2016 has just begun. As usual, the Christian practice of taking a fresh copy of Our Daily Bread off the shelf for a low sum is not a rare sight. For many years, Our Daily Bread and other similar devotional materials have made their way into the Christian mainstream. In a bid to bridge the gap between new believers (including prolonged spiritual infants) and the Scriptures, someway, somehow, an easy to understand composition seems necessary, at least to some. While the intent may be noble, the effect may be less efficacious.

The very setup of devotional materials says it all. Scripture references are relegated mostly into the margins while the main material, the devotional, takes the center stage. The arrangement is quite interesting. Anyone reading it will have his attention escorted to the main article. There, you’ll find seeds of positivity. Love, respect, forgiveness, you name it. The problem is, positivity is not be the best representative of reality. Time and again, entries from these devotionals betray the primacy of Scriptures. While it seems to teach a virtue on the one hand, it ignores an overwhelming amount of Scripture truths on the other.

Consider this post entitled Faultfinders Anonymous, written half a year ago. The basic idea is this: Do not be a faultfinder. Further, it teaches, “When the Lord fills our hearts, we can overlook mistakes, hold our criticism, and love others, no matter how much we know about them!” This however, is problematic. Jesus knew the faults of those around him and he did not hold his criticism. In fact, it can be argued that He himself was a faultfinder. He did not overlook mistakes, rather, he exposed them. His sour engagements with the Pharisees is evidence of this. “Woe to you, Pharisees,” he cried. “Be on your guard against the yoke of the Pharisees,” he warned. Jesus went on and on. He questioned Nicodemus’ understanding of the Law. He turned their intellectual challenges against them, even provoking them by healing on a Sabbath. Does this fit in with the article in Our Daily Bread? Most certainly not. Being a faultfinder and a critique is not a withdrawal of love (of course a constant stream of faultfinding is not helpful either [1]). Jesus certainly did not withdraw his love from them by exposing their fault. He did it for the healing of their souls. As what can be seen, the ODB article represents a minuscule pinch of reality. Not only is it intellectually unsatisfactory, it is worse, unbiblical.

Consider the early Christians. We have no evidence of them using any form of watered down writings that bridges them from where they stand in their intellectual capacity to the Scriptures. Instead, we know from Eusebius that they spend the entire day immersed in the sacred writings.

“The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures”

Ecclesiastical History 2.17.10 by Eusebius of Caesarea

We live in a time and place where the Holy Scripture is trivialized. Where people read devotional materials in place of the Bible. Christians are persuaded that easy Christianity is good Christianity. There’s no such thing. A Christianity without Scriptural depth is like a nation without fundamental wealth. Both have almost no means of progress. One’s immersion in the Scriptures must not be replaced by shallow articles masquerading as Scripture exposition. There is no replacement for Scriptures in the Christian life.

How then can a Christian live with an intellectually vibrant soul? It is through immersion in the Scriptures. In using devotional materials, the material becomes the main course and the Scriptures, the seasoning. It has to be reversed, even corrected. Scriptures are to be the main course. Devotional materials are to be the seasoning. I would even go so far as to argue that devotional materials are not beneficial at all. Why? Because good commentaries trump them. Go to the church fathers. Go to Origen. Go to Aquinas. Go to people like Matthew Henry, Craig Blomberg, Raymond Brown, etc. These people immersed themselves in the Scriptures. Their works are treasures laid bare for all to access. Read them. Buy them. Treasure them. They are worth more than a thousand copies of Our Daily Bread because their exposition of the Scriptures are based on careful analysis, not shallow understanding.

My advice? Go directly to the Scriptures—NIV, ESV, NASB, these are good translations. Read small chunks of Scriptures everyday–anywhere between one to ten verses. meditate on them. Read commentaries about them. Read the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic. Biblehub.com is a good resource. Use it. Understand the verses you’ve read from the original language. Did the English translation miss anything? Check it out. You’ll find treasure you will never know from reading only the English Bibles.  On top of these, read four chapters a day, everyday. In a year, you will read through the entire Bible. Do this every year. Immerse. ODB is not a replacement. It is not even a useful. To a person immersed in the Scriptures, ODB has no value. It is spiritual junk food.
[1] Some would ask, “where then does one draw the line?” In Phil 4:8, Paul advised that one’s thoughts must be filled with that which is excellent, pure, praiseworthy, honorable, and so forth. In other words, as long as exposing sins is done in an honorable way through the lens by which God sees things, you’re good.

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