How should you dispose of an old Bible? Is there a right way and a wrong way? Is there a biblical way and an unbiblical way? Listen in as I try to work through this surprisingly common question.
I recently got the question, how do you dispose of an old Bible? Somebody’s Bible had come to the end of its useful life, they’re ready to move on and wanted to know what’s the right or the biblical or the respectful way to dispose of an old Bible. I’ll talk about that in a minute but first, let’s roll that intro.
You probably know that there’s a whole etiquette around how to properly dispose of a flag. Right, the flag of your nation. There’s symbolism wrapped up in that flag, right. It’s more than just a piece of fabric, it represents your country. And so, if you love your country, you’ll treat that flag one way, if you hate your country, you’ll treat that flag in another way. Ironically, both people may dispose of a flag the same way according to the veterans of foreign wars and the United States, the proper way to dispose of a flag is to fold it up and then to burn it, to actually set fire to it. You burn it until its entirely consumed and you bury the ashes. Ironically, if you hate your country, you might do the very same thing, you might burn the flag. What’s the difference? One, you’ll do very publically, and as a symbol of your hatred of your country and the other, you’ll do privately and discreetly as a symbol of your love for your country. So there’s this etiquette surrounding disposing of a flag.
I think we can maybe learn something about our Bibles there, which is to say, you could dispose of a Bible in the same way, but your attitude could be very different. So, if you just are throwing that Bible in the garbage with spite and anger that’s very different from if you’re putting it in the garbage because it’s exhausted it’s useful life and you’re ready to move on. So, so much comes down to the heart, the attitude. And then to your conscience, as you actually move on from it.
So, how can you get rid of a Bible? It’s come to the end of its life, you’re not using it anymore, perhaps you’ve realized that translation isn’t the one you’re comfortable with any more or maybe it’s just really, really worn out. First, don’t be superstitious, okay. The Bible doesn’t address this because the Bible, when it was written, even when it was completed, was not a book, it’s a collection of writings. It wasn’t thin paper slapped between leather covers, right. So, the Bible doesn’t address this because the Bible has not always existed in this certain form that we have now. So, don’t be superstitious, don’t think God’s going to strike you down because you put it in the garbage, by doing that you’re not somehow stating you think God’s Word is garbage. But don’t be disrespectful, don’t make a big show of it. Simply, put it in the garbage, put it in the recycling box and you’ll be fine, that’s perfectly acceptable.
Before you do that though, maybe you should consider, do you really need a new Bible? We live in a very consumeristic culture, we’re always a year or two away from the old thing being useless and the new thing coming along. You think about your cell phone, how, after a year, you can’t believe that you still have this thing. After two years, you’re so ready to move on. Well, Bibles don’t need to be like that and I think maybe even though Bibles buy into this ethos a little bit by constantly releasing new versions of their translation. So, maybe we can think, we need to update every couple of years. So, maybe just make sure that you’re not buying into this consumerism, that you really do need a new Bible. As I’ve traveled the world this year and as I’ve spent time researching historical artifacts, it’s come back to me how important it is that people have a Bible and they linger in that Bible for a lifetime. It’s been such a joy to find Bible’s owned by William Carey, owned by Amy Carmichael, owned by others and to see all the notes they made over a lifetime of spending time with that Bible. That’s not going to happen today if we’re getting rid of them every couple of years.
Okay, so do you really need the Bible? Second thing, is there someone else who could use that Bible? Maybe there’s somebody in your life? You know, it might be better to buy them a new Bible, rather than give them one of your old ones, but there are organizations, I’ll leave some in the description, that will gladly accept that Bible from you and redistribute it to someone who will really put it to use. So, maybe you could put a couple in a box, maybe drop in a check there to help support those ministries and send off your Bible to be repurposed, redistributed to someone else.
So, there you go, you can throw out a Bible when it’s old, God will not strike you down, God will not be offended. But make sure this is really the time to dispose of that Bible rather than keep it yourself or repurpose it for someone else.