Reformed Baptist Fellowship

So Many Books, So Little Profit

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on April 17, 2009 at 10:51 am

Ecclesiastes 12:12 — …Of making of books there is no end, and, much study is weariness to the flesh.

This past week I was in two different bookstores.  The first was at a large outlet mall, and it apparently specialized in getting rid of books that no one wanted to read.  With hardbacks priced from $1-$3 and piled on tables in an all almost overwhelming array, I moved from table to table to table hoping to find a hidden jewel.  After a half an hour of fruitless searching, I thought again of this verse in Ecclesiastes.  Who were these authors that had expended so much time and energy in making this seemingly endless variety of books?  Who were these publishers who somehow thought these books would be a good idea?

The next day I visited our local Christian Bookstore.  I spent a great deal of time browsing among the many books they had to offer.  Thankfully, I did come across some volumes that would be worthy additions to any library.  But again, this proverb came to mind as again and again I found myself thinking, “This is the stuff that Christians are reading?  The Shack is the number one best seller?  These are the things that people are buying?”  It seemed to be a silent and sad commentary on the state of Christianity in America, especially in regards to the feminizing and de-theologizing of the church.

While I was getting help with my order, a lady nearby was studying the shelves intently.  I overheard brief conversations as various clerks came up to help her and eventually I interacted with her myself.  I found she was part of a small group Bible study.  She was taking this study very seriously, and she wanted to be well prepared as they were going to go through a book of the Bible together.

She finally landed on a tome which the store clerk assured would give her exactly what she needed.   The author is a very good and sound expositor of the Word.  However, the study this woman’s group is embarking upon is the Book of Revelation.  The author she had picked is excellent, on almost every subject except for the Book of Revelation.  I wanted to say, “Please, put that down and buy Beale!”  But, Beale’s commentary was nowhere to be found in the store, and neither was Hendriksen’s “More than Conquerors”.  In the end, I said nothing as decorum overruled impulse.  I am sure she bought that Study Bible, and her group will study the book of Revelation, but most likely they will miss the most important and timeless aspects of what Revelation has to say to the church.  John’s Revelation is relevant for today, but not if one reads it with a newspaper in the other hand.

Still, God is sovereign.  No doubt she will read the other more accurate and profitable parts of the Study Bible.  Who knows what God will do?  God may even use a comment to open her eyes to the truths of His sovereign grace.  As I write this, I am sitting in my own library, looking at all the volumes I am blessed to own, more than I will ever be able to thoroughly read.  When people come in to my office they sometimes ask, “Have you read all these books?”  I like to joke, “Some of them twice!”  What’s left unsaid is, “Some of them hardly at all!”

The proverb is true.  The world is full of books (and blogs).  We should rejoice that there is no shortage in the English speaking world of good, sound Christian literature.  More is available now than there was thirty years ago and probably more than there ever has been in history.  But, since life is short, let’s spend our time reading the best things to the glory of God and the profit of our souls!

Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Ontario, California
  1. This is something that I’ve come under conviction for as of late. After amassing a modest library (500+ books), and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to keep up with the latest authors, the most popular trends in Reformed Christian theology and litrature and so on, the Lord showed me it isn’t what’s on my bookshelf, but what’s in my heart that He will judge me by. And while I’m not advocating ignorance, I would suggest to all Christians to temper their efforts in reading about God, with a desire to spend time with Him themselves.

  2. I get that same feeling when I walk into a Christian Bookstore. If I do go to an actual Christian bookstore I usually walkout with a headache. It pains me to see how much junk is on the shelves. If (most) Christian Bookstores were restaurants they’d go out of business! Or they’d have to depend on all of their Jesus T-Shirts to make up for the horrible food. After listening to a White Horse Inn episode when people at the Christian Bookstore Conference were asked what the gospel is…no wonder they’re full of junk!

  3. I can definitely relate this to the blogosphere. Great post.

  4. Projecting our calvinist anxiety on everyone elses lack of pure intentions is of course in keeping with our tradition. This concern borne in an era of approved/nonapproved churches was thus a religio-politico concern as well. The danger is in revealing an inherent self righteousness (see other blog this date). However I have always enjoyed Pastor Steves ability to balance the tendency of our traditions by recognizing Gods control of all circumstances and His ability to work even in situations percieved as less ideal than our own, which is also within the emphasis of our faith tradition.

  5. My sentiments exactly. Books on the doctrines of grace are hard to find in a Christian book store and that is sad. Books on the end times, how to live a Christian life, many popular authors are there. If I want Christian fiction books, I can find a lot of those but good books on reformed theology you can hardly find.

  6. I too am thankful for the many good books that we do have. I am also thankful for the good reading available here on this site. Thanks Pastor Steve!

  7. I concur with Rob’s analysis above; in addition, because there are too many good books and too little time, God give us wisdom and discernment to choose,read,and understand the best of them in light of His truth.

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