How the Religious Spirit Destroys Bible Reading

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (Luke 18:10–11, KJV)

In our newly released Bible Reading Guide for 2023, we urge believers to be wary of the potential harms associated with the religious spirit. If left unchecked, this spirit can transform a healthy activity such as Bible reading into an oppressive monster that destroys us. We discussed four manifestations of this spirit under dramatized labels: spiritual workaholic, the pharisee, the formalist, and the perfectionist.

The spiritual workaholic is engrossed with their works—Bible reading in this context. They read the Bible to earn God’s favor, love, or blessings; if they fail, they condemn themselves. Their commitment to Bible reading and adhering to their reading plan influences how they comprehend God and His relationship with them.

The second manifestation of the religious spirit is what we termed “the Pharisee”, vividly captured in Luke 18:10-14. This Pharisaic spirit makes one think God loves them more than other Christians who do not read through Bible in a year as they do. It might become more extreme, condemning believers who do not use their preferred Bible translation or follow their Bible reading plan!

The formalist devotes more attention to Bible reading plans or methods than reading the Bible itself.  As for the perfectionist, everything must be right, plans must be followed to the letter: they are discouraged and demotivated if one rule in the plan is broken.

Do not let the religious spirit ruin your spiritual life.


What other aspects in your life is this spirit manifesting?

Apply the Word

The religious spirit is not limited to Bible study; it can manifest in your prayer life, giving, ministry, etc. Stand fast in the freedom Christ has given to you, and resist the enslaving hands of this spirit.


Ask the Spirit to reveal to you any areas of your life where this spirit is manifesting.

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