There are 26 steps to the second story of our house, and as the men unloaded the truck, the forty some boxes of books they carried to the small room at the end of the hall began to take their toll. Each time a box marked “books” was unloaded a little sigh could be heard.
Two week have passed since their unloading, and the work of going though them has been as difficult as carrying them in. There are children’s books, teenage novels, historical novels, self-improvement, gardening, home repair, commentaries, bibles, and the list goes on. Each book is an old friend, either read by us, or our boys, and trying to decided which ones to keep, give away, or toss has been point of frustration.
We both love books and we see things differently. Rebecca would be like Anna Quindlen who said, “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” For my self Joe Rayn expressed it well, “There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house.”
Books add to our knowledge, our inspiration, and our vocabulary. They help us see the world in new and different ways, and stretch both our imagination and minds beyond the small confines of conventionality. Yet, there are some warnings as well. The writer of Ecclesiastes writes to his son, “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body” (Eccl. 12:12). Too much reading leads to flabby skin. There needs to be a balance between the exercise of the mind and the exercise of the body.
Learning new things and ideas can lead to accusations such as was laid against the Apostle Paul, “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad” (Acts 26:24). Of course Festus was reacting negatively to the gospel.
God wants us to learn. He wants us to explore creation, thought, and creativity. We are in His image and learning should lead us to Him. The problem with too many books, too much learning, is that our culture has come to believe that knowledge itself will bring an end to pain and suffering. Yet, the more we learn, the more we find we don’t really know. Paul warns his protégé, Timothy, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Tim. 3:7). Jesus said, “know the truth and the truth will set you free.” He was speaking of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Anyone who comes to me will find life.” No matter how many boxes of books, how many shelves I might fill, if the knowledge contained in them does not lead me to Jesus, all I have done is read meaningless words an a page. I’m just saying…