Once someone criticized my reading habits. They asked, “Why do you spend so much time and money on books? Do the books you read really help you? They thought my reading is a waste, that reading many books on one subject is redundant, that reading many books is foolishness.
Here is my response:
Readers are leaders.
The person who does not read is as ignorant as one who cannot read. Five years from now you will be exactly the same as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you fail to make use of the brains of other men you prove you have no brain of your own.”
What is the value of spending an hour with a great man? What would you pay to hang out with George Bush or George Washington? What would it be worth to spend an afternoon with Oral Roberts or Smith Wigglesworth? What would you ask Warren Buffett or Bill Gates? By reading their books, you visit the greatest people in history.
Great men have stored fifty years of their experience and wisdom between the covers of a book. It would be foolish to ignore the accumulated knowledge of their career. For a small investment of $20 I can learn in an hour what it took them a lifetime to discover. Though they are dead, I can talk with them in my head.
What you eat turns into your body, what you read turns into your mind. You become like those you associate with. I can choose to be satisfied with the minds of the lesser men who surround me or I can listen in on the Great Conversation of the greatest minds in history. Why do some people spend more money on their clothes then they do on their mind?
We quote, “The wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous.” Where is the wealth of the wicked? In a bank? In their possessions? No. Their real wealth is hidden in their knowledge of how to make money. The wealth of the wicked is stored in books and Christians have ignored and insulted them.
Tim Redmond writes, “Here is an astounding fact, readers make more money, a lot more! According to a number of recent studies (United States Department of Labor, Survey by Yahoo! Chief Solutions Officer Tim Sanders and Business Majors), leaders who read at least 7 business books a year earn over 2.3 times more than those who read only one book per year. Why? One reason is that they have a constant flow of new ideas and strategies they can use to help their careers, their teams and their companies.”
I recently heard a preacher say, “Everything I need to know is in the Bible. I don’t need to feed on worldly wisdom by reading other books.” Yet, this preacher is facing problems a few minutes with the right business book could solve. God can speak to you as you read secular books.
Critics of reading might quote Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Even the wisest man in history makes some mistakes when he is backsliding. Solomon’s proverbs continue to teach today...because he wrote them down...in a book.
God came for a season...but left a book for eternity. Jesus is the Word...a book. The first thing you will see when you get to heaven is the Book of Life. In the KJV of the Bible, the word “book” is mentioned 188 times, “writing” is mentioned 91 times, “reading” is mentioned 70 times. We know God writes (Exodus 31:18), Jesus writes (John 8:8), God tells His prophets to both read and write (Jer. 30:2, Ezekiel 2:9), God expects angels to read (Rev. 2:1). Why look down on an activity God obviously values so much?
Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy, “Until I come give attendance to reading (1 Timothy 4:13). Later he wrote, ““The clock that I left at Troas bring it with you and the books that I left, but especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul wanted his books more then anything else. He knew his wisdom depended on his reading.
The greatest invention in history was Gutenberg’s printing press. The printed page has done more to spread the Gospel then any other technique. Printing made democracy possible, education for the masses possible, and economic innovation possible.
From books I learn history...lest I repeat the mistakes of the past. From books I feed my creativity. In books I feel the soul of humankind. In books I discover myself...from the heights of triumph to the depths of despair experienced by others. Reading carries me to different worlds (past, future, and imagined) from the comfort of my couch. By reading I live vicariously...I learn from other’s experiences, thoughts, actions, impressions, mistakes, victories, and defeats.
Because of their lack of reading, Christians are continually impressed with recycled ideas, stale thoughts, and poor writing. One preacher spent twenty minutes telling me about his revelation from God...word-for-word from one of the best-selling business books at the time. If I was not an avid reader, I would have been impressed with what God was “revealing” to him...as it was, I felt he did a poor job presenting the original material. Another Christian success speaker makes a living doing seminars teaching principles from business books pastors are too lazy to read for themselves. One Christian fiction series about the second-coming of Christ is extremely poor writing, yet believers buy the books by the millions...I am convinced they like the books because they have never read a well-written secular book. Christians should demand excellence from their own...instead of accepting drivel. The only way to know if a book is well-written is to be well-read.
Before writing my book on healing, I read hundreds of books on healing. Recently a prominent minister said my book on healing is the best he ever read. Would my book have achieved this level of excellence if I had not read all those other books? I think not. My reading of healing books made me an expert on healing, my reading of business books will make me an expert in business, my reading of bibliographies will make me an expert in history. As a world traveler I cannot afford to be ignorant of foreign cultures, ideas, religions, and history.
In response to the accusation, “You can not afford to read as much as you do,” I reply, “I cannot afford NOT to read as much as I do.” The only thing standing between me and my future is my ignorance. My ignorance bothers me everyday...the only cure is reading.
Unfortunately 7 of 10 books that are purchased are not read. 1 out of 10 are only read past the first chapter. If you read a book a year, you will be smarter than ninety percent of the population. If you will read a book a week on any given subject, in five years you will be the world’s greatest expert on that subject. Your difference creates your value.
The books I read yesterday make me who I am today...they determine my value to society. Today’s reading will inevitably lead to tomorrow’s promotion. You will never be worth more than your library.
Reading isn’t the only way to learn, but it may be the best way. Other (slower) ways of learning (experience, conversation, TV, browsing the Internet, etc.) exist and many people use them but a book contains more raw knowledge in a small space then anything else and can be accessed quickly.