July 26, 2017

Reading: a Christian Perspective

I like books. Like, a lot. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement…

Growing up, I’d linger for hours in the library stacks, letting my fingers slide across the spines until a title intrigued me or an old favorite caught my eye. My tastes were simple: mysteries, classics, biographical fiction. I sit and read for hours in school, after my bedtime, anywhere I could sneak a book.

When I entered the dating game, I decided to choose my future husband based on how many books he owned. In college, all my favorite spaces revolved around the campus library. Even now, I dream about having a house with a multi-story library — complete with overstuffed chairs, giant globes, and even ladders to reach the upper shelves (and just maybe, a secret room that can be accessed by tilting a volume of Shakespeare).

But lately I’ve become more deliberate in my reading choices. Even while expanding my reading palette, I’ve decided not to linger in books that don’t benefit me somehow. Life is too short to read bad books {tweet that!} — whether “bad” means they’re pointless, poorly-written, or simply unprofitable. So how do you choose the good ones? And specifically, as a Christian?

Part of being a bookworm is knowing how to make the best book choices. And part of being a Christian bookworm is not just knowing which books will benefit you, but which ones will benefit you AND honor God.

Here are three factors to consider in making good reading choices:

1 – Consider Personal Taste

What do you enjoy? If you can’t stand murder, you shouldn’t try reading Agatha Christie. If you don’t enjoy fantasy, don’t pick up J.R.R. Tolkien. That goes for nonfiction too — if you enjoy learning about the past, you’ll probably enjoy history and biographies. If you don’t enjoy science, don’t try reading medical books. You may need to dabble in a few genres before figuring out what you like. You may try a few books about cooking, or memoirs, or westerns before realizing that you really don’t enjoy them.

The point is, don’t read something just because everyone else is reading it.

Don’t feel compelled to try every best-seller that your friends rave about. Find some friends who like the same things you do, and compare notes with them. Learn what genres you enjoy, and be confident enough to stick with them.

2 – Consider Personal Goals

What are your priorities in life? They may be occupational, spiritual, physical, financial, relational… Choose books which will help you head in the right direction toward those goals. For instance, a book about living simply may be making the rounds on all your favorite blogs, but if circumstances already dictate a simple lifestyle and being extravagant isn’t really a concern for you, then don’t waste your reading time on that book! Choose some other book which will relate to your priorities.

You need to know where you’re going, in order to make the best use of your reading time.

Otherwise, you’ll end up reading a whole bunch of books that aren’t really relevant. What’s the point of that? Time is a precious commodity: don’t waste it reading something that won’t truly help you.

3 –Consider Personal Standards

What is your standard for discerning right and wrong? I hope you would say the Bible. Your “moral code” should be based upon what God says is right and wrong. Your standards should be set, based on what He commends or condemns. Your goals and personal tastes should mesh with whatever is emulated in Scripture, whatever promotes God’s truth and leads toward closer fellowship with Him. That extends to your reading choices. Whether you choose novels, self-help books, devotionals, biographies, or poetry — everything you read must be weighed against the standards of Philippians 4:8.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

That means putting that new best-seller back on the shelf, even if it sounds really great, because it doesn’t measure up to God’s standard of purity. It means stopping halfway through your friend’s favorite novel, because it turns out to be less-than-lovely and definitely not praise-worthy.

The key in reading, as in everything, is to weigh the book against Scripture.

How does it glorify what is right? How does it teach what is true? How does it help you think thoughts that are excellent? Be discerning. Not everything you read must be written by a Christian, but it should certainly uphold what God commends.

A book about fitness that teaches you to obsess over your weight, and place your physical well-being above all other priorities, clearly does not glorify God. A memoir that glorifies getting drunk, being immoral, or doing wrong in any way is not something you should fill your mind with. A novel that allows evil to win, without any consequences, will whisper to your mind that some sin is okay.

By knowing your preferences, priorities, and biblical standards, you can consistently choose books that benefit you and honor God.

 

Let’s Chat: How do YOU intentionally make good reading choices?

 

Coming up next, a personal look at how I combine those three things – and a great resource to help you do the same!


Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this! I have been trudging through a book I’m really not enjoying at all, and this reminded me that it’s taking time away from better books! So, I took my bookmark out this morning and will return it to its owner 🙂

  2. Minifarmmom says:

    I usually choose a book by others recommendation. Some or many I read to learn something or to go more In depth in my knowledge. Some are just for pleasure but it’s rare I read a book that isn’t spiritual in nature.

  3. I read lots of reviews before opting for a book. Often, I’ve found even some with the best reviews don’t suit me so it doesn’t always work 🙂 I read descriptions and if it tugs at my heart, then I’m likely to give it a chance. I don’t have a lot of time to put into reading for pleasure so I’m pretty picky with my choices. Love your dream library! When you get it built, I want to come visit 😉

    • Diane Knickerbocker says:

      Reading the Shack for the second time. Really a great book!

    • I’ve found you have to learn whose reviews are similar to your tastes. Some people write amazing reviews, but every time I pick up a book they’ve recommended, I find myself putting it back before finishing. Just not my cup of tea!

  4. Love this, and it is something I have learned over time in my journey with God. Something I feel many people still haven’t begun to do, and this is filter out the worlds definition of popular and simply do what it right in the eyes of God. I have not mastered it, but what I have done is gained a measure of peace and confidence in it as I continue to grow.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Of course, as Christians, the Bible ought to have the highest priority above all other books: “The bottom line is that no single book should receive more attention in our lives than Scripture” (p.94). Beyond that, however, our reading choices will vary according to our tastes and priorities (as considered in Reading: a Christian Perspective). […]

  2. […] and book talk from a Christian perspective at her site Dogfur and Dandelions. Her recent posts on what to read got me pondering my reading choices […]