Sin is any word, thought, motivation, or deed that falls “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is the breaking of God’s law and rebellion against His nature and decrees. If God wills for us to read His Word, then not reading it is sin.
The very fact that God has inspired His Word and preserved it through the centuries implies that He desires for it to be read. Why would He write a book if He did not care whether or not people read it?
Sin begins in the heart, and that’s where God looks (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:27). If we are not reading the Bible because we aren’t interested in what God has said, we are guilty of apathy. If we are not reading the Bible because we think we don’t need to, we are guilty of pride. If we are not reading the Bible because we can’t find the time or we don’t consider it important, we are guilty of having wrong priorities. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Jesus also said, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). God expects us to invest our time, resources, passions, and service in that which has eternal value. Those who have God’s Word at their fingertips will answer to Him for what they did with that high privilege.
In Psalm 119, which is all about God’s Word, the psalmist “learns,” “considers,” “keeps,” “proclaims,” and “meditates on” the Word of God (Psalm 119:6–8, 13, 15). All of these actions presume a reading of the Bible. Not just a reading, but a deep desire to know God’s Word, apply it to life, and share it with others.
In addition to the example of the psalmist, the believer is told to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). Given the direct command to study the Word, it would seem that not reading the Bible is a sin.
Reading and studying God’s Word equips us to better handle life’s challenges Avoiding a sin of omission (not reading the Bible) can prevent sins of commission: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Reading the Bible contributes to spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2).
“The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We all need the scrutiny God’s Word brings to our lives. We need to be reading the Bible.
Christians have a responsibility to know the Word of God so that they can rightly explain it to the world. First Peter 3:15 commands us to always be ready to give an answer about the hope we have in Christ. Unbelievers have questions. When they encounter a Christian who does not know his or her Bible, it can appear that there are no answers, and this is a disservice to those with questions.
For most people, the Bible is readily available in many ways. It is a sin to disregard our opportunities to hear from God. For illiterate or auditory learners, audio Bibles are available. Study Bibles are filled with helpful commentaries to aid us in understanding tough passages. Modern versions and paraphrases help ancient situations come alive so that we understand the Bible in its true context. James 4:17 can be applied to reading the Bible: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
Often when we are concerned about whether something is a sin, we are asking the wrong question. A better question for Christians is this: “What would Jesus have me do?” In His longest recorded prayer, Jesus asked the Father to “sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). So we have His answer. He wants us to be sanctified, and we can only pursue that through the study and application of God’s Word. Neglecting the Bible is displeasing to Him and makes us vulnerable to deception by our enemy, Satan (1 Peter 5:8).