Life, Hope & Truth

Memorizing Scripture: Why?

God’s words should be the most important words in a Christian’s life. Have you ever considered committing some of them to memory? Here are three reasons to do so.

Many people get nervous when they hear the word memorization. The word often brings back the stress of school—such as having to memorize facts, lists, formulas, dates and definitions for tests and quizzes. Many people dread memorization and only do it if it’s required. That’s why many people would chuckle at the idea of voluntary memorization. Since memorizing takes work, why would anyone want to memorize things?

Well, the fact is, we constantly memorize things we have a vested interest in retaining. For instance, many people can recite quotes from their favorite movies or TV shows because they’ve heard the words repeatedly and appreciate the humor or wittiness. If you listen to a song regularly and can sing along, you have memorized the lyrics. We memorize these things because we repeat them or place value on them.

The most valuable words for a Christian should be God’s words—the Holy Bible. Because of this, some Christians memorize portions of it. Why should a Christian consider memorizing scriptures?

Why memorize scriptures?

First, let’s consider one wrong motivation for doing it. Sometimes people commit scriptures to memory in order to show off how much they know. If our motivation is just to impress others by being able to rattle off scriptures verbatim, then we are not heeding Jesus’ admonitions against doing religious acts just to “be seen” by people (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16).

So why should we memorize scriptures? Consider these three reasons.

  1. To have God’s Word implanted in our hearts and minds. The Bible isn’t a book that was designed to be casually read once and then put on a shelf. It’s a living book that contains God’s inspired words to guide our conduct and shape our beliefs. The New Covenant is centered around God’s law being written on our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:31-33). That means we know it and internalize it.

The 10 Commandments should be one of the first things a Christian commits to memory to allow those words to guide our conduct at all times. The psalmist wrote: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

By having God’s Word internalized, we are able to call upon its principles when faced with choices.By having God’s Word internalized, we are able to call upon its principles when faced with choices. For instance, if you are walking through a parking lot and find someone’s wallet on the ground, what should you do? Having the Eighth Commandment “hidden” in your heart would remind you that the money you found is the property of someone else and that to pocket it and walk away would be breaking God’s law against stealing.

Or what if you’re facing trials and discouragement? Remembering a scripture like Romans 8:28, which tells us that things will work out well in the long run for God’s people, can give us encouragement and motivation.

  1. To follow the example of God’s servants. When you read the recorded words of people in the Bible, it is striking how many times they quote Scripture from memory. In New Testament times, the Bible was preserved on scrolls that were stored in synagogues or at the temple. Most people didn’t have the luxury of carrying a copy with them and reading it whenever they wanted. This required that they commit key portions of it to memory.

In Luke 4, the account of Satan’s attempt to provoke Jesus to sin, every time Satan tempted Him, Jesus countered by quoting a relevant Old Testament passage. Jesus used the Scriptures in His mind to deal with the temptations, showing an example of Psalm 119:11 in action.

For another example, if you read through Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, you will notice he quoted extensively from the books of Joel and Psalms. That means Peter had those words in his memory and was able to retrieve and use them when he needed them.

If you read through Paul’s epistles, you will notice he often quoted extensively from the Old Testament despite not likely having access to the Old Testament scrolls as he wrote.

Even though we have easy access to God’s Word today, in both printed and digital formats, it is still beneficial to commit parts of it to memory because it helps us use it more effectively (we know where to turn to find something we need to study) and in situations where we don’t have easy access to it.

  1. To be prepared to give an answer. The apostle Peter gave important advice to Christians in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

In other words, Christians need to be prepared to defend their beliefs when people ask about them. To fulfill this admonition, one needs to understand what he or she believes and why he or she believes it. Since our beliefs, or doctrine, should be based on God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16), in order to give an intelligent, well-reasoned explanation for our beliefs, it is very helpful to be able to cite scriptures that our beliefs are based on.

Of course, we must also remember to practice meekness and wisdom! It’s not wise to overload a person with scriptures if he or she is just asking a simple question. Typically we should only cite Scripture if the person is interested and the conversation goes further than a simple question. We have to use wisdom and answer “with meekness and fear”—with a humble approach.

The most important thing for a Christian to do is to internalize God’s words. That means we have those words in our minds and hearts to the point where we not only understand them, but instinctively practice them. Formally committing key sections of Scripture into our long-term memory is also very valuable.

If you want to memorize Scripture, but are intimidated by the idea and don’t know where to start, read our follow-up article “How to Memorize Bible Scriptures.” And see our Bible memory infographic for ideas of helpful and important things to memorize.

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