I love books. I don’t just like reading books, I like the look and feel of them. No room in the house is complete without books whether they are on the coffee table, on a bookshelf, or on the nightstand. Even the linen cupboard in my bathroom holds a book or two. But, the most cozy, inviting, and pleasing room in the house is a library. A room devoted to books.
Part of my job is pricing and inventorying books to sell at cost at our small-town pastor’s conference. All year we watch for sales, bargains, and closeouts. The hardest part of my job is leaving some of the books to sell at conference. The books are so cheap I want to purchase them for myself, for my friends, for my pastor. I knew I had an addiction yesterday when I was pricing a small leather bound English Standard Version Bible. It was such a lovely book. The cover was soft and had a Celtic cross engraved on it. I wanted to buy it. I didn’t need another Bible. I’d already purchased an ESV a few years ago (mostly for its size and beauty, but I also wanted the translation). I spent a couple minutes arguing with myself but eventually, all 10 of the Bibles will go on sale at conference. Within that argument, however, I decided that I look at books the way some people look at flower arrangements. Or candles. Or objets d’art.
If there is one verse in the Bible with which I struggle at first glance, it is 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.”
I agree wholeheartedly that the writing of books is endless. Every day there are hundreds of books that come off the printer. Most are not worth reading, but a few are excellent. I can’t keep up with all the books I want to read. I haven’t even read all the classics yet! My definition of a classic is a book that people refer to in other writings, literature classes, and in book clubs. Of course, this definition makes all of Ted Dekkers books a classic according to my book club.
I also think there is more to the meaning of “excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body” than “staying up late to read makes you tired the next day.” Solomon is reminding us that God has given us Truth in His Word and that to continue searching for truth in other books is futile. It’s a good reminder to me to make sure I read the Bible and to read all other books in light of the Truth that God has revealed in His Word. I read the Bible as infallible. No other book should be read the same way.
I read other books to broaden my understanding of people. Of culture. Of theology. I love it when I read a book that says exactly what I wish I could say. Or helps me think. I read books that are contrary to what I believe so that I can practice being ready to defend what I believe. I want to know what they think and then listen to the Holy Spirit remind me of what God’s Word says.
So, go ahead. Read a book. Or two. Or . . .