One verse in the New Testament suggests that reading is not without its dangers and pitfalls:-
Acts 19:19 – ‘Large numbers of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them up in the presence of everyone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins.’
Another verse points to the benefits and blessings of reading:
2 Timothy 4:13 – ‘When you come, bring with you the cloak I left in Troas with Carpas and the scrolls, especially the parchments.’
Geraint Fielder offers some helpful thoughts on the dangers and benefits of reading.
First, the dangers.
1. Beware the antiquarian mentality. That attitude which says ‘the older is better.’ Sometimes this degenerates into valuing old books simply as collector’s pieces.
2. Beware too the mentality which says ‘What’s newest is truest’. Always waiting to see what the latest book on so and so says before making your mind up and so never making it up.
3. Beware the acquiring mentality. This produces tremendous bookcase consciousness; it breeds more of a concern about the number of books you have than the number you have read. Some people have ‘books on the brain’ and that is a disease. It is getting ‘books into the brain’ that produces growth.
4. Beware the escapist mentality. It is an awfully frustrating thing to live with a person who runs from the problem of the moment to the book of the moment and never comes to grips with either.
5. Beware —the greatest danger that besets the man who loves books -- the borrowed thoughts mentality. There are people whose bookishness is a substitute for, rather than a stimulus to, their own thinking. It is not insignificant that this mentality often goes with spiritual barrenness.
But, secondly, more positively:
1. Read reflectively. Combine reading with meditation; the two ought never to be put asunder. Think as well as read and always keep the thinking proportionate to the reading. If we just gorge ourselves with book-matter we become mentally dyspeptic…
2. Read representatively. To read wisely is to read widely. Don’t fall into the groove of one type of book; not always doctrine, nor always missionary biographies or devotional books — but some of each…
3. Read regularly and not fitfully. A little but often, like oiling a bike. Give yourself a flexible goal over a period of time so that you read purposefully. Some of us read like the roaming of a little dog over the moors — sniffing at everything but catching nothing. There is the wag of approval and the bark of dissent but no time is given to digesting. Acquire the habit of persevering every day with something until it is mastered. You will be surprised at what you have acquired at the end of twelve months.
4. Read for relaxation as well as for information. Return to old favourites, as you return again and again to a well-loved holiday place for refreshment.
5. Read above yourself sometimes. Continually reading easy books is the hardest way of learning. Don’t only graduate from milk and water to milk but get some condensed milk sometimes. Read books of stature that mould you. To tackle great books may require the perseverance of Jacob. He wrestled with an angel all night and counted himself better for the bout though the sinews of his thigh shrank in consequence.
6. Read for perspective. Discover the inter-relationship between different subjects. This is a mark of an educated Christian mind. If you study a doctrine, study the history of the doctrine as well…
7. Read the Bible more the older you grow as a Christian rather than less. I fear sometimes that the tendency is the opposite. Wesley in the latter part of his life resolved to be a man of one book — the Bible. ‘Be monopolized by the Bible’ says Spurgeon ‘and you will be made mighty through it’. It was said of Bunyan, ‘Prick him anywhere and his blood would flow bibline.’…
8. Read about the great men of God and be challenged to read more by the way they read. The greatest of dangers is to play off intellectual culture against spiritual fervour — we need them both. The great men of God had both in a large measure. We pray regularly that God will raise up again giants like those of the past…
Based on an article which was first published in the March 1970 edition of the Banner of Truth magazine to mark the reopening of the Evangelical Library.