Solomon once wrote: “Of making many books there is no end…” (Eccl.12:12). I’m tempted to add: “Of the reading of many books there is no end either…” except that it wouldn’t be true – because one day I will read my last book and my reading will come to an end. Maybe Solomon didn’t get it quite right either – unless he knows something that I don’t: that there will be books written in God’s new creation. Maybe!
I was reflecting on this recently when I was reading a book that I didn’t particularly appreciate. I had bought it because I was familiar with the author and I thought it would be a good read. I was disappointed with the first couple of chapters but I kept reading in the hope that things would improve – they didn’t. But there’s some Dutch blood in me and I had paid for the book so I was determined not to waste my money. I persisted chapter after boring chapter. That is… until it suddenly hit me: would I rather waste precious hours of my life reading a book I didn’t appreciate or waste the $15 it cost me? Good question!
Good books are a great blessing. I thank God for the many authors whose books have helped shape my life. Everything from the Piet Prins stories about a dog named Scout (set in war-time Europe) that I read as a lad, to John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” that I read at theological college. My present library still has more than a thousand books despite my efforts to cull my collection. Some of them have covers that have become tattered by use; others are still waiting to be read. An older colleague (now passed on to glory) once told me the story of a grandson visiting him from interstate for the first time and standing open-mouthed in grand-dad’s study looking at all the books. The lad asked whether he had read them all. When my friend answered in the negative the boy looked very sad. “But grand-dad you’re already so old. You’ll probably die before you read all your books!” I can relate to that. My current estimate is that I will need to live to 125 in order to get through all my books.
I mention all this because in our highly visual culture there are many people who have only read the books that they were made to read when they were at school and university. They do not read for enjoyment; neither do they read to be informed or to have their minds stretched. Okay, I have to confess that I wasn’t always a reader. I have had to learn to appreciate books. However, it concerns me that coming generations are being brought up on text messaging (CU soon), sound bites on television, and the cryptic messages that we share on Facebook or Twitter. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realise that in the long term literacy is going to suffer.
All of this impacts us spiritually as well. It would be interesting to know how many adults in the church have never read the Bible from cover to cover. Books are important – but our most important book is God’s Book. Are we reading it for ourselves and reading it with our children – or have family devotions in your home become a thing of the past because we’re now having our instant meals in front of the television?
We also have today a wealth of resources and other books that will help us understand the Bible and assist us to face contemporary issues in a Christian way. But discernment is needed. I am appalled at some of the material that is on offer at the local Christian bookshop. Publishers continue to churn out stuff from popular authors even though their take on Scripture is highly questionable. Reality is that books are a money-making proposition. I recall Don Carson telling us at a lecture in Sydney some years ago that he was under great pressure to put out more books and that if he wrote a book about what he had for breakfast it would probably be published simply because it had his name on it.
My goal in this blog is to encourage you to get a book and read it. But I also want to encourage you to choose wisely. Above all we need to measure our books by God’s book – but to do that you also need to read your Bible.