Have you ever wondered what Colossians 3:16 meant when it said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”?
A couple of translations and one commentary connected “rich” to the “Word of Christ,” indicating that God’s Word is rich, and we should let it dwell in us. It is, and we should.
However, most translations phrase the verse so that “richly” modifies “dwell.” In fact, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, the Greek word translated “richly” is an adverb meaning “Richly, abundantly, copiously.”
So how do we let God’s Word dwell “richly, abundantly, copiously” in us?
One former pastor put it this way. When a guest of honor comes to your home, what do you do? You “roll out the red carpet” for them. You give them the best bed, the best room. You bring out the guest towels and dishes that you save for company. You make your best recipes. You generally set aside your normal pursuits to some degree to spend time with that person.
In these days of more casual entertaining, you might not have special dishes or towels for guests, and you might have everyone work together on the meal and the clean-up. Still, you make some accommodations for a guest. You don’t generally put them in a drafty back room with a lumpy mattress where the Wifi doesn’t reach. You don’t invite someone over and then ignore them. You don’t go about your business and then bump into them in the hallway and act surprised: “Oh! I didn’t know you were here. Carry on.” Well, you might if one of your children’s friends came over unexpectedly.
What do most who come to your home value? Time, the hardest thing to give. As lovely as special table settings, wonderful food, and a well-appointed guest room are, they all fall a little flat if the hostess is constantly flitting about taking care of details. As Martha learned, Jesus cared more about her time, attention, and open heart than what was on the menu.
So how do we let the Word of God dwell richly with us? First of all, notice the word “dwell.” The Bible isn’t just a special guest who comes to visit once a year. It stays, lives in, abides in, inhabits us. Jesus spoke of His words abiding in us. God often tells people in the Bible to meditate, think over, chew on, His Word. You can’t think on what you don’t know. That meant they had to have read or heard it enough to mull over a piece of it at a time.
So we don’t treat God’s Word as a once- or twice-a-year visitor. We let it abide, dwell with us. That involves spending time with it. As we’ve discussed before, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours a day reading and studying it. Some days and seasons of life allow for more time than others, but we try to give it some time most days. We try to give it the best time of our day when we can get the most out of it rather than the leftovers of our day. One of my mottoes regarding the Bible is any time spent with it is better than nothing. So there may be busy, weary days when we fit it in whatever spare moments we can find. But as much as we can, we make room and time for the Bible.
And then, throughout the day, we think about it. That might involve listening to Christian music, sermons, Christian radio or podcasts. Or it might involve just thinking. John O’Malley suggests in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles that we jot down on a 3 x 5 card something that stood out to us during our Bible reading, and then set the card where we can see it through the day and think over it.Some people have memory verse cards they’ll go over when their hands are busy but their minds are free.
Many mental health experts recommend getting away from the constant barrage of information available through our phones and computers, especially when so many agitated opinions are flung about. Instead of automatically checking our phones, we could spend those minutes reading the Bible or thinking about what we read earlier.
Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
What’s the result of this rich dwelling we give God’s Word? Colossians 3:16 continues: “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When we fill up on God’s Word, we spill over into serving others and worshiping God. Psalm 1 goes on to say that the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” When we’re filled with God’s Word, we have a continual source of nourishment.
If our service seems lifeless and forced, our worship barren, our inner spirit dry and withered, we probably need some time letting God’s Word dwell richly in us.
What are some ways you let God’s Word dwell richly with you?
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In these days of fiery news and heightened anxiety, this post offers timely wisdom. Barbara, I always appreciate your thinking.
Thanks so much, Michele
I love thinking of the phrase “dwell richly.” It does make sense that richly modifies dwell. I like the idea that this can involve “just” thinking. Sometimes it gets overwhelming thinking we should get another devotional, listen to another podcast, etc. Spending quiet time mentally with God is a way I love to “dwell richly.”
That’s so true–there are so many good books, podcasts, etc., that it seems like we should cram as many in as we can–yet if we don’t have time to think through and process them, we’re shortchanged on what we could be getting out of them.
I love the idea of rolling out the red carpet for God. If anyone deserves it, it’s him! And giving time is indeed one of the hardest things to give. When I give my time to someone, it’s truly an act of love. How much more important to give it to God.
Giving time is one of the hardest things for me, too. I had not thought of it as an act of love, but that helps.
Barbara, I love this examination of the verse from Colossians. Treating God as an honored guest in our house (and our lives), giving Him the best of everything, and making sure we spend plenty of time with Him makes so much sense. I have always liked the word “abundance” associated with God. He is indeed the God of abundance.
Thank you, Laurie. May we always give Him the honored place in our lives and time and attention.
This is a great post, Barbara! It’s good to consider how we let God’s Word dwell in us. For me one of the main ways is music. Listening to worship songs or songs that speak truth about God is one way to stick his truth in my mind and help me carry it into the day.
Me, too. Somehow, setting truth to music is a good way to remember and think about it.
As you were talking about hospitality and guests and cooking – and your definition of “richly” – “Richly, abundantly, copiously” – it made me think of soaking – like soaking fruit in flavoring and how it permeates the entire fruit! You are right – it we need to pull the word in, not as a visitor who doesn’t belong always, but as one who lives 24/7 with us!
Soaking is a good concept. Thank you!
I love to dwell in God’s word. It seems everytime I do He speaks to me in a new way. The Bible really is where to find all of the answers we need. Thanks for sharing your insight. Pinned for later too!
Thank you, and amen to your comments!
This was such a good read – gentle nourishment for the soul. Thank you for the reminder to spend quality time in God’s word and it doesn’t always have to be hours but to give it the best time of our day and meditate on it.
Thank you, Wemi! I think we get caught up in the process and method of spending time in the Bible and forget that it’s about the relationship.
In this political climate? Romans 8.28 Isaiah 26.3 and so many others!
Barb, wondering if my original comment posted.
Yes, it’s there. Thank you! I have it set so I approve comments before they post, so there’s a bit of delay.
Dwelling does take time! I tend to think I can do it quickly, and this illustration of a guest is so helpful! Thanks!
Thank you, Bethany. We can easily get caught up in the mechanics and forget the relationship.
Gaining an understanding of how much we need God’s Word usually changes our perspective. God’s Word is life. Thanks for this reminder. Many blessings to you!
Thanks so much, Boma!
Amen! I’ve always thought of the Bible as rich, dark chocolate. It must be savored in small portions and enjoyed in peace and silence to really taste the flavors and enjoy them.
I love that word savor–how we need to linger and savor God’s Word.
Inspiring words. Thank you for this reminder!
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