The Netflix vs. John MacArthur Commentary Challenge


I greatly sympathize with parents who struggle with personal Bible study. For some, there is so much to do in the day that not even a twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth hour would provide relief. For others, the cost of accessing quality study resources likes theology books and commentaries (beyond the plethora offered for free online) makes the in-depth study they crave cost-prohibitive. Perhaps some find both time and money to be obstacles that have hindered what might otherwise be a more vibrant time of study. But based on current trends, there may be a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Making the Least of Our Time

A fast-paced world has left us with little time for thoughtful reflection, especially for sitting in front of a text like the Bible that requires diligent and patient study. Sadly, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average adult spends less than a half hour (around twenty minutes) per day in “religious activity,” which would include not only personal Bible study, but any kind of volunteer activity in an organization like the local church. That number looks even worse when compared to “leisure and sport,” a category which is given over five hours per day of the average adult’s attention! Desperate for a solution, one study (which evaluated how “time rich” or “time poor” the average American is) revealed that there are a whopping 35,000 books available on Amazon aimed toward improving time management!

But it doesn’t appear that the time management books are working.

On the contrary, another recent news report indicates that the average person spends almost twice as much time watching Netflix as he or she does bonding with family members! In this report, Netflix provided data that its 117.58 million subscribers watch a collective 140 million hours of content on average per day—averaging out to 1 hour and 11 minutes per subscriber, per day. This is in contrast to the estimated 37 minutes per day that family members spend with one another per day!

I imagine that if the Netflix study was limited solely to Christians, the data could be noticeably better. But, whichever way you slice it, the Ephesians 5:16 principle of “making the most of our time” is probably still too far removed from even the average Christian’s everyday life. When it comes to Bible study, you may be tempted to say, “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.” But your Netflix data usage probably says otherwise.

No Money, No Problems?

To compound the problem, money is tight for many people, making a well-stocked library of biblical resources seem like nothing but a pipe dream. A report from two months ago indicates that the average American spends $164.55 per day, and having little to no savings. Again, Christians may or may not fare much better than those statistics, perhaps for a variety of reasons.

On that basis, many people might look at the 33-volume commentary set by Dr. John MacArthur—one of the greatest Bible commentary sets available, based on technical detail, devotional warmth, and theological accuracy—and think that its current $530 price tag is insurmountable. This New Testament commentary set is unparalleled in our day, being an absolute treasure chest of truth for those who study along with it. Yet, some might find the entire set an overwhelming purchase to contemplate.

But, when these two obstacles to Bible study—time and money—are put together, the problem and solution become much easier to identify. You know where this is going, right?

Subscription-based Bible Study

Many adults have little time for Bible study, and little discretionary income for purchasing helpful resources. Yet, adults are spending an exorbitant amount of time, and a recurring monthly cost, consuming subscription-based entertainment. The answer then becomes clear: by re-routing resources that are used on entertainment toward Bible commentaries, both problems are solved. Two birds, one stone.

  • Presently, the cost of a standard Netflix streaming + DVD plan is: $21/month ($13 for streaming, $8 for DVD rental).

  • Presently, the cost of an individual John MacArthur commentary is: $19/book (at the Grace To You website).

So here’s the question set before you: what if you took the funds spent on a monthly streaming plan, and the time spent on this form of entertainment, and repurposed both of those toward studying through the New Testament book by book with a John MacArthur commentary?

In other words, what if you canceled an entertainment service that has been robbing you of the time and money needed to learn God’s Word thoroughly and accurately, and instead treated Bible study like a monthly subscription-based plan? With recent news that Netflix and other media giants have come out in strong support for the murder of unborn children, many Christians are already second-guessing where their limited time and hard-earned money are going—so you may have even more motivation to carry this out than you otherwise would.

Every month, you could select a book of the New Testament that you’d like to learn in-depth, purchase the related John MacArthur commentary, and study it each day based on MacArthur’s own study method. The next month, you could select another New Testament book, and repeat. There’s simply no way to describe the difference this would make in the life of you and your family.

So, consider yourself challenged.