Frequent Reading of the Bible
On February 11, 1962, Parade Magazine published the following brief account -- itself a commentary on artificial motivation.
Still Munching Candy
At the village church in Kalonovka, Russia, attendance at Sunday school picked up after the priest started handing out candy to the peasant children. One of the most faithful was a pug-nosed, pugnacious lad who recited his Scriptures with proper piety, pocketed his reward, then fled into the fields to munch on it.
The priest took a liking to the boy, persuaded him to attend church school. This was preferable to doing household chores from which his devout parents excused him. By offering other inducements, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels. In fact, he won a special prize for learning all four by heart and reciting them nonstop in church. Now, 60 years later, he still likes to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would horrify the old priest. For the prize pupil, who memorized so much of the Bible, is Nikita Khrushchev, the former Communist czar.
As this anecdote illustrates, the "why" behind memorization is fully as important as the "what". The same Nikita Khrushchev who nimbly mouthed God's Word when a child, later declared God to be nonexistent -- because his cosmonauts had not seen Him. Khrushchev memorized the Scriptures for the candy, the rewards, the bribes, rather than for the meaning it had for his life. Artificial motivation will produce artificial results.
Parade Magazine, February 11, 1962.
While studying in the Holy Lands, a seminary professor of mine met a man who claimed to have memorized the Old Testament--in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. A few days late they sat together in the man's home. "Where shall we begin?" asked the man. "Psalm 1," replied my professor, who was an avid student of the psalms. Beginning with Psalm 1:1, the man began to recite from memory, while my professor followed along in his Hebrew Bible. For two hours the man continued word for word without a mistake as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, my professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man--he was an atheist! Here was someone who knew the Scriptures better than most Christians ever will, and yet he didn't even believe in God.
Jack Kuhatschek, Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, IVP, 1991, p. 16.