New Testament writers. John writes “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” The apostle Paul uses the same word, “to walk,” several times in his letter to the Ephesians, encouraging them not only to listen to the truth, but also to live it out.
In chapter 2, Paul notes that the believers in Ephesus used to walk in sin and disobedience (2:1-2); but now, having been saved by God’s grace (2:6-8), they are to walk in good works that God has prepared for them in advance (2:9-10). In chapter 4, he picks up the theme again.
Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)
He calls the believers to no longer walk in the futility of their old way of thinking (4:17), but to be renewed in their thinking (4:23) and walk in love (5:2), following the example of Christ, who in love gave Himself for us.
John encourages those who claim to know Jesus to walk like Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).
For this to happen, it is necessary that God’s word penetrates us at a deeper level than facts and geography. We must think deeply about what God’s word says to us about how we are to live. King David used the word ‘meditate’ in Psalm 119. In order to facilitate this sort of meditation, I want to encourage you to do a different approach to scripture this year. Rather than simply flying through the bible from one end to the other, we are going to choose a book each month this year to read again and again. The goal would be to read through each book at least 20 times. Hopefully, as you do this, you become more than just familiar with God’s word, but you begin to understand it as you make the bible’s message your own.
We will begin our ‘book-of-the-month’ club, with the book of Ephesians. It is the book we have been turning to nearly every Sunday for the past year and a half, so it should be somewhat familiar. I pray that as we begin this new year, we would see God changing our lives by His power, according to the truth of His word – a goal that would be more than a trivial pursuit.
* answer: Jehoash, 2 Kings 14
** answer: it dried up the Euphrates, Revelation 16:12