Retiring Old Swords
I hate to throw anything away. If I can find a reason to salvage something, I will.
My measure of garbage is not the same as most ‘normal’ people. My work for years was in garbage disposal services, and the inconsiderate wastefulness of the average American household just appalled me (still does). The ‘standard of living’ most people enjoy is based upon the amount of money they can waste to maintain an image.
But throwing away re-useful things is just one side of affluent vice. Hoarding things that you hope to fix up one day is just as bad. So, every now and then on a cool spring morning my wife will ask the inevitable question: “How long are you going to hang on to THAT?”
One such hoarded item is old Bibles that have been given to me. Usually, they are donated by folks doing THEIR spring cleaning. And though most people have no problem throwing things away, when they come across their ‘Baby’s First Bible’ or a dog-eared New Testament they picked up at a thrift store, they freeze mid-pitch, thinking: “Wait, isn’t it WRONG to throw away a Bible?”
Now there is a LOT of lore about how you should treat a Bible. We can’t address all those in this post, but perhaps in the future we will look at what God says about handling His Book. However, it is because of these misconceptions that people think it’s ‘taboo’ to ever dispose of a Bible.
As a matter of fact, it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean there is not a better way to treat God’s Book.
When we are talking about throwing away a 'Bible,' please understand there is only ONE Bible that deserves the reverence we will recommend: the King James Bible. All the other English translations are frauds. Don't believe it? Compare your version with the KJV using this list from Vake Biblia. No sane, truth-loving, God-fearing Christian should have any hesitation about pitching, burning, burying, shredding, lining their birdcage, etc. any modern version (1881-present). THEY ARE NOT THE WORDS OF GOD.
Surely, if we are to render “honor to whom honor” is due, we ought to pay attention to the Bible that we use and read daily.
A Tip From Old Glory
The effort of properly retiring a Bible is reflected in the honor that an American citizen ought to pay to retire the Stars and Stripes, our nation’s flag. Disrespect for the colors is a symptom of a more sinister rebellion towards parents, their person, and the Scriptures. The casual use of U.S. flags on detestable articles such as socks and beer cans is not the American way.
In 2008, the U.S. Congress republished a booklet outlining the etiquette for proper use and display of the American flag, as well as its retirement:
“When a flag is worn beyond repair, it should be retired in a dignified manner. To do so the flag is raised and saluted, then lowered and folded. As it is folded, the leader (usually in uniform- Scouts, Military, VFW, Legion, etc.) will state, “This flag has served its nation well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent our nation. We pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered.” The folded flag can then be burned, or another accepted manner is to first cut the flue field of stars from the red and white stripes, then cut the stripes apart as well, thereby rendering it no longer a flag. The resulting pieces of cloth are then burned in one or two separate fires (stripes first) that are used only for the flag retirement ceremony.
The pieces of cloth should be thoroughly burned so that nothing is left that is recognizable as a flag. The ashes should be scattered or buried. In many communities, organizations… have ceremonies to retire flags on June 14th- Flag Day.”The American Flag (approved by the U.S. House of Representatives)
Adapting from this section and applying it to the Holy Bible:
"This Bible has served its reader well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We pay honor to this Bible for the service it has rendered."
Although it’s not a sin to throw away a Bible, may I proffer 10 better ideas to nobly retire Old Swords (Ephesians 6) when they are too worn for use.
1. Make it a family heirloom
If the Bible in question came from a close relative, this may help you and future generations remember what the Book did for you. A shadow-box hanging frame will make a memorable display in your home.
2. Gift pages with memorable passages or markings
Like my grandmother’s Bible, significant events are often marked in a personal Copy. Perhaps you too have recorded a wedding, a funeral, an anniversary, or a prayer answered. O what treasures are hidden inside the cover of many a praying parent’s Bible! It may turn some cold heart warm again to hold the page that held a promise for them.
3. Rebind it
“And he hath given it [the sword] to be furbished, that it may be handled:”Ezekiel 21:11a
Some would think refurbishing should be first, but if your old KJV is truly WORE OUT, then this option will not work for you. However, IF you can still read it and IF you have all the pages, chances are you can find a craftsman to put a fresh binding to it.
There are many options online, but you may be surprised what you can find locally. Ask around the antique shops or at a privately owned bookstore- it will surely provide a witnessing opportunity!
4. “Lend” it to a new convert
“A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth:”Psalm 112:5a
This is a great idea, especially for children, but also for teens and adults who are learning to be responsible with the Book that will change their life. Of course, you would not want to give a DISMEMBERED Copy away- this idea is best for complete, functioning Bibles only.
I encourage you to use the idea of ‘lending’ a Bible, even though you may never see it again. If you give a Bible away, it seems cheap because it is free. A lent Bible carries the earthly weight of responsibility which may help develop a sense of heavenly stewardship.
During Bible College, my visitation partner and I both led individuals to Christ and then gave them the actual Bible they prayed over to get saved. Glorious privilege! (However, we were being graded on the notes in those Bibles, so we had to start over from scratch. It was worth the extra work.)
5. Donate it to a thrift store
Suggested by Pastor Steve Leathley of Bible Baptist Church– Many thrift stores will not only take used Bibles, but they’ll display and give them away for free. If you do not know someone personally to give it to, this will widen the possibility of a person finding it who will use it.
6. Dedicate it for the study
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God…”2 Timothy 2:15a
When pages start to fly, maybe it is time to park it in the hangar. A fragile Bible is no good for street work but fit for the desk at work or home. True is the quote attributed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to a person who isn’t.”
Additionally, notes can be copied; memories are not so easy to transfer. The manuscript of your Bible may be blotted with tears of joy or conviction, good emotions to remember. Even the memories we’d rather forget are sanctified sorrows when framed on the backdrop of Holy words.
7. Furnish a jail library
Dickinson Cattle Company general manager Darol Dickinson recommended this excellent use. Again I will restate that you would not want to give a Bible in tatters for use this way, but if you perchance had an EXTRA one- this would keep it from gathering dust. Inmates are constantly looking for something to read to pass the days; many of them will turn to God’s word for the first time.
- Word to the wise: most jails or prisons frown upon books that are hardbacked, have staples, or have long-stitch binding. These types of materials often are misused. Paper back, glue-bound Testaments are the best bet for getting in and getting used properly.
8. Utilize the pages for memorizing
“Thy word have I hid in my heart…”Psalm 119:11a
Persecuted Christians from around the world tell us of even good Bibles being dissected for this use. When Scriptures are scarce, (or worse, illegal) dedicated pastors have been known to cut a Bible into its 66 parts and distribute them for easy concealment. After one portion has been memorized, it is exchanged with another believer’s portion so that it may then be memorized. This way, 66 people use one Copy in a creative rotation to commit the whole to memory.
For your old Bible that will no longer stay in your hands, what better honor could be done than for it to find a place in your heart? Take a page, fold it up and place it in your pocket or wallet. Then, every chance you get, pull it out and read it. As it fades out (and it will), you will be challenged to fill in the blanks from memory. You may be shocked at how MUCH you can remember!
9. Turn it into a book safe
This I would only recommend if the pages are beyond reading (like water damage, ink bleeding, or large amount of pages missing) AND it is hard back bound. Since this requires destroying the Book’s readability but not the cover, it changes the function of the Book as a book. For a handy guide to converting a book into a safe, click here.
10. Prepare it for a Tribulation survivor
After the catching away of 1 Thessalonians 4, catastrophic events will happen quickly and regularly. We have the privilege now of taking casual notes on these terrible prophecies, without any real worry. For someone who missed the Rapture, those cross-references in Revelation from adult Sunday school will be EXTREMELY valuable.
Use a sticky note, or a 3×5 card to bookmark relevant places. The top 3 places I would mark are Matthew 24, James 1, and Daniel 11. (We’ll hope that they know at least enough to turn to Revelation 6, but that would by my #4) There are many other passages relevant to the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) but these will help them know what to do to be saved.
11. Keep it anyway
My first Bible was a Gideon hardback. It’s like the one in the title picture. I’ve had many reasons to get rid of it, but I’ve had many more to keep it. Recently, just admiring it on the shelf prompted this list on Spiritual Reload; who knows what it will provoke next?
Guidelines for Final Retirement
The following are suggestions of actually disposing of a Bible that cannot be reused or repurposed. These resemble the way outlined by the U.S. Flag Code to retire a flag: it must be performed with dignity and respect.
A. Do not just toss it in a trash can
This strikes me as indignant as well as ignorant. People give more respect to a pet passed away than they do to the Holy Book that gave them everlasting life. Whatever you decide to do, let it be distinct from how you handle common garbage.
I repeat, it is not a sin to throw away a worn-out, torn-up Bible. But the better way is to choose a distinctive method for retiring it. Referencing our national ensign, burning is the preferable send off for ‘Old Glory’ according to the U.S. Flag Code. Burying is an alternate, acceptable method also. (Recycling is also encouraged with flags, but contrary to Scriptural use, repurposing is not.)
B. Have a ceremony
Whether at your church or in your living room, have a moment to reflect on when you got the Bible, how long it’s been with you, and why it is finally time to retire it. Gather your family, and make it a teachable moment. You do not need a 45 minute service, but 5 minutes to stop in retrospect will help you personally and spiritually.
A special day will help commemorate the effect of this Special Volume. National Bible Week was commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941 as the week starting with the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day until the Sunday after. This is a good time to openly honor the Book that taught us how and why to give thanks.
C. Review the list (1-10) and see if there’s ANY way you could possibly repurpose it.
Robert Jermain Thomas (1839-1866) was a pioneer missionary to the nation of Korea, known in the 19th century as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’. He worked on translating and distributing Bibles to the closed country. He accompanied crates of Bibles shipped to Korea aboard an American trading ship, the General Sherman. When the covetous crew incited the Koreans, the ship is attacked with a burning boat, and Thomas was killed along with the rest of the crew on September 5, 1866.
1890. Nearly 24 years after the General Sherman disaster, Samuel Moffett arrived in Korea as a missionary. There he met eye-witnesses to the battle, who described a man on the burning boat, throwing Bibles overboard and shouting, “Jesus!” One of the Bibles is kept by a Korean who was convicted by Thomas’ courage as he died. That Bible was used as a wallpaper trophy in the house of the governor, and many Koreans who later read those pages became believers themselves.
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”Ecclesiastes 11:1
(Disclaimer: I do not endorse wallpapering your house with Scripture pages.)
D. Disassemble the parts of the Bible, so that it can no longer be called a Bible before disposal.
Separate the Old from the New Testament, the cover from the binding. This is also how flags are formally prepared for destroying.
E. Do not use it to deliver the ‘black spot’ to your pirate buddy.
No matter how tempting. Find something else to write on. Wittier words were never spoken than those of Long John Silver:
“Look here, now; this ain’t lucky! You’ve gone and cut this out of a Bible. What fool’s cut a Bible?”Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson.
If this crossed your mind, you may want check letter (C.) one more time. Happy Memorial Day.
Do you have more ideas for retiring an old Bible? Leave a comment below and let us know!