…of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecc 12:12)
Many Christians youths grow up in an environment where they are encouraged to read the Bible thru “cover to cover” on a yearly basis. Some readers may exhort to a popular commentary or a Christian-styled self help book on finances, family, etc. Some go further. Some begin to meditate on what they read. They start thinking about the ‘big picture’ of the Bible or begin looking more closely at words and their meanings, etc. Once the fire is lit for theological study, that meager bookshelf containing a Strong’s Concordance, a study Bible, and a Vine’s dictionary gives way to bookshelves full of theological works, original language references, geographies, technical commentaries, etc. The deeper one goes, the more depth there is found to plumb. Every question that is answered, every puzzle that is solved, is but an open door to more questions and mysteries. It seems that one can never fully plumb the depths of God’s revelation.
However, at some point, if not checked, study can become its own end. Separated from meditation, Bible study can become a recreational activity centering on mystery and intrigue, or worse, pride!
…Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth… (1 Cor 8:1)
Bible study, separated from growing in the grace AND knowledge (2 Pet 3:18) of the Lord Jesus Christ and having a pursuit of Him and His glory as its ultimate end can be a Spiritual death.
…Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good… (Rom 7:13)
Brother John Chitty has a helpful post this morning on something that impact the spiritual lives of all Bible students: The Problem of “Head Knowledge” – an interesting essay on the ‘tension … between so-called “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge‘. In the post, John quotes BB Warfield making a statement to the effect that study and devotion is not an either/or proposition.
Reading John’s post today reminded me of one I read on the Crossway blog about a month ago from Tony Reinke. In the post, brother Tony talks about how we prioritize what we read. In it, he provides a list of rules that he has created to help himself prioritize his own personal reading. I’ve reproduced the list below, but you’ll have to read the original blog post to see his justifications: How Do You Prioritize What You Read?
6 Priorities that Decide What Books I Read:
- Reading Scripture
- Reading to know and delight in Christ
- Reading to kindle spiritual reflection
- Reading to initiate personal change
- Reading to pursue vocational excellence
- Reading to enjoy a good story
Of course, everyone’s list will be different and not everyone needs to be so formal as to publish such a list, but prioritizing our reading, and prioritizing Scripture first, is a good idea. I think Tony’s list is pretty good. What would your list look like?