How many times have you heard pastors and other church leaders say this: "The Bible is the owner's manual for life"? I've heard that description for the bible many times in various church settings. The sentiment is nice, and there is a grain of truth in this statement.
The logic goes like this: We are created in God's image. The bible is God's written word preserved for us. Nobody knows us better than our Creator. Therefore, if we have a problem that needs resolving, we should turn to God's word because he knows better than we do what we need.
That, as I've said, is a nice sentiment, and I agree with all of the premises and the conclusion of the the logic train presented above. However, that being said, the imagery of an "owner's manual" isn't the most flattering image around. As I reflected on this cliche, I got to thinking of all the owner's manuals I've owned. For example, I have an owner's manual for my car. Do you know how many times I've consulted it? Maybe twice in the four years I've owned my car. Do how many times I've read the owner's manual devotionally? None. Do you know how many times I've read the owner's manual from cover to cover? None. Do you know where I keep my owner's manual? In my glove compartment.
The bottom line is this: I only consult the owner's manual for my car when I am having a problem with my car. Even then, I only read the parts I need to read to help resolve the particular issue I am having. When I'm done, the owner's manual goes back in the glove box. The same can be said for the various other owner's manuals I own (e.g., refrigerator, TV, computer, etc.). There is absolutely no reason for me to read the owner's manual unless I am trying to fix a specific problem.
When you get right down to it, to call the bible the "owner's manual of life" cheapens the bible. This little cliche, harmless as it may seem on the surface, is yet another example of the unintended consequences of American Evangelicalism that seeks to make Christianity accessible to the unbeliever, but instead ends up cheapening the things of God.
The bible IS NOT the owner's manual for life. The bible is the very word of God — the inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God. It is the story of God's plan of redemption culminating in the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. The bible is not something you consult solely when you have a problem. As the Apostle Paul says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).