"Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the "Lord"" (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV, also Matthew 4:4).
The purpose of this saying, originally by Moses and quoted by Jesus later, is to make an analogy between feeding the body and feeding the spirit.
Feeding the body is so obviously important that it seems silly to even mention it. Our stomachs growl, and even hurt, to let us know that we need to eat.
Feeding the spirit, however, is not as obvious to us. The signs that we need it are there, but they are much more subtle. Acting in an un-Christian manner or encountering difficulty in trusting God might indicate that a believer has not been feeding his/her spirit.
How Often Should I Read?
Well, you eat every day, right? Spending a set amount of time each day is best. Reading a little every day will produce better results than reading a lot on one day.
How Long Should I Read?
Obviously, that depends on your schedule. But the busiest person should be able to find ten minutes to just sit down and read. Don't set an initial goal of a long period of time; you will get discouraged if you can't find that time each day and end up reading less.
Do I Start at the Beginning?
The Bible is not like a novel. You can start almost anywhere, but some places will be more productive than others. (This is a good place to mention Global Christian Center's Guide to the Bible. Click here to learn more about what's in the Bible.)
The most important thing is to read. Read every day. Read as much as you can.
The best place to start is one of the Gospels, books that tell what Jesus did. There are four of them—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I think that Luke is a good one to start with. After that, read John; it has more reflection on the meaning of what Jesus did.
A good place to go next is all the way in the beginning: the book of Genesis. This tells the story of how God created the world and human beings. How we were separated from God by sin. How He selected a family to become a nation that would tell the world of His love for us.
Next, go back to the New Testament and read the book of Acts. It tells how the message of Jesus began to spread throughout the world. It shows how the ministry begun by Jesus continues in the lives of His followers.
The books of Psalms and Proverbs are always good. Psalms contains old songs of praise to God. Proverbs has many wise sayings that apply to how we should live.
The most important thing is to read. Read every day. Read as much as you can. Eventually read through the entire Bible.
Read and feed your spirit.
Bob Caldwell is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.