In my family, especially with my father-in-law, we often quote a line from Seinfeld. Elaine once said something like this to Jerry: “Books, Jerry; they read books.”
The line comes out of a conversation Jerry has with Elaine. If I remember correctly, Elaine is describing her new set of friends who are just like Jerry, George, and Kramer, but are the exact opposite. (I’ll have to confess I may have episodes mixed up, it has been years since I watched an episode, but that shouldn’t really matter since it’s a show about nothing).
The literary habits of Elaine’s new group offend Jerry, who points out that he reads. Elaine reminds Jerry that comic books do not count. Hence the line, “They read books, Jerry.”
I don’t know about you, but I love books. I don’t mean just reading books, I mean books. All you have to do is walk into my office and you will find books everywhere.
It’s a problem.
I don’t just collect them, though. I love reading. A good book creates a life of its own and I enjoy being a part.
So, why should we read?
Books serve many purposes. Some books confirm and strengthen our convictions. Others challenge our assumptions. Both are needed.
Fiction brings mental and emotional rest into our busy world. I’m re-reading The Lord of the Rings and I’ll have to admit that I find the hobbit’s travels to be quite the mental vacation. Imagining the locations described in the book is like being on the journey, but without the bugs, bogs, death, and dirt.
Last year I was on a Hemingway kick. Reading a few of his novels reminded me of the consequences of life without Christ. Hemingway’s characters live sinful, empty lives. The lost around us live with that same hopelessness.
Biographies open up the lives of the famous and infamous, the leaders and the influential, while offering up lessons in life. A good biography teaches and entertains.
I’m reading a great biography about George Washington. I’ve come to appreciate Washington as a person, rather than a legend, or just the guy on my dollar bill.
Washington led the Continental Army, the Constitutional Convention, and our nation with integrity and purpose. I’ve learned more about leading in this biography than in any leadership book on my shelf. (I’ve also learned that Washington is considered both the father of our nation and the father of the American mule. I’ll bet you didn’t know that)
Instructional books, or textbooks, increase our knowledge and make our worlds a bit bigger.
I’m reading Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. Before God brought a U-turn into my life, I earned a business degree and spent a few years as a financial analyst. One of my favorite subjects at the U of M was economics. I’m reading this book to reorient myself with macro and microeconomics, so that I can make a bit more sense out of this year’s political jargon.
I know what you’re thinking and I’ll own up: I’m a geek.
Theological or devotional books help all believers to deepen their relationship with God and increase their knowledge of Him and His word.
If you know Christ and you’ve never read Knowing God by J.I. Packer, you are missing out. My current read, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, reminds me that our core beliefs cannot be compromised. While our denominations might argue over secondary issues, we must all agree about central doctrines. Lewis helps here.
The Bible is the most important book I read. It is fundamentally different than everything else I’ve mentioned. No novel, biography, textbook, or even devotional book, can claim to be God’s Word. Only the Bible is inspired by God and without error. Only the Bible offers salvation through its words and stories. Only the Bible shows the perfect God in the perfect way.
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
We can learn from biographies, enjoy the escape of fiction, increase our understanding through instructional books, and even understand God a little better through theological writings, but only the Bible offers the pure Word of the true God.
Read widely. Read deeply. Read enjoyably. Most of all, read biblically.