Arthur Fletcher is famous for saying, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” He was right. Jesus said, among other things, that we should love God with the all of our minds (Mk. 12:30). Sometimes people fail to see that Christianity involves the intellect as much as it does our emotions or actions. The Bible is the book given to us by God and we should internalize it and memorize it. Before you say you can’t, allow me to impress you with the capability of the human mind.
Paul Reber, a professor at Northwestern University, was asked whether there was a physical limit to how much the human mind can remember. He responded by saying the human brain is made up of about one billion neurons, the neurons combine to help with our memories. When comparing the brain to a digital recorder, our brains can hold up to 3 million hours of t.v shows or the equivalent to leaving a T.V. running continuously for more than 300 years. Simply put, we have more room. What will we fill it with? I know we all are different and some at better at remembering scripture than others, but we can all do it and it has its benefits.
Someone may say, “Why memorize scripture when we have copies of the Bible everywhere?” That’s exactly why we should memorize. We have the Bible on every device and in every room of our house and it’s tempting to say that we do not need to commit anything to memory. But we may not always have the Bible with us or access to it and our laziness will come back to hurt us. If for no other reason, we should memorize scripture because God encourages us to memorize throughout his Word. The Psalmist claimed that having the word hidden in his heart kept him from sin (Psa. 119:11).
Everyone who has scripture memorized does not always stray from sin, but they have a better chance than someone ignorant of the scriptures (see Jesus Matthew 4:1-11). Solomon said we should bind the commands on our fingers and write them on the table of our hearts (Pr. 7:2-3). Parents should place the word of God in their children’s hearts far out of the reach of the Devil and the world (Deut. 6:6-9). This is not meant to be a guilt trip for those who have not memorized a lot of scripture, but it should bolster our commitment to try and learn more. After all, God wants us to.
How Can We Memorize More Scripture?
There are all sorts of ways to memorize scripture but the best thing we could do is start. We should be intentional and focus our mind to remember certain truths from God’s word. Many Jews memorized the first five books of the law of Moses by the time they were teenagers (Genesis- Deuteronomy). We may say that’s a lot, that we can never do that. We think we couldn’t memorize even a chapter of Scripture. But have you tried Psalm 117? We need to believe we can and begin.
One way we can do this is to write a verse on a card and glance at it throughout the day. We could learn a verse a day this way, that’s five verses a week if you take off weekends, and twenty plus verses a month if you do this in a cumulative fashion. There are different kinds of scripture typing apps that help you internalize scripture and regulate the level of difficulty until you can type the verse in its entirety without help and without error. If you spent a little time every day doing this, you would be surprised how much you could learn in a short amount of time. But what if it takes a long time? We must not buy into the idea that the only spiritual things that are worth doing are those that are easy and quick to accomplish. Discipleship is hard, but that is what we signed up for (Lk. 9:23).
What if you made a list of subjects that you wanted to memorize the scripture on and start there? Spend a month memorizing verses on conversion, baptism, and repentance. Then take a month and memorize verses that deal with comfort, the love of God, and forgiveness. Or spend time memorizing verses that identify the attributes of Jesus. We are to meditate on good things (Phil. 4:8). What better way to do this than by always having a verse swirling around in our heads?
If we want to memorize more scripture we should use it. If we do not use it, we will lose it over time. Internalize scripture and then use it. Share verses of comfort with family and co-workers. Insert verses when people have questions about how to become a Christian or a Christian’s response to enemies. When your children want to know why things must be done a certain way, share small nuggets of scripture with them. Proverbs is great for this. Memorize scripture as a family or with a group of friends to encourage each other and hold each other accountable (Heb. 3:13).
Benefits of Memorization and a Word of Caution
The benefits of memorizing the word of God are numerous. We will be ready to give a defense to those who ask a reason for the hope we have (1 Pet. 3:15). We will be more readily able to talk to people about Jesus as we know where certain things are found in scripture. Our faith is increased as we preach the gospel to ourselves daily. We obey God and put his word where he wants it (Heb. 8:10). It helps to keep the mind pure and help us to guard against sin, which ultimately begins in the mind (Ps. 37:31; Mt. 12:33-34).
We should be careful with scripture memorization though. First, always keep in mind that every verse has a larger context. Not only the chapter it was written in but the book it is in, along with the Bible as a whole. So, as we memorize scripture we should be careful not to forget that verses cannot be ripped from their original context and mean whatever we want. Also, there is the temptation to become arrogant. We may know more verses than someone else, but if they are walking in the light, we do not have any more of Jesus than they do (1 Jn. 1:7).
Do not allow the number of verses you memorize to become badges of self-righteousness. There will not be a massive Bible-trivia bowl in heaven. We must not use the verses we learn to stump others and prove them wrong and ourselves right. Learn verses that challenge your sinful behavior and learn verses from books of the Bible you often overlook or rarely study. Ultimately, all of the Bible is about Jesus and our knowledge should point us to him (Lk. 24:44).
Where are you going to start? If you have already begun, challenge yourself to learn more. Loving God with all of our minds means our intellect is not off limits to him. See that God wants us to do this. Appreciate the fact that we can do this and that it is realistic. Then, begin and keep in mind these verses are a part of God’s larger story and to memorize them does not elevate us above anyone else.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.