This is my very first Bible. I received it before I could even read. It has pictures, and I remember one Sabbath while the preacher was preaching, I was studying a particular picture of Jesus on the cross, and I gave my heart to Jesus.
I was taught that my Bible was holy and not to set it on the ground or put another book or anything else on top of it. You may say it became my “flag” of Christianity. We don’t let the flag touch the ground and we handle it very carefully. Yet a flag is only symbolic of a country. It is not the country. Likewise the actual materials my Bible are made of are not holy materials. The message is holy. The ink and paper are not.
One day, when I was about six, I showed my Bible to a neighbor who was eating a hot dog outside. I let him handle my Bible ,not realizing he had mustard on his hands. I was horrified when he accidentally smeared mustard on my holy Bible! You can still see the mustard on the opening page. I yelled at him and berated him for messing up my holy Bible! I still remember the sad look on his face when he told me he was sorry, and a little stunned at how upset I was.
But was I being a little Pharisaical? Was I dramatizing the impression the mustard made on the paper, instead of realizing that the impression on the paper was meaningless? What was really important, was the impression the picture and story of Jesus made on his heart and mine. Unless the words make my heart holy, a pristine Bible is pretty useless.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matthew 23:25-26 NLT
I think I missed the whole point of what Jesus was all about when I hurt my friend’s feelings by yelling at him, because he accidentally smeared mustard on the “holy” papers of my Bible. Looking back now, I am quite sure that Jesus cared more about my friend’s heart and feelings than He did the paper in the Bible.
I realize now that I may be treating my Bible as an idol when I make sure nothing is stacked on top of it, but yet in real life I put “things” before Jesus. The words of the Bible have made it from the scrolls to books to electronic apps. Some people don’t think of electronic Bible apps as “real” Bibles. Yet I wonder if when Gutenberg’s press came out, people did not consider the “real” Bibles to still be on scrolls.
I think we are making idols out of scrolls and hard-copy Bibles unless we realize and appreciate the Bible enough to impress it upon our hearts and do what it actually says. It doesn’t do any good for me to take the flag down out of the rain, and fold it carefully if I still turn around and betray my country. Likewise it doesn’t do any good for me to make sure no books are put on top of my Bible if I am still putting things before Jesus in real life.
I don’t want to make a useless idol out of ink and paper. I want God’s Word to be alive and well in my heart.