2019 TMS Challenge: The “Word Hand” Illustration

As we begin this journey through the Topical Memory System, we might ask “why memorize Scripture?”

To answer that question, we need to start by emphasizing that the discipline of Scriptural Intake is vitally important to the Christian. Scripture is the test of all of our faith teaching (see 2 Tim 3:16 and Acts 17:11). Moreover, we are commanded to abide by its teachings and to have let God’s message dwell in us (Jn 8:31; Deut 6:6; Col 3:16).

What does memorization have to do with this?

One illustration I have always appreciated is the Navigators Ministry’s “Word Hand.” It illustrates the five aspects to getting a firm grasp of Scripture. The image below and text in italics describing it is from the Word Hand tool on the Navigators’ website.


Hearing the Word from pastors and teachers provides fresh insight into the Scriptures. The weakest finger—the pinkie— represents hearing, because we retain only 5 percent of what we hear (see Rom 10:17).

Reading gives us an overview of the Bible and is the foundation of a daily quiet time. This is represented by the ring finger. We generally retain 15 percent of what we read (see Revelation 1:3).

Studying the Scriptures deepens our convictions. It requires greater time and effort but results in increased Bible knowledge. Most people retain 35 percent of what they study. This is represented by the middle finger (see Acts 17:11).

Memorizing God’s Word enables us to use the Sword of the Spirit to overcome temptations and to have verses readily available for ministering to others. The index finger, our strongest finger, represents memorization. We remember 100 percent of what we memorize if we consistently review it (see Psalm 119:9–11).

Meditation is the inward process that accompanies each of the other four methods of Scripture intake. This is why meditation is assigned to the thumb. Only the thumb can touch all the other four fingers. By meditating on God’s Word as we hear, read, study, and memorize, we discover its transforming power at work in us (Psalm 1:2-3).

Another way to use this illustration is by trying to hold your Bible up with just one or two fingers. It’s a bit tricky. With three or four, you might be able to do it a bit better. But until you really get all four fingers and the thumb working together, you’ll never have a firm grasp.

Here’s a prayer as we continue forward in this journey:

Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who gave us the Scriptures, commands us to drink them in, and promises that those who meditate on them day and night will be blessed. Please give us the strength and endurance for this journey as we memorize and meditate upon your words. We pray this all in the confidence of your Spirit and the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

So, are you ready for the next step in this journey? Please share your thoughts, your concerns, your needs, and your insights in the comments below!


One thought on “2019 TMS Challenge: The “Word Hand” Illustration

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  1. I love the analogy of the hand and the integral functions of the fingers. I never thought about how important the thumb (meditation) was when it came to studying God’s Word. Maybe that is as far as I ever went was to “study”, like I studied for a test in school. I Heard the teacher in class, I Read the text book, I Studied at home and I Memorized formulas. All this work got me some good grades but I wasn’t a Workman of that subject, I was just a student. Until we apply the thumb we are only students.

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