The Case for Scripture Memorization

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:1-13

This story is written very similarly to the version in Matthew. The temptations are in a different order, but that’s the biggest difference. The message is basically the same: 1. It is not a sin to be tempted, 2. The Devil is clever, he tempts you with things you want or need, and 3. Beat temptation with scripture.

Many Christians (like me!) struggle with reading the Bible each day, or with memorizing scripture. When pressed, we might get defensive and say something like, “Well Jesus never told us to do that, so stop being so legalistic and making up rules!” And it’s true, Jesus never did tell us to memorize scripture. But, the way I figure it, there are two ways to follow someone. First, you do what they tell you to, and second, you follow their example. If you love your boss, and you think he’s the best person ever and you want to be just like him, and he always wears a tie to work, don’t you think you’ll start wearing a tie every day too? Even if he never says anything about it? It’s the same with following Jesus. Here he gives us an actual example to follow. Maybe He doesn’t tell us what to do, but he shows us how to beat temptation! If you know what God says inside and out, you have every tool you need.

Two scripture memorization pitfalls to avoid. 1. Getting the “gist” of it. Jesus does not summarize or put scripture into His own words. That is a very easy way to get to a place where you are misunderstanding God’s word (especially if the gist you got was, you know, wrong). Truthfully, I am very bad at this. I know in general what a good chunk of the Bible says, but nothing specific enough to use when I’m being tempted, or if I’m in a debate. Arguments, whether against yourself, a non-believer, or even a fellow Christian, sound weak when they end with “or something like that.” 2. Rote memorization. It isn’t just enough to know the words. You have to know the context, or their meanings can get twisted (like the Devil did in this story). And you have to understand what the words mean, or they aren’t going to do you any good. Back in high school math, I learned the quadratic formula by setting it to the tune of pop goes the weasel. It’s so catchy, and I still remember it today! “X equals the opposite of B, plus or minus the square root, of B squared minus fo-our A C, all over two A!” But for literally an entire year I had no idea in what the quadratic formula was actually for. When my pre-calculus teacher explained it a year later, my “ooooooooh!!!” moment was so loud that my entire class face-palmed. I had this whole equation memorized, but I wasn’t using it! Scripture memorization is the same way. It’s great that you know Psalm 23, but if you don’t get it, what’s the point in memorizing it? It will never help you feel comforted if you don’t understand what it means.

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