A few banner commands fly over each Christian’s life. As loved, redeemed children of God, these commands teach us how to act like God’s people.
First, we have the two-part summary of the law courtesy of Jesus. Love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (See Matthew 22:37–39.)
Most Christians also know this sweeping verse from Paul: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). This wide umbrella covers all our work and all our play, every possible job or hobby.
This, of course, includes our reading.
Must We Only Read Christian Books?
For many, the act of reading is second nature. They don’t ask why. But faithful Christians need to ponder: Does my reading glorify God? What is my motivation to read?
We must avoid simplistic answers. It’s easy to justify reading Christian biographies and books of theology or Christian living. But must we limit ourselves to Christian titles and authors? Can we glorify God as we read “secular” fiction, for example?
Think about the reading pile in your house. Will those books help you love God? Will they help you love your neighbor?
Read for God’s Glory
If forced, readers might explain their hobby in a host of ways. Many would say reading helps them relax. Others want to engage the ideas or culture of our time. Still others want to learn or grow or laugh or think, and they meet these goals by reading.
Can these reasons for reading live in harmony with our duty to read to the glory of God?
Read with the End in Mind
The effect of our reading is more cumulative than immediate. Reading shapes us over time. Hence the phrase “reading diet”—as healthy eating bears good long-term fruit in our lives, so does healthy reading.
But what does “healthy” mean? Certainly the Bible should be at the top of our list. We cannot live without the bread of life, the very words of God.
Also, each person might have “allergies” (to continue the metaphor). Based on your history, station in life, and individual temptations, there are likely books you should not read. There might also be books/blogs/magazines which it would be unwise (though not necessarily sinful) for you to read. If you don’t know your reading allergies, seek counsel from a good friend.
With the negatives out of the way, now think broadly. Trace the connection between the reason you read to the God-glorifying person you want to be.
For example, suppose you read primarily to relax. You should embrace books that help you detach and unwind, because resting glorifies God. (He built rest into creation, after all.) You will love God—along with your family, neighbors, and coworkers—better as a rested person than as someone who doesn’t observe this creation rhythm.
Consecrate Your Reading
This isn’t to say you can justify every possible motive for reading. There are some legitimately bad reasons for reading, such as coveting, procrastination, ignoring others, or seeking distraction and titillation.
But if God has given you a love for reading, embrace it! Think about the reasons behind this passion, and select reading material that resonates with these purposes.
Finally, pray. Seek his wisdom. We honor God when we take our reading to God and ask him to use it for his glory.