Like Sand: Reading the Bible in the Age of Instant Gratification

Vanity! Vanity! All is Vanity! It’s the familiar cry of the author of Ecclesiastes as he looked at the world and one Montag experienced as he pressed to remember Ecclesiastes 3:1 but it slipped through his mind like sand through his hands. The world of instant gratification and entertainment had wreaked its havoc on society and now Montag’s mind. Wrestling and pushing back against a weak mind Montag fought against his flesh to remember the Biblical author’s words and carry them to the next generation. This often is the same experience we have as we wrestle with a world of instant gratification and Bible reading.

The Problem

Today, we live in a world eerily similar to the one imagined by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. With entertainment as the main driver of our economy, social media abounds and reading dissipates. We’re constantly hit with quick hits of dopamine when we turn to social media for a fix of likes and retweets like cheap thrills. Our culture lives on instant gratification and it rewards people who give quick shallow and thoughtless entertainment. The problem, however, doesn’t remain out there but like with Montag, it shapes our minds, weakening them. And like a muscle that goes unused, our minds shrivel up.

This reality of a mind so pumped full of quick entertainment is likely the norm for you and especially as you open your Bible to attempt to see the beauty of God through His word. You open your Bible and it lays flat, both on the table and on your heart. You begin to read but your mind wanders and it wanders far. Onto your schedule for the day, and onto that massive list of chores you need to get done soon. You stare at the page but after a few sentences off it goes again. You’re not reading. You’re scrolling and you’re scrolling all through your mind for a quick bit of entertainment. You’ve been trained by the world. And that muscle that God gave you to love Him (Mat. 22:37) instead avoids Him.

It’s a sad thing that we’ve been so shaped by our culture in this way. Though it isn’t really the culture that did it. We allow our hearts and minds to slip away and not meditate on God’s word as He commands us (Deut. 6:4-9). Our minds love to run from God and meditate on the things of the world. As sinners, we don’t need an excuse to be distracted. Our flesh cries out for something other than God’s word and as we go to study His word our flesh claws its way back and tries to pull our thoughts back onto worthless things. 

Like Treasure

The world of instant gratification that we’re all children of is in stark opposition to the one revealed by scripture. In proverbs the author, speaking of wisdom and understanding says…

“if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” – Proverbs 2:4-5

The picture of wisdom that the author gives isn’t one of immediate gratification. He speaks of the knowledge of the Lord as something to be pursued like silver and searched for like hidden treasure. The Bible is like a gold mine, it takes digging. 

On the other side of this knowledge is great and lasting joy. Jesus speaks of it like a man who found a treasure hidden in a field. In his joy the man went and sold all that he had in order to purchase the field (Mat. 13:44). This knowledge of God is what leads Paul to rejoice in the middle of his imprisonment (Phil. 1:18-21). It’s clear. The knowledge of God leads to tremendous joy but it doesn’t come easily.  What’s so difficult isn’t that the Lord is far but that our hearts are. The Lord isn’t far from us but near and rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; – Proverbs 2:6

The Remedy

So what is the answer to this problem? Some would say “fake it until you make it” or build habits until the desire comes. While there’s a grain of truth there, this remedy is confused and misdiagnoses the problem. Again, the problem isn’t your action as much as it’s your heart. You don’t want to know God enough to focus for just a few minutes.

The answer then is to call on the Lord. We need to want to read the Bible more than we want the hit of instant gratification. But we can’t just change what we want. We need the Lord to transform our hearts. We need to ask Him for new desires and new affections that delight in His word. We have to recognize the severe lack of attention span that we have and fight to focus on His word. We need to cultivate a mind that ponders long on God’s word. Ask him to remove the veil and to show you His glory (2 Cor. 3-4). Call on Him to grant you understanding for He is the one who gives it. Ask Him to remove the mindlessness you’re so familiar with and to open your eyes that you may behold wonderful things (Psalm 119:18). And as you begin to see, you’ll see the Bible for what it is, a mine rich with Gold. 

The Bible is a gold mine but God rewards only those who search diligently. So when we come to the Bible we need to do so with faith, trusting that God rewards those who seek him. God gives understanding, but often only after digging and digging into scripture as you search for gold. The Lord often changes our hearts little by little, so we must seek to meet with him consistently. Changed desires take a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, but the Lord desires to create that within us (1 Thes. 4:3). Ask Him for that and seek him in his Word each day. Only then will you sing with the Psalmist, 

Your testimonies are my delight; – Psalm 119:24

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