I decided to read the Bible in another language this year. I considered it a good learning tool while also trying to grow spiritually. Yet, the longer I continued the practice, the dryer I grew.
Leviticus is hard enough to grasp in English, but in another language, it is mind numbing. I took at least twice as long as usual to read my Bible, yet I got less out of it. The day I read about the priests examining the raw flesh of people’s sores, which was literally “living meat” in the other language, I realized I wasn't learning practical vocabulary.
My sister called me out and told me to read the Bible in English. She said if I was trying to boast that I could read the Bible in another language, I wasn’t winning any spiritual rewards. She was right. I switched to English the next day, and rejoiced at how much spiritual meat was in Leviticus when I understood the words.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (NKJV). My work of reading the Bible in another language wasn’t going to save me.
For that matter, neither were any of the things I’ve tried to do for God in the past like have perfect attendance at church, serve in the nursery and the welcoming committee, and lead Bible study all at the same time. While those things may look good to other people, God looks at my heart. My boasting doesn’t impress God when I boast in myself.
We should only boast in the Lord. He gave us the gift of salvation through the blood of His Son Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Our salvation cannot equal grace plus anything else. For those with legalistic tendencies like myself, that truth can seem maddening.
Yet, God’s grace sets us free. We are not saved by our good works, but released from sin to commit good works unto God’s glory.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV). God is not against good works. Instead, He created acts of kindness for us to perform before the foundation of the world. The difference is not the act itself, but the heart motivation behind what we do. Are we trying to make ourselves look good or to glorify God for all He has done?
God is not impressed by my self-promotion. My reading the Bible in another language was not one of those things preordained for me to complete, but something I wanted to do to feel special. May we all check our hearts to ensure we are working for God’s renown and not our own. Because in the end, only His glory lasts forever.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.