Jump Start # 2460
Ecclesiastes 12:12 “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”
Books, are a lot like the topic of history. It seems either people love them or they don’t. I’m definitely in the “love ‘em” category. I grew up in a family which made reading books a high priority. I’m surrounded with books, at home, and definitely in my office. Old books. New books. Great books. Some that were not so great. Rare books. Very popular books. I’ve got ‘em and I have a lot of them.
All of this came up recently because a friend asked about books. He wanted my recommendations on some reference books. We met in my office so I could show him. On the last pages of inspiration that Paul wrote, he asked Timothy to bring books. I’d love to see what books Paul had. I have been to some extremely rare libraries. I saw the signature of Martin Luther, the reformer in a copy of one of his German translations of the Bible. I saw Isaac Newton’s signature in a very old book about astronomy. I’ve seen parts of the Dead Sea scrolls. And, I think one reason I like books is because God does. He wrote a book, the Bible. Of all the avenues of communication and ways to preserve His message, God chose writing a book. A large percentage of the books I own have outlived the authors. That’s the unique thing about writing. It can go places we can’t and it can last longer than we can.
There is a lot you can tell about a person by the books he reads. And, in our current culture, books are dying. People are not reading much these days. Bookstores are closing. The percentage of college grads who never read a book the rest of their lives is staggering. We are in a Youtube, video, bullet point, TV age and the printed page is being ignored. Newspapers are dying because you can catch the news on TV or get the highlights on your phone.
For a guy who writes this blog every day of the week, there are a few things about writing and books I want to share.
First, some people prefer electronic versions of the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s still the word of God. I have the Bible on my phone and tablet but I prefer the printed version. I like to write in my Bible. I like to underline words and I have things taped on those blank pages in the back. But I must be careful not to look down at those who prefer electronic versions of the Bible. I must not think that I am better or that I am more spiritual than the electronic crowd. Not so. There is a convenience with electronic versions of the Bible. You don’t have to carry around a big book. You’re likely not to forget it. You have access to multiple translations in an instant. So don’t frown upon a person for not having the Bible when he does, it’s on his phone.
Second, reading is learning and learning is growing. Education doesn’t stop when we are finished with school. A person who is a life long reader will have great insights, understandings and knowledge because he has opened his mind to reading. It has been said that each of us will be just as we are in five years except for the books we read and the people we associate with. So, if I include quality books and quality people in my life, then I will continue to grow. Now, the choice of books is important. There is a place for fiction, but that’s not likely to move me to the next level in development. Character studies, biographies, histories, religious material can be of great value. Be sure to read with a careful eye. What is written by man, is just that, written by man. Much of what is found in religious books is wrong. Discernment will catch that and not be hurt by that. There can still be good thoughts and material in such books. Have balance in your reading. Don’t read just from one author or one slant. Don’t read just fiction. Don’t read just religious material. And, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures to see if what you read is true.
Third, reading, as music, as movies, as people, influences us and with an open heart can change us. This is the power of God’s word. When read with an honest heart, it will move you. It will challenge you. It will change you. Be careful of what books you recommend. Not everyone has a discerning eye. Not everyone can recognize error. Authors that honor God, respect inspiration, and seem to get the big picture of what the Bible is about can truly be an asset to your life. The right books can be wonderful tools to help you teach classes and prepare lessons. But books are like people, everyone has different tastes. Books that some like, I don’t. And, the books that have meant a lot to me, others have not liked. So, it will take time for you to find the type of books and authors that you like. My writings these Jump Starts have been a direct result of some authors that I drank deeply from years ago. Some of those authors had very little in common with what I believe, but they were amazing writers. They had a way of saying things in which a person would think. They had me looking at things in verses that I had read right over and thought nothing about. Now, I have learned to see things myself. For instance, with the story of the bent over woman, Luke tells us that “Jesus saw her.” Of course, He did. No big deal. But wait. He really saw her. How many others looked at her, but never saw her. Jesus calls her to come to Him and heals her. Just from that little expression, how many people do I not see on a Sunday morning. A mother who is tired from being up all night with a sick child. A man who is worried about losing his job. A couple who have to make a decision about an aging parent. A young lady who broke up with a boyfriend because he’s trying to lead her away from the Lord. An elderly person who wonders if their money is going to run out. A shepherd who has spent a week trying to get someone to make up his mind if he wants to follow Christ or not. Jesus saw her. WOW. And, it was amazing authors who I spent time with in their books who opened my eyes and now I see.
Fourth, Solomon, in our verse is warning about excessive books. There is no end to writing books. That was then. Just think about today. And, too much devotion to books can weary the body. I’ve noticed something in many scholarly books, everyone wants to quote some old dead guy. I guess that gives more punch to what they are trying to say. I’d rather quote someone who is alive, like GOD. Because someone wrote it and because it’s in a book doesn’t change the price of coffee. Just about anyone can write, especially these day. Self publishing is inexpensive and one can hang a shingle out that they are an author. Great. Now what? Stand in line, there are so many authors. No book equals the Bible. We can read books about the Bible, but it’s better to just read the Bible. Given the choice between these Jump Starts and the Bible, I’d point you to the Bible.
Want some good reading material? Ask one of the shepherds or your preacher. A great conversation piece to ask is, “What are you reading these days?”
Books—they have a place, but they are not life. Books– can help you or hurt you, be wise. Books—make great gifts, great friends, and great adventure. Surround yourself with great books.