A Literate People Group

Posted on: 
August 24, 2023

Why we care that they learn to read

Thousands of years ago, God had an important message for His people, and He did not want them to forget it! We call it the Law. God gave that Law not only with a thunderous voice, but with tablets of stone; not only orally, but with instructions that the whole message be written down. In this way, God ensured that the Law was transmitted faithfully and accurately: what God had said is what they read. And it is what we read today, translated to our language.

Writing it down also preserved God’s message. When the people did forget God’s law because they were unfaithful to God, His message was still preserved. Hundreds of years later in the midst of King Josiah’s temple-cleaning project, Hilkiah the high priest finds a scroll. He delivers it to Shaphan the scribe: “Look! We found the scroll. We found the Law of the LORD!” They read it, and Josiah is stirred to further action.

Because God’s law was written down, it was preserved. And when they found it, God’s people who had forgotten His way knew God’s will once again!

Now, a question. In the jungles of South America—or on an island in the South Pacific—lives a remote and illiterate, but intelligent, people group. What would these people do if they discovered a book with God’s words in it?

Or a more pertinent question: What will they do when the book of God’s Word is translated into their language?

Maybe a few will try hard, stumble through, and get a little of the idea, at least the gist of what is being said. But many would not even attempt to read it. They’re illiterate, having never learned to read in their own language.

So what’s to be done if the Bible is translated into their language which they can’t read?

Well, an audio version of the Bible should be recorded, right? Yes, and it certainly will be! But there are many benefits of having access to written text and being able to read it. Think, for example, of how often you quickly look up a reference and skim the content. Also, Scripture text available digitally can be searched.

Really, illiteracy is simply a form of ignorance. It limits creative expression and learning, and becomes a disadvantage in interacting with the rest of the world—which even the remotest peoples increasingly need to do. There are plenty of others ready to take advantage of their inability to read and write.

Literacy, we feel, is crucial to planting sustainable churches. Here’s why:

  1. Literacy embodies the lesson that, yes, God has endowed them with abilities to learn and develop just like any other people. He is a good and impartial God.
  2. Literacy expands their world as they learn new, creative ways of expressing and exploring ideas through writing and reading.
  3. Literacy opens God’s Word to them. As individuals and as a new church, with full access to God’s Word they seek His will and learn to know and follow Him together.

—Aaron Crider

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10