I found myself hurriedly reading Bloodlines by John Piper this morning and realized that I was reading just to read. I wanted to finish the book and start another. I was not concerned about digesting the content and seeking to conform my life to the truth. I was not praying about what I was reading.
I’m thankful that I realized this and stopped to examine my motives. I’m a to-do list guy. I set goals and aim to complete them. If I start a good book, I want to finish it. If I hear of a good book, I want to read it. The problem is there are too many good books in the world for a man to read (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12).
Instead of aiming to read as many good books as I can, I should be aiming to become as much like Jesus Christ as I can. That is something God has purposed for me (Romans 8:29). Reading will certainly be a part of that transformation, since God has given us a book (2 Peter 1:21; Revelation 22:18-19), but I think my motives and the way in which I read will change if I keep that aim as the goal of my reading. Peter tells us that the knowledge of God must be supplemented by Christian character if we are to bear fruit. And while reading can play a part in character transformation, it is not a perfect 1:1 ratio. There is no guarantee that by reading a book on racial reconciliation, I will suddenly be a man without any ethnocentric pride. It is easy to think highly of myself while reading alone. It is when I seek to be like Christ in the presence of others that I often see a clearer picture of my heart and my need for his grace and transformation.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)
Our life will be measured on the last day by the fruit we bore for Christ, not by how many books we read. That’s something I need reminding of when I look at my overflowing bookcase.