Fifteen Years of Manual Labor: How Much Is Your Bible Worth?

In Genesis, Moses records the way that Jacob spent fourteen years winning (read: paying for) the love of his life, Rachel.  In those days, it cost men a pretty penny to win the hand of their brides.  Yet, because of his love for Rachel, Genesis 29:20 says that the first seven years “seemed to him but a few days.” Likewise, Jacob agreed to the next seven years of manual labor, even after they were deceptively thrown upon him.

How long would you be willing to serve for the love of your life?  Or to turn the question from marriage to God’s mercy, how long would you work in order to have in your hands a copy of God’s word?

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word

This is a question that the English-speaking world cannot even begin to understand.  We pawn off Bibles at Goodwill’s and have no fear or remorse when a Bible is lost or left in the rain.  I know that the Bible in its inscripturated form is not sacrosanct, but I do think the commonality of the Bible blinds us to the ravishing truth of Psalm 19:10-11.

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

God’s word is priceless.  It is more valuable than the crown jewels; it is an infinite investment whose value never plummets and always promises to deliver. Yet, existentially, we still struggle to feel this value because the pages of God’s word are everywhere. Where can we go for help?

How Missionary History Reappraises Our Value of the Bible

One place we can find help for properly valuing the Bible is church history and the stories of missionaries bringing the Bible into foreign lands who do not have the priceless word of God.  This week I came across such a story in John Paton’s autobiography, John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides.

I hope you will take the time to read the following anecdote and marvel at the how the people of Aneityum (in the South Pacific) labored fifteen years to raise the necessary funds for the Bible.  Surely, these earnest men and women were spurred on by the same joy and anticipation that gripped Jacob.  In that time, many who endeavored to see the Bible printed in their languaged perished in the pursuit, but oh the joy for those who labored for a decade and a half to get the Bible in their own hands.

These poor Aneityumese, having glimpses of this Word of God, determined to have a Holy Bible in their own mother tongue, wherein before no book or page ever had been written in the history of their race. The consecrated brain and hand of the Missionaries kept toiling day and night in translating the book of God; and the willing hands and feet of the Natives kept toiling through fifteen long but unwearying years, planting and preparing arrowroot to pay the £1,200 required to be laid out in the printing and publishing of the book.

Year after year the arrowroot, too sacred to be used for their daily food, was set apart as the Lord’s portion; the Missionaries sent it to Australia and Scotland, where it was sold by private friends, and the whole proceeds consecrated to this purpose. On the completion of the great undertaking by the Bible Society, it was found that the Natives had earned so much as to pay every penny of the outlay; and their first Bibles went out to them, purchased with the consecrated toils of fifteen years!

Some of our friends may think that the sum was large; but I know, from experience, that if such a difficult job had been carried through the press and so bound by any other printing establishment, the expense would have been greater far. One book of Scripture, printed by me in Melbourne for the Aniwans at a later day, under the auspices of the Bible Society too, cost eight shillings per leaf, and that was the cheapest style; and this the Aniwans also paid for by dedicating their arrowroot to God.

Fifteen years.  Utterly astounding.  It should inspire us to reconsider the value of our Bibles.  Here is Paton’s pastoral charge:

Let those who lightly esteem their Bibles think on those things. Eight shillings for every leaf, or the labour and proceeds of fifteen years for the Bible entire, did not appear to these poor converted Savages too much to pay for that Word of God, which had sent to them the Missionaries, which had revealed to them the grace of God in Christ, and which had opened their eyes to the wonders and glories of redeeming love! (77-78)

Father, may we who are surrounded by your word never forget how priceless each page is.  May we invest our lives in the Scriptures and labor to make them know to the ends of the earth, so that those who do not have them would not have to wait decades before receiving them.  God gives us heart that love your word more than life itself (Ps 63:3).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Lottie Moon: Further Reading

For Further Reading

Much of the information, anecdotes, and theological considerations in these blog posts about Lottie Moon have come from Tom Nettles eminently helpful chapter on Lottie Moon. Fuller treatments can be found in Catherine Allen’s book and Keith Harper’s edited volume of Lottie’s personal letters and memoirs.  Daniel Akin also preached a sermon on Lottie Moon at SEBTS, and it has been transcribed in his little book, Five Who Changed the World.

If you know of other good resources, please let me know.


Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, 2nd Ed. (Birmingham, AL: Women’s Missionary Union, 1980).

Lottie Moon, Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, ed. Keith Harper (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2002)


Daniel L. Akin, “The Power of a Consecrated Life: The Ministry of Lottie Moon” in Five Who Changed the World (Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 57-80.

Tom Nettles, “Lottie Moon (1840-1912)” in The Baptists: Key People Involved In Forming a Baptist Identity, Vol. 2 (Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2005), 363-94.


Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Lottie Moon: Her Upbringing and Education

Each year at Christmas, Southern Baptists turn their attention to the nations and raise funds for the missionaries sent out by the International Mission Board.  The giving campaign is named after Lottie Moon, an inspirational missionary to China in the nineteenth century.  Many know the story of Lottie Moon, but many do not.  So for the next few days, I am going to recount a number of the key turning points in her exemplary life.  A life worth consideration and imitation (Hebrews 13:7).


Lottie Moon was born on December 12, 1840 to Edward Harris and Anna Maria Barclay. Raised in a large, wealthy family, Lottie Moon grew up as a child of the old South.  Her uncle had purchased the estate of Thomas Jefferson, and she grew up in a home built by a friend of George Washington.  As one biographer reports, “The Moons had money, children (11 born, 7 survived to adulthood), servants (52 in all), and kept a tutor in the home for languages and classical literature” (Tom Nettles, The Baptists, 2:363).

But there is one significant difference: Lottie Moon was not the least bit interested in religion as a child.  Despite all her earthly advantages, including a religious father, she was a devilish little girl.  And when I say little… she only grew to be 4’ 3”.

To give you a sense of the Christianity she rejected: Her father was originally a Presbyterian, but he became a Baptist when he studied the Scriptures to fight the growing Campbellite movement—this is the religious movement that resulted in the Christian Church, as we know it today.  In other words, to resist the teaching of baptismal regeneration, he searched the Scriptures in order to retain his views on infant baptism, and the result was a conversion to the Baptist faith.  Sounds a lot like Adoniram Judson.

With his change of theology on baptism, Edward Moon became a founding member of the Scottsville Baptist Church.  He was a faithful member and a lifelong deacon.  This would be the church where Lottie Moon would grow up.

Further aversion to her parent’s Christianity can be seen in Lottie’s Sunday habits. In the Moon household, in order to preserve the Sabbath, the Moon’s would prepare all their meals on Saturday.  However, this never suited Lottie.  Instead of attending church, she would sneak off, return to their large home and prepare a meal for herself before the family returned.   She was by her own admission a ‘naughty’ girl.  And as she aged this did not change.  It only worsened.

So for the first 18 years of Lottie’s life, she was an object of wrath and one who violently opposed the faith of her father.


In 1853, at the age of 13, her father died on a business trip.  But instead of jarring her into faith, she kept aloof.  One year later, at age 14, Lottie was enrolled in the Virginia Female Institute (Albemarle, VA).  She proved to be a good student, especially in literature and foreign languages.  But she skipped chapel 26 times in the last two quarters.  While Lottie possessed a love for learning, she despised all sorts of religious instruction.

In an essay written on Grecian Literature, she wrote, “man’s intellectual powers have ever been the theme and study of the wise” (Nettles 364).  For the unconverted Lottie, wisdom was not found in Christ but in literature and classical studies. Tom Nettles writes about her,

For Lottie, “Sunday, unlike home, was not for sitting in a church pew hearing a sermon but for lying in a haystack reading Shakespeare.  Her friends, not unprovoked by Lottie’s attitudes, considered her a skeptic.  She even insisted that the ‘D’ in her name stood for ‘devil’ instead the family name ‘Digges’ (365).

In fact, Lottie would even sign off on her poetry with the pseudonym, “Deville.”  A play on words for the word ‘devil.’  All in all, no one would have suspected that Lottie Moon would be missionary hero that she is today.

Lottie’s life reinforces the truths outlined in the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Matt 19).

  • Discipleship is not based on what we bring to Christ, it is what he gives to us.
  • Discipleship is not based on our intellect or understanding.  It is based on our faith in Christ.  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6), and without a daily life of faith it is impossible to be the disciple that God calls us to be.
  • In truth, God is not looking for attractive people.  He is looking for people who are simply Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  God gladly uses anyone who is sold out for him.

In the case of Lottie Moon, it would take a miracle of God to change her heart of stone, into a heart of flesh, and thankfully that is exactly what happened at the end of 1858.

More tomorrow.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss