American Christians certainly enjoy greater material wealth than much of the world, but we enjoy less tangible forms of wealth, as well. We aren’t always aware of how wealthy we truly are. And because of this, we may not remember that to whom much is given, much is required: With great wealth comes great responsibility.
In the parable of the talents, three men are given an opportunity to show a return on investments of varying sizes. We are like these men, each given a measure of wealth with which we are to yield a return. I wonder if we recognize the responsibility associated with the wealth God grants. With regard to Bible study, I believe American Christians have been given three “talents” that not all believers are given. These three forms of wealth, if properly valued, would transform the way we think about the precious gift and joyful responsibility of studying the Bible.
A Wealth of Access
Having access to the Scriptures is a gift. It is certainly true that a person can have a vibrant faith without direct access to the Bible. The Gutenberg Press was not invented until 1450, yet many faithful people lived before its time. Noah, Enoch and Abraham did not have a personal copy of God’s written Word available for a daily “quiet time.” Nor did Jesus, for that matter. Believers in parts of the world where the Bible is illegal still follow hard after God. But let’s apply the principle of “much given, much required” to those of us living in the United States today.
Statistics show that most of us have a Bible at arm’s length 24 hours a day. According to mashable.com, 56.4% of Americans own a smart phone or tablet, meaning they have the capability to access Scripture with the touch of a screen. That’s before we consider how many have access through a PC or a hard copy. And no one is going to arrest us for reading them.
American Christians are never far from a copy of the Bible. We have been given “much” access. How can we overlook the privilege of such wealth by leaving our Bibles unopened?
A Wealth of Education
Education is a second gift American Christians enjoy. It is certainly true that an illiterate person can have a vibrant faith. Surely God meets us according to our educational opportunities. Where education is unavailable, we can trust that He graciously grants sufficient knowledge of Himself to those who cannot gain it through the written Word. American Christians, however, are the recipients of much opportunity to read and understand the Bible. While literacy rates around the world vary widely, The U.S. boasts a literacy rate of greater than 96%.
Consider these findings by the U.S. Census Bureau: “In 2009, more than 4 out of 5 (85 percent) adults aged 25 and over reported having at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, while over 1 in 4 (28 percent) reported a bachelor’s degree or higher.”
American Christians are well-educated and are capable of reading the Bibles they have access to. We have been given “much” education. How can we overlook the privilege of such wealth by claiming Bible study is optional or too hard?
A Wealth of Time
Discretionary time is a third gift American Christians have been given. It is certainly true that a person who must give every waking moment to survival can have a vibrant faith, even without being able to give time to Bible study. Discretionary time is time free from obligation to work or meet basic needs. And despite our perception that there is never enough time in the day, we Americans actually enjoy more than our share.
Unlike our forebears and our contemporaries in Third-World countries, we enjoy the benefits of time-saving and labor-saving devices, not to mention the protection of labor laws. A recent study spanning five decades of research found that leisure time in the U.S. has increased by 7.9 hours per week on average for men and by 6 hours per week for women between 1965 and 2003. Increasingly freed from survival to self-actualization, we enjoy more discretionary time than generations before us could ever have imagined.
American Christians are provided abundantly with discretionary time to apply our educated minds to our accessible Bibles. We have been given “much” time. How can we overlook the privilege of such wealth by claiming we’re too busy to give time to Bible study?
Much Given, Much Required
Between the covers of the Bible, we find a full revelation of what the prophets understood only in part, a declaration of the mystery into which angels long to look. In addition to having been given the riches of this great mystery, American Christians have been given access, education and time to appropriate it for our good. Let it be said that these “talents” entrusted to us were not spent on lesser investments or left to languish. Let it be said that we understood the great responsibility of having been given much—that we used the gifts of access, education and time to plumb the depths of the mysteries of God as revealed in His Word, and that the transforming results paid a dividend to the ends of the earth.