September 29th, 2023

Your Biblical Devotional is Not the Bible


What do Bible teachers do for fun on a Friday night? They check the Amazon lists to see which Bible translation holds the top spot.

The last time I looked, it was the New International Version (NIV). The NIV has been the best-selling translation in the US for decades, but on Amazon’s rankings, the translation sat at No. 5, beat out by two children’s Bibles, an audio Bible, and at No. 1, a popular devotional guide that somehow made its way into the Bible category.

The devotional far outshone the Bibles on the list, boasting 5,800 five-star reviews in 18 months. Seeing it in the top spot was a reminder of how many Christians rely on daily devotions as a formative practice and how big a business devotional books have become.

But how are these resources forming us? Does a devotional yield devotion in the biblical sense?

Again, I scanned through the descriptions for other popular devotionals on Amazon. Among the 10 bestsellers, one offered 365 days of “inspiring, unexpected, humble teaching on grace and love that will prepare you for the day ahead.” Another provided “an inspiring Bible verse to reflect and meditate on throughout your week.” Still another promised that readers would “be inspired to activate living your life on mission.” The takeaway was clear: Daily devotion involves being inspired.

But another defining element also emerged consistently in the descriptions. One book was “designed to help alleviate your worries as you learn to live in the peace of the Almighty God.” Others promised “words of encouragement, comfort, and reassurance of God’s unending love,” the ability to tackle life “with the wisdom and comfort of the Bible.” Another takeaway: Daily devotion involves being comforted.

According to the bestseller list, to be devoted is to be inspired and comforted. But according to the Bible, it’s something much more.

Has Your Devotional Replaced the Bible?

The Bible uses the term “devoted” to mean consecrated, or set apart for special service. As a museum devotes a wing to displaying a particular art form, so God devotes us to display His image. Yet we sometimes mistakenly equate devotion with emotion. Devotion is not mere feeling, but …

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