December 23, 2013

What Monsieur Mangetout can teach about Bible reading

by Clint Archer

In preparation for my yearly resolution to read through the Bible (which often runs out of fuel at points and needs fresh motivation), I have begun to carbo-load on motivation by researching reading plans and getting poised for a good year of actually doing what I set out to do.


I usually make ten resolutions with the hope of keeping about four. My theory is that’s better than making none or making four and keeping one.

Anyway, I came across this funny Frenchman who inspired me to keep nibbling at my old Bible reading plan until it is done. His name is Monsieur Mangetout (pronounced mun-jê-toot), which is a sobriquet meaning “Mr Eats it All.”

His real name is Michel Lotito (1950-2007). He made his living by entertaining people who were fascinated by what he could stomach. He could and did consume huge quantities of indigestible material, including metal, glass, and rubber. (Though he complained that eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas made him ill.)

In his illustrious career Mangetout downed (these figures might seem hard to swallow, but I’m really not making any of this up) …

  • 18 bicycles
  • 15 shopping carts
  • 7 TV sets
  • 6 chandeliers
  • 2 beds
  • 1 pair of skis
  • 1 coffin
  • 400m of chain
  • and, I kid you not: 1 airplane

Yup, you read that right. Over a period of two years, he ate ground up portions of a Cessna 150, one kilogram (2.2 lbs) at a time.

Between 1959 and 1997 Mangetout ate nine tons (20,000 lbs) of metal. How did he accomplish such an amazing, albeit bizarre, feat? He simply took it one little piece at a time until he had addled his way through his goal. He also guzzled copious amounts of water, the occasional splash of olive oil to lubricate his gullet, and then he ground the object into manageable pieces, often mixed with other more user-friendly substances.

Reading the Bible can seem like eating a vehicle of unpalatable proportions. But keep the goal in mind: to know God’ will, to grow in maturity, to fuel sanctification, and to enjoy closer intimacy with your Savior. These are anything but unappetizing.

This is where the Mangetout model breaks down– I doubt he enjoyed his menu as much as he enjoyed being done with it.

Remember why you want to read the word. It’s is not  to plow through it, or wolf it down like a eating competition. We want to savor God;s revelation, and to really imbibe its precious wisdom and encouragement, and also to be edified by the challenges and exhortations to change.

Simply break the project into manageable, realistic chunks, and chew away unceasingly until you conquer your goal. Perhaps a deadline is too stifling. Just keep track of what you have read–be careful to vary the genres and serving-sizes–and eventually you will have digested all 66 books. 

And if you get discouraged that you have missed a few days or even weeks, just be thankful that (like metal, glass, and rubber) the word of God doesn’t go stale. You can just pick up where you left of and get back to your steady diet of healthy spiritual food.

Here are a couple of links for your consideration:

Bon appétit.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.