A Parable on the Reading of Blogs

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Once there was a land that needed a new governor. So the king sent to this land a certain young, well-respected man. Though this man did not know the land he was sent to govern, both the man and the people were excited.

The man and his wife moved into the governor’s mansion, hired a staff, and began to settle in. The mansion was enormous, far larger than any place they had lived before, and there was one wing of the mansion for which they could think of no use.

The governor wanted to get to know his people. It was his habit to take long walks in the morning for exercise, so he ended each walk at the city market.

The market was expansive and busy, filled with the sights, smells, and noises you would expect. Since his staff did his shopping, he had no need to linger by the meats, produce, or baked goods. Instead, he spent most of his time with the artists.

The governor had been raised to love art in every form. He adored music, theater, sculpture, and photography, but he prized paintings above all. He couldn’t get enough.

This city had a thriving community of established and aspiring painters, so the artists’ section of the market was sprawling. New booths popped up weekly. Some sold cheap imitations or outright forgeries, but there were many paintings of astonishing skill, beauty, and insight. The governor’s stroll through the market always left him refreshed and inspired.

After several months, the governor began to feel different after his walks. His brain felt busy, like it was always spinning and never resting. The flood of new paintings was overwhelming, and though he feared missing a gem, he began to wonder about the effect on his soul.

The governor was troubled. He knew exceptional artists at the market—their work deserved more attention. But they couldn’t compete with the volume and speed of the marketplace. They made a living, but their paintings had little impact.

The governor returned from the market one morning, these thoughts swimming in his head. As he walked through the house to meet his wife for lunch, he passed the unused wing of the mansion. An idea struck him in an instant.

He would turn the east wing of the mansion into a gallery. He would preserve the best art in the city by displaying it himself. His gallery would be open to the public on a limited basis, but he could walk through the rooms whenever he wanted.

His wife embraced the idea immediately. Over the next months, the couple visited the market together and carefully purchased the best paintings they saw. Some works depicted scenes of terrific, arresting beauty. Others showed heartbreaking loss, tragedy, or loneliness. Still others championed hope, truth, or forgiveness.

Most paintings would have a limited run in the gallery. Some of the works spoke to the political and social issues of the moment. Others, because of his mood or particular moment in life, struck a note within the governor that might never ring again. But the governor and his wife were delighted to give these paintings an extended life. They hired a curator.

The governor wasn’t trying to make a huge statement with his gallery. He knew he had a lot to learn, and if other citizens wanted to join him, all the better.

The governor continued to visit the artists’ booths in the market periodically. But he learned that lingering over a painting or two in his gallery was almost always better for his soul.


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Photo Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians (2016), public domain

Why Do You Read?

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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.


Photo Credit: Henryk Niestrój, public domain

Read Like a Reader

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Shortly after I became a Christian, wise friends put good books in my hands.

I was in college, and these volumes of theology and practical Christianity lived next to my textbooks. When reading for class, I paid attention to every detail, stuffing my brain to capacity. I read these new books the same way.

For me, reading was a way to learn and prepare. Books were an academic tool, nothing more.

Don’t Read Like a Student

This strict, make-every-book-count approach drained the fun out of reading. It left no room for fiction, and I started to read fewer books overall. I grew tired of rising to intellectual heights every time I found my bookmark.

But over the next five years I started to notice something. The people I admired most read widely, from all parts of the library.

Reading like a student is limiting. It’s like restricting yourself to one kind of pie. Apple is great, but wouldn’t life be better with cherry or pecan on the menu too?

Instead, I want to read like a reader. This includes reading for information, but it encompasses more. Doug Wilson captures this contrast well.

…we test students right after they read something mostly to ensure that they have in fact read it. From this, many have drawn the erroneous conclusion that the only good that can be extracted from the reading is that which can be displayed on or measured by such a test. This is wildly inaccurate. Most of the good your reading and education has done for you is not something you can recall at all. (Wordsmithy, p.36)

Adjusting my mindset has had at least two implications for me.

1. I read to be shaped.

We emulate the company we keep. This is as true for our literary companions as it is for our literal ones. Books influence us in ways we can’t always pinpoint.

Think of your books as dinner guests. You might invite some for their thoughts on current events and others because they tell great stories. Some friends make us laugh, some challenge our assumptions, and some remind us what’s most important in life. No one wants a house full of smug intellectuals.

Doug Wilson again:

You read widely to be shaped, not so that you might be prepared to regurgitate. (Wordsmithy, p.36)

What freedom! I now select books for a variety of reasons. I read fiction, history, humor, memoir, and biography, and I don’t feel the need to justify every choice with a Christian cliché.

2. I read different books differently.

Each book calls for its own level of attention and engagement. Like a baseball hitter, a reader must identify the pitch before he swings.

A biography is not a novel. A memoir is not systematic theology.

Even instructive books can demand distinct levels of commitment. I usually read these books with a pen in hand, but sometimes I’ll grab a notebook too. Some books so provoke or inspire me that I need to scratch out comments or questions on the spot.

This practice also brings liberty. Not every book is a textbook. Some works are best skimmed, sampled, or (GASP) abandoned.

It’s Okay to Forget

Here’s one last quote from Doug Wilson. He advocates high-volume reading and notes how a student approach can trap us in quicksand.

Read like a reader and not like someone cramming for a test. If you try to wring every book out like it was a washcloth full of information (and nothing but information), all you will do is slow yourself down to a useless pace. Go for total tonnage, and read like someone who will forget most of it. (Wordsmithy, p.34)


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Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski (2015), public domain