In the United States alone, around 900 million books are sold annually. This is a 25 billion dollar industry, a growing sector of the economy, despite the boom of technology and the evolution of ebooks and audiobooks. Only about 10 percent of book sales are in the ebook and audiobook category. Religious books and Bibles are the most popular adult book genre with 21 million sales on average.
As a follower of Christ and avid reader, I recently posed the following question to myself: Does God care about what I read? This is not a question with a mysterious answer. It may even fall solidly in the dumb question category, yet in striving to seek God first in all areas of my life, it is a question I need to ask.
Cultures and societies across the tapestry of history have given weight to written words. Books have become the target of governments and despotic rulers both past and present. If books can ignite violent and emotional responses, what good can they bring? What power do they wield? Scientific discovery and the expansion of knowledge all henge on mankind’s ability to record and communicate in written form. Our very longevity as a society in terms of governance rests on the written word. Our knowledge of healing and even what food sources are best are recorded in books. So, as a follower of Christ, what role should books play in the governance and health of my Christian walk?
God not only gave mankind the ability to read and write, but He also chose to record His inspired Word in written form. We are called to study God’s word. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To rightly handle God’s word I must have a deep knowledge of it. His Word is to be “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105 ESV. God’s word is a guide in life, I must be able to read it well. This leads us to the second point.
Developing literacy and sharing correct information requires the use of books. Books are a tool we can use to learn to read God’s Word for all its worth. God instilled within man the ability to read and write and we use books to teach ourselves how to read well. Teaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 12:6,7 ESV we read, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching.” Entire books of the Bible, 2 Peter and Jude, were even written just to combat false teachings. Long before Hamilton wrote to persuade and set the record straight about the virtues of a federal government, the early church leaders used the written word to persuade and clarify on who God is and what truth is.
Books are art. Writing is an artistic endeavor. We were given the capacity to experience and share art. God commanded Moses in Exodus 31 to incorporate artistic design into the tent that would house the ark of the covenant. In 1 Kings, Solomon included artistic frames in creating a temple for God. Yet some artists as recorded in Isaiah 40 chose to use their artistic ability to create idols. We too can twist the God-given ability to write and rather than creating works that glorify and honor God, we have the capacity to create written works filled with evil.
Be in the world, but not of the world. In teaching world literature, a Christian professor might require readings from Arabian Nights, The Odyssey, or Faust. These books do not ascribe to Christian morals or a worldview in line with honoring God. We must teach students how to identify and maintain a Godly worldview. The reading assignment becomes an exercise in conflict. Why do the promiscuity, murder, and abuse in these stories make me uncomfortable? It is because I believe in the teachings and objective truth of God’s Word. When we encounter worldviews in conflict with God’s truth, we engage in critical thinking and hold captive every thought. 2 Corinthians 10: 5 ESV We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
When faced with the opportunity to read secular works, we must first understand our role as critical thinkers. Then, we engage in the God-given ability to appreciate and share in the art of the written word. We expand our reading literacy and this helps in the reading of God’s word. Our ultimate aim is to read God’s word for all its worth.
Reading secular works is an exercise in critical thinking and an artistic pursuit that ultimately expands our ability to read and share the objective truth of God’s Word.