1 Timothy 4:13, 16 - Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. ... Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
The Settlers of Catan has sold more than 30 million copies, making it one of the best-selling board games ever. In it, players compete to build the most successful colony. But the game's rules force players to work together. You can't win by hoarding resources. You must cooperate with your fellow settlers. It's this social side of the game that makes him most proud, says the game's creator, Klaus Teuber, who developed the game by spending his weekends playing early versions of it with his wife and three children. Teuber designed the game to be a tool for inviting community.
Likewise, the Bible is a tool—not just any tool—it's God's tool. But like any tool, it's good to remember what it's for. What is the Bible for? Maybe you've heard someone answer with the acrostic: B-I-B-L-E, "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." It's catchy, yes. But it's also misleading because it says the Bible is mostly for what happens after an individual dies. Now, the Bible does teach us that after death "comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27b). And it aims to prepare us for death. But more importantly, the Bible is the story of how Jesus, through His death and resurrection, is bringing God's kingdom, God's community, "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10b). Besides, those who've been baptized into Jesus have died already to our old selves so that even now we would start walking the walk of God's new creation (see Romans 6:4).
There's another reason that catchy acrostic is misleading. It might have us imagine the Bible as a pre-launch manual for an escape pod with seating for one. Now as we heard, Paul did encourage Timothy to read the Bible aloud for people so that they would be saved. But Paul described that experience of being "saved" not merely as an individual's escape from disaster, but as adoption into a family, as citizenship in a commonwealth, and incorporation into Jesus' body, the church (see Ephesians 2:11-22). And through the faith created by God's Word, we are saved now; we are part of this community now, co-heirs of the new creation already. So, even if you read the Bible silently, by yourself, isolated, alone—that tool is not yet serving its Maker's purpose. God's goal with the Bible is to draw you into a community, in-person, with other people, struggling, forgiven, gathered in the presence of the crucified, risen, and returning Jesus.
Klaus Teuber, the maker of The Settlers of Catan, once received a letter from a worker at a mental hospital for children. The worker told him about a boy there who had never spoke to anyone. He just sat there, isolated, alone. One day, this boy saw a group of kids playing Settlers of Catan. Soon after, he joined them. Catan became a tool for drawing him out of himself and into a community. The Bible is God's tool. That's why Paul encourages Timothy, the young Christian community builder, to keep reading it publicly, out loud for the people, to invite them, to warn them, guide, teach, and ultimately to save them to be a small, but eternally important part of Christ's body, the church.
WE PRAY: Dear Jesus, by your Word, draw me out of myself and into Your community. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Which activities have you found to be helpful for inviting and building community?
2. Have you ever been drawn into deeper relationships with people through studying, speaking, and listening to the Bible together? What do you remember about that?
3. Which ways of engaging the Bible have you found to be the least or most helpful for inviting and deepening community with others?
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