The lives of most young people today are so overcrowded with duties and pleasures that, they will say, there is simply no time just to sit down peaceably to read. And if occasionally there are just a few unoccupied moments, they are too tired, and “Ho Hum!” I guess I’ll go to bed early tonight for once!’’ is usually the end of that. Life today is too crowded, too busy, too fast for quiet, leisurely enjoyment of books. Even we Christians, who do not (or do we?) busy ourselves with the things of this world as the children of the world do, are caught in that swift current, and we rush maddeningly along, scarcely able to catch a breath. You know how it is.
Then, too, the lightmindedness and frivolity of the world is so very contagious. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”, says the world, and soon without realizing it, we are repeating it after them, perhaps in a more pious way, but saying the same thing. Action, fun, a good time! But what is a good time? Did you ever have a good time with books?
We should take time to read. Why? Because by reading we learn and we must never stop learning. When we have graduated from school, and have gone through all the catechism classes and Sunday School classes, then our education has just begun, the foundation has been laid for further study. That schooling has aided us in understanding the preaching of the Word, has equipped us for our tasks in life, has made us able to join in discussions in our societies, but it has also prepared us for personal study through reading.
There must, however, be a dominating purpose in our reading and in our choice of reading material, and if that purpose is there, much difficulty in choosing the right books and magazines will be eliminated, for then a book will be worth reading in so far as it serves that purpose. The chief reason why a Christian even learns to read is that he must use the medium of the printed page to learn to know God. God has made Himself known to us in the Word, in Holy Writ, and in order to know what God has written, we must read. It follows from this that the most important reading material for us is therefore the Bible, and that it is very important that we read God’s Word personally, for by God’s grace, we learn to know Him through His Word. Our church periodicals teach us how to read God’s Word and guide us in the reading of it. So you see that this kind of reading material is vital to a Christian’s growth in the knowledge of God. Ideally then, we first read books and magazines that have a direct bearing on our chief purpose in reading, and then if there is time left, material that has a more indirect bearing.
It is not difficult to find books and magazines of the first type (those that have a direct bearing on our main purpose in reading, for we have books written by leaders of the church from the early church down to this present time: and semi-monthly and weekly magazines are published by ministers of our own church. But a problem presents itself when we choose reading material which has a more or less indirect bearing on our main purpose.
Indirectly we learn to know more of God by reading history, and we should have that purpose in mind when we do read history. But, you say, practically all history books are written by unbelievers who do not see God behind all the events which have taken place. That is true, and it is not ideal, but we as Christians can read those books and say, “How wonderful is the unfolding of God’s plan throughout the ages!” Our eyes have been opened and we really can read the history of the world. God has revealed Himself to us in nature, and the more we know about the earth on which we live, the more we see the Creator. But, you object, almost all books about nature are written by evolutionists. Sad to say, they are. But we can read those things subjectively, remembering that “the heavens declare the glory of God. and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” The same should be true of our reading of current events. Authors of articles and books written about the present world tumult do not know that God is shaking the earth, but when we read their writings, we say to ourselves, “The Lord is hastening His coming!” When we read autobiographies, character studies, novels, we keep before us the inherent sinfulness of man and the perfection of our God.
We naturally become better critics. too, when we read every word of man in the light of God’s most holy Word. And in order to do that, we must know the Bible, and so we come back to our starting point—it is above all necessary to read the Word of God, to become truly educated in it. And, remember—ignorant Christians are not the best Christians.