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10 Reasons Why Your Bible Reading Remains Unfruitful

  • Dr. Audrey Davidheiser Crosswalk Contributing Writer
  • 2021 8 Nov
10 Reasons Why Your Bible Reading Remains Unfruitful

Meet Sam. I made up his name to protect the person’s privacy, but there’s nothing fictitious about the young man’s passion for his newfound faith. The 19-year-old gobbles up the Bible with gusto and can’t peel himself from the New Testament. The book of James, in particular, reigns as his favorite due to its no-nonsense language. Every week Sam and his girlfriend attend their church and youth group.

Then Sam’s girlfriend informs him she’s pregnant. Now that he’s a believer, Sam feels guilty for crossing biblical boundaries. Still, neither he nor his girlfriend has any clarity on whether to pursue marriage, adoption—or maybe even abortion.

Perhaps you’ve heard similar stories concerning Christians who invest ample time in the Bible but whose lives barely demonstrated any difference from the rest of the world. Worse, have you fellowshipped with the Word and found it unfruitful?

Any number of the following 10 reasons may be the culprit.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet3 

1. Ignoring the Author

Like any other book, the Bible has an author. Unlike any other book, however, only the Bible can claim God Almighty as the pure Source behind each word. This is why it’s important to first ask the Lord to open the eyes of our understanding (Ephesians 1:18, NKJV) before rushing into its pages. Otherwise, the Bible might come across as confusing, bland, or outdated.

Another effective prayer is to ask God to reveal the deeper meaning in His book. This is a guaranteed yes because He has promised that if we ask, we’ll receive (Matthew 7:7-8, John 14:13-14, John 16:24). Just remember to ask in faith—that is, believing that He’s pleased to reveal the secrets of His Word to you. Only those who pray in faith get their prayers answered (James 1:6-8).

2. Inattentiveness

Decades after the neuropsychology course I took in grad school, one practical lesson remains: attention is non-negotiable when learning a new skill. Without attention, we won’t be able to learn anything at all.

That’s why the minimum prerequisite for a fruitful Bible reading is to zero in on it. Fellowshipping with the Word while your phone dings every few seconds and the to-do list is shouting at you from the back of your head means you probably won’t get much from your reading.

3. Self-Imposed Timer

One sure way to get nothing much from the Bible is to read it by a ticking timer. The clock may not always be literal—but whether you’re in a rush or whether you’re in the Bible just to check the figurative box of satisfying some kind of religious requirement, this attitude is unhelpful.

God hid invaluable wisdom within the words of His book to set up His people for success (Proverbs 2:7). That’s why He also kindly left us the key to locating this prize: “look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure” (Proverbs 2:4). Notice, however, that hunting for hidden valuables implies time—and plenty of it.

4. Weaponizing the Word

4. Weaponizing the Word

Married couples often fall victim to the temptation of scouring the Word for verses they can use as ammo. Let’s take Ephesians 5:25 as an example. Is it true that husbands are to love their wives? Absolutely. However, it’s not the wife’s job to arm herself with this verse to scold her husband with—even if she’s doing so because he’s failed her for the nth time.

Similarly, if you’re a husband, please don’t taunt your wife about having to submit (Ephesians 5:24). I don’t know of any woman who would gaze at her man with admiration if he attempted this power move. Yes, God’s order of things calls for wives to voluntarily subject themselves to their husbands’ leadership; however, it’s not husbands’ responsibility to enforce it. This one is best left to wives and their God.

5. Disqualifying Verses

You may have never indulged in the previous point, but do you reject verses that are definitely intended for you? For example, someone who struggles with depression might be tempted to dismiss Job 8:21, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy,” because it seems too unrealistic. But how will our condition ever improve if we overrule God’s promises for a better life?

Speaking of better things ahead, that’s what tithing is for. God vowed that if we tithe He’ll pour out so much our way, there won’t be enough room to contain it all (Malachi 3:8-12). Yet, when surveyed, only 17% of Americans state that they regularly tithe.

When we disqualify tithing verses by refusing to give God a tenth of our income, we’re also bypassing God’s design for a better future.

6. Dependence on Commentaries

Does Scripture contain hard-to-fathom passages? Well, can preachers get long-winded? (In case there’s any uncertainty, the answer to both is yes. Eager, nod-your-head yeses.) It’s fine to flip open several commentaries to check what theologians might have concluded about Paul’s instruction for women to stay mum in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34), for instance, but let’s not rely on them for the final say. Like anyone else, theologians, too, can misunderstand and misinterpret Scripture.

Our go-to should always be the Holy Spirit—the infallible and most wonderful Teacher of all. Let’s ask Him to reveal what He means whenever we encounter a puzzling passage. After all, He invited us to ask Him to do so, so that He can show us “great and unsearchable things” we didn’t know previously (Jeremiah 33:3).

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Cassidy Rowell 

7. Know-it-All Demeanor

Some Christians memorize so much Scripture and spend so much time in the Word, they probably reign as the perennial champion for their family’s Bible trivia games. I know preachers, like the one at a retreat I once attended, who can recite whole chapters of the Bible without stuttering or skipping any verse.

No matter how intimately acquainted we are with God’s Word, however, we won’t mine anything fresh from it when we harbor an unspoken stance of same old, same old toward the Bible—as though we’ve discovered all there is to know about it. God never promises to satisfy the cocky, only the hungry: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6).

8. Selective Reading

Have you read the Bible cover to cover? The answer can determine whether your life will truly change (2 Corinthians 5:17). For instance, you might earnestly believe that you must always strive hard, because “God helps those who help themselves.” But orienting your life based on this maxim will backfire. Anything Scripture doesn’t endorse will eventually flop. When it comes to this popular saying, the Word teaches the exact opposite—trusting in human help, including our own, is futile (Psalm 108:12, Psalm 118:8, Psalm 146:3-5). God wants us to trust Him for help (Psalm 121:1-2).

Indeed, selective reading of the Bible poses danger. The whole counsel of God consists of both the Old and New Testaments. Focusing on only (or mostly) the New Testament is to veer into an area of cheap grace, overlooking God’s holy and righteous nature. On the other hand, majoring in just the Old Testament can steer us into following God’s Word with rigidity—without much regard for the intent or spirit of it. According to Paul, this is a deadly stance (2 Corinthians 3:6).

A balanced spiritual diet requires us to regularly feed on every book in both testaments.

A hand following along in the Bible, The importance of seeking God's power over our Enemy

9. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, a psychological term, explains our tendency to pursue and favor information that verifies our beliefs. When this bias is operating, we’d undervalue any piece of information that contradicts our hypothesis.

Don’t let confirmation bias dictate your mindset when it comes to the Bible. That is, don’t mold the Bible to fit your beliefs by cherry-picking certain verses and shunning others. Remain malleable to what the Lord has to say on every topic, no matter how you feel about them and whether they’re popular or not. Notice the apostle Paul’s unrestrained awe regarding God’s wisdom: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

Let’s invite the wisdom of the Word to instruct and even correct us whenever necessary.

10. A Casual Attitude

The Bible coined a term for those who traipse around its pages casually: hearers, but not doers. According to James 1:22, this approach is self-deceiving. Casual readers might assume they deserve major blessings for puttering around the Word when in fact, their failure to translate what they read into day-to-day reality cheats them from said blessings (James 1:25).

When it comes to studying the Word, the more you obey and employ its teachings in your own world, the better off you’ll be. Consider these promises:

  • “If you consent and obey, you’ll eat the best of the land” (Isaiah 1:19, NASB).
  • “The Lord takes care of those who obey Him” (Psalm 37:18, GNT).
  • “God gives us what we ask for because we obey God’s commands” (1 John 3:22, NCV).
  • “Those who obey Him have all they need” (Psalm 34:9-10, GNT).
  • “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17, ESV).

The Bible contains loads of lessons on how to live long, healthy, and successful. However, we won’t get to experience this all-around blessed life unless we apply what it says.

Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock 

dr. audrey davidheiser bio photoAudrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist, and IFSI-approved clinical consultant. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. If you need her advice, visit her on and Instagram @DrAudreyD. Disclaimer: her advice column isn't therapy.

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