When we formulate an argument —whether an academic essay, sermon notes, social media rant, or a blogpost– it raises the validity of our point if we have sources to support our claims. Our readers or listeners who know us well will likely trust our thoughts (or maybe they know us well enough to not trust our thoughts) but those who stumble across us on the web or in the real-life world won’t know if our words are worth their digital space.
Our school children are taught to use reliable sources for their research and to cite them properly. Our university students are expected to find peer reviewed articles to support their points. As purposefully thinking participants on social media or consumers of news reports, fact checking from a third-party source is necessary (but often left undone).
This habit of following the breadcrumbs is also fascinating to use for Bible study. Unless you are reading from your 14-pound, 5-inch thick KJV family Bible with the heavily decorative cover and pages of family names listing births, baptisms and deaths, your Bible likely has small subscripts after some verses. If you find those while reading your Bible, consider it a breadcrumb, a morsel worth investigating. It is either another verse that your current verse is quoting or making reference to, or a concise definition of a word. Flip to the verse it is referencing and learn more. Fall into the rabbit hole and enjoy some biblical sleuthing.
The team over at The Institute for Bible Reading has a fascinating podcast (called The Bible Reset) about all things relating to biblical literacy. On a recent episode, Glenn mentioned how many Bibles printed today place great emphasis on the reference materials included on each page. He mentioned how our eye is naturally drawn to those portions of the pages over the actual biblical text due to subtleties such as a change in font, a gray shaded behind it, or for the simple sake that it is written in easily digested chunks of information. The reference material then becomes our primary reading over the actual words of the Bible sometimes. The truth in his words stung just a bit because, back in the day when I wanted to know what the Bible had to say for myself, I fell in love with my study Bible filled with all sorts of additional information. It was beneficial for a time and, I still have it and use it out frequently. The extra information comes from trustworthy sources, so we even buy these to give to those leading Bible studies in our ministry. It’s excellent to have on hand. But I know Glenn is right.
Now, more than ever in the history of mankind, is finding the truth important. Consider who you are reading, listening to, or following…and then follow the breadcrumbs to learn who those people are following. You will likely learn a great deal when you do so. Good study habits and good preaching habits will go a long way to help us know the truth.
Thanks Ozzy Kirkby over at Unsplash for the great picture which looks like it has breadcrumbs on the trail. I picked this picture because the one that came from a search for Hansel and Gretel looks spooky, but I digress.