Where would we be without books? When we were small, our mother or father perhaps read books to us. In elementary school, our teachers at times read to us as well. We learned to read early and began the mental trip that books always allowed us to take. What a journey we can take as we pass from page to page and travel in the mind where our bodies can never go. Books are enormously important. And with the coming of the internet, we can now sit at our computers and reach into the libraries of the world.
Books to make. In the long ago Solomon told his son (and us), “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh”(Ecc.12:12). Many books are being made continually. Some are fact; some are fiction, but there is no terminus to the writing of them. The man who reads has an advantage over the man who does not.There is available so very much information at our disposal through the books that we can consult,borrow, or buy. Imagine the expense that we are saved in learning of places to which we do not have to go, and imagine the wealth of information at our disposal regarding the past. We can transcend time in books, and visit places, watch events to which historically we could not be present. My, My! The value of books! What an education is available in the wise selection of and time spent with books. And the sixty-six books that compose the Bible are the best of all and in a category all their own. Paul once referred to the Old Testament as “the sacred writings” (2 Tim.3:15) and to all of God’s books as “scripture inspired of God” (v.6).
Books to read. Of course, the writing of good books does us little good if we do not read them. But to read with profit entails reading with attention. We must focus. We must concentrate. And we must spend time sufficient to the gathering of useful information. And this means that we must have some discipline. At times we may have to require of ourselves that we simply set aside sometime for reading, and especially for the reading of God’s word. There is much blessing in the reading and pondering of God’s own words. What a privilege is ours to think about what we know God has written to us. We remember the Beroeans for their alacrity or readiness of mind that enabled them to receive the preached word and to examine the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). “Blessed is he that readeth,” says John, “and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev.1:3). And near the end of his letter to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ that are at Colossae” (Col.1:2), Paul says, “And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col.4:16). How we need to read the books of God!
Books to bring. Around 67 or 68 A.D., Paul faces sure death. He is for the second time a prisoner in Rome. And he knows that his time on earth is short. But the time that he has left he wants to fill with useful employment. He encourages his young child in the faith, Timothy, to come to see him and to hurry before winter (2 Tim.4:21). In reference to items that he wants Timothy to bring to him,Paul says, “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, and the books,especially the parchments” (v.13). The Greek word for books is “biblia” and refers to scrolls. Thescroll came from the papyrus plant and was of such chemical makeup that it could be rolled up(Thayer, 101, 102). The parchments from “membrana” refers to dressed skins (Thayer, 397).Whether Paul wanted the papyrus (our “paper”) and skins to read what was already written or to write something new, we are not told.
Books to burn. From Ephesus the gospel spread through the whole of Asia (Acts 19:1, 10). We are told that “God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul” (v.11). And when two wandering would-be exorcists attempted to call out a demon by using “the name of the Lord,” the demon possessed person overpowered them so that “they fled out of that house naked and wounded”(v.16). Subsequently, many who now believed the gospel but who had practiced magical arts in the past “brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all” (v.19). Today, we must“censor” material available to us to make sure that we are not corrupted by it. There is now so much literary and pictorial filth easily accessible to all, including the exceedingly impressionable young people, that we must do what we can to prevent such morally corruptive material from reaching our minds and the minds of those for whom we are responsible. Paul’s exhortation to the saints at Philippi needs to be emphasized to us all: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil.4:8).