“But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and the excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”—–Ecclesiastes 12:12
Books, books, and more books. With the rise of the printing press all the way to today with ebooks, we have access to so much to read, literally, at our finger tips. We can read many things across an enormous spectrum for enjoyment as well as for education. And even within the Christian world there are many books from many different perspectives all claiming to talk about real faith. It seems that almost everyone in full time ministry has either written, is currently writing, or is planning on writing a book. But do we really need all these books??
Let me start off by saying that not all books in and of themselves are bad. There can be much that we can benefit from by reading what others have written. Within the proper context, books can help us to learn, grow, and challenge our faith in God. Books can help shed light on what the Bible says, give us historical background, and explain doctrine and theology in a way that helps us to have a deeper understanding of God and Scripture. However, books have now become such a major stumbling block to the point they are now used to replace the Bible itself.
What I think has happened is that many believe and have learned that the Bible is too difficult to understand alone. Therefore it is commonplace for people to find other books and writings to tell us about the Bible and Christianity instead of wrestling through what God wants us to know. People also turn to pastors, teachers, and others as primary sources to help make sense of their beliefs outside of the Bible itself. And in doing so, people end up putting their trust in others to tell them what they should believe about faith, the Bible, and theology, among other things.
As churches we have failed. Not just kinda failed, but utterly failed. We continue to fail every day that we don’t disciple and train up people to know how to study the Bible themselves and learn to apply it to their lives. Rather than teaching people how to become self-nourishers and to be able to own their own faith based solely upon the Word, churches have promoted and endorsed books as the primary means for people to come to and grow in their faith.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at churches and ministries all around us. It is difficult to find those that don’t use and encourage people to be reading the “latest” book by so-and-so. Take a look at the sermons today. It is even harder to find those truly preaching the Bible, let alone not talking about or quoting from some book they have found. Not only that, but it often doesn’t matter if the book is truly Christian or not. We get told that we can learn a lot about “christianity” and our own “journey” if we read the works of secular novels, other faiths, and the like. How far we have drifted from the Truth!!
The lie we have been told is that in order to keep people engaged, not falling asleep, or bored we must compromise the careful and intentional reading and studying the Bible and make it more “attractive” for the “common” man. But hey, why not when books are “more exciting” and more “relevant” to me today?? The simple reason is that there is absolutely no replacing time spent in God’s Word for anything else. There is no excuse.
When it is thought that a fallen man’s words are more important than God’s we are in deep trouble. And we are in deep trouble. People have become so Biblically illiterate to the point they have no clue about real Christianity or God Himself. People have trusted and put their faith so much into books and others that they can’t discern whether something is truly Biblical because it sounds “christian”. We now have a generation, or even generations, of people dependent upon others to tell them about the Bible rather learning, growing, and taking ownership for knowing the Lord, through His Word, alone.
In Ecclesiastes 12 it talks about writing and reading an endless amount of books. There is a huge trap in being consumed in reading book after book. What it seems to imply is that we can fill ourselves with such great knowledge and learn about so many things, it ends up taking our focus off the truth of God, His Word, and living out our faith; even if claiming to teach us about faith.
As pastors, leaders in ministry, and fellow believers we must be careful that we teach people to know how to read, study, and learn the Bible for themselves. The passing off of other books and their quotes as a means of primary growth in faith must stop. If people aren’t spending time reading and studying through all the Bible, then reading any other book is meaningless. All it does is teach people to create their own faith based upon what they pick and choose from all the things they read or hear rather than the one true faith we are taught in Scripture.
If you find you are part of a church that is replacing the Bible more and more by catchy sermons and spending more time quoting from and endorsing books rather than proclaiming God’s Word, I encourage you to take a stand and find another church that submits fully to the Bible and seeks to declare the verse-by-verse preaching and teaching of all that God has given us in the Bible. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern because the Bible is often incorporated in such a way that it “seems” to be faithfully proclaimed. Common signs are if the focus and time spent is systematically going through a passage in the proper context or if the time is filled with flashy sermon series’, quotes from books and people, stories, or many other various things rather than explaining the Bible for what it says.
With so many distractions in the world today and so many books telling us what we should believe, we must not let anything pull us away from spending time reading and studying all of God’s Word first and foremost. I often tell people that if they haven’t been spending time continually reading and studying through all of the Bible, then why are we wasting our time with anything else?? Even as we may have stacks and stacks of books and other things we may want to read, I have found that the more and more I spend time in Scripture the less and less I read or even want to read much of other books. Sure, I do read a book now and again as well as other things, but I would rather be known for my commitment to knowing and applying the very words that God has given us through the Bible than reading the latest greatest book by whoever.
It is so troubling that I often feel I sound like a broken record talking about our need to return to the Bible. But in doing so I’m reminded in the book of Nehemiah the importance of proclaiming God’s Word as central to us as meeting as believers where it says, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:1-3) The people weren’t seeking after books, quotes, sermon series’, stories, or anything else. They sought to hear God’s Word plainly proclaimed and explained. If we would so much desire God’s Word as they did and seek to apply it to our lives. May the Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear the Truth and the discernment to have a hunger for His Word!!