I have been doing quite a bit of decluttering in our home lately.
It has been freeing…throwing away or donating things that I have finally admitted I truly don’t need. The hand-me-down food processor in the kitchen I have literally never used…donated! The mismatched sheet set in the closet from my twin bed in college…trash! Half used bottles of lotion/ hair product/ makeup in the bathroom that I forgot about two years ago…goodbye! Yes, it has been freeing indeed.
Until, that is, I got to the bookshelves.
When it comes to books, you might call me a book sentimentalist. Or a book hoarder. Whatever you call it, I have saved just about every book I have ever purchased, been gifted, or received through conferences and events. Needless to say, our bookshelves were chaotic, full, and in desperate need of decluttering. But how could I bring myself to throw away a book in good condition that I might someday, in some circumstance, want to reference or re-read?! It felt like a dilemma.
As I began to look deeper, however, I began to realize many of the books on my shelves were not good books. Some, you might say, were even bad books. Books claiming to be Christian but, as I began to skim through them, were not actually Christian at all. Books with awards, New York Times Bestseller stickers, and all kinds of accolades, yet not in alignment with what the Bible says about its topic. I was a little shocked and more than humbled at the reality that over the course of my reading life I had allowed so many bad books-books that claim to be Christian yet do not align with what we read in the Word- into my mind and home.
“It’s not a big deal, why does it matter what you read?” some may ask.
But what we read, we allow to influence our hearts and minds.
When we put little thought into the books, articles, podcasts, and teachers we are learning from, we allow an opportunity for bad and false teaching to enter into our homes and take root in our hearts.
Throughout the Bible, God warns us to be on the lookout for bad teachers and false teachings:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality…”
2 Peter 2:1-2
“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Friends, here is the reality. We need to be wise about what we read and allow into our hearts and minds. As Christians, we must use discernment and go to the Word of God. We don’t have the luxury of being able to pick up any book off the Christian best-sellers shelf (or books featured on social media) and trust that it is true and Biblical. We have to use our minds, sound judgment, and discernment to really think about what we are reading and if it aligns with what God’s Word says (which means we must be spending time reading the Bible).
As I looked back through my stack of not-actually-very-Christian books, I noticed a few common themes about what drew me to them in the first place:
It was a popular book
You know the kind. Lovely cover art and a title written in calligraphy. These books look beautiful strategically posed next to a journal and hot cup of coffee. They catch your eye on Amazon’s recommended books list and Target’s popular book shelf. You aren’t quite sure how it has thousands more five star reviews on Amazon than the Bible itself, but that must mean it’s good, right!?
Jesus says in Matthew 7 “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Fellow sisters in Christ, if a book claiming to be Christian is being widely praised by the secular world, I often have found that the book is not actually Christian, and is promoting not the narrow way that leads to life, but the broad way that leads to destruction…no matter how beautiful the photo and calligraphy on the front cover are or how aesthetic the journaling questions inside may be! We need to be wise women who use our minds to look past these facades and seek out books that are Biblical and will build us up to be like Christ.
It offered a “new” perspective on a “hot” topic
These books tended to be on topics about race and ethnicity, women in ministry, homosexuality, and other similar topics that are widely debated in Christian circles today, and claimed to offer (whether explicitly or implicitly) new insight into the topic. These books teach “now that our society has advanced and we are smarter and know more…NOW we can understand what Paul meant when he said this or Jesus said that.”
I have realized that I am more like the Athenians in Acts 17 than I often like to admit. Like the Athenians, our culture (even Christian culture) LOVES to “spend [our] time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” Books claiming to offer a new idea or have new insight into a Biblical topic should make us hesitant. Go to the Word. Hold up everything you read to what the Bible says.
Let us remember that we serve a good God who is a good father. He gave us His Word as our ultimate authority and absolute truth. There have been many books coming out lately about a plethora of these hot cultural topics, and so many Christians will pursue these books first instead of pursuing what God’s Word says about anxiety, race, depression, obedience, marriage, and I could go on and on. These books are not our authority and go-to on these topics, the Bible is.
I hope that you, too, will take some time today to think about the books, music, podcasts, sermons, and teachings that influence you most. Do they align with God’s Word? If not, take time to declutter.
I am happy to report that our bookshelves are looking much cleaner and less cluttered! As my children grow up, we want them to enjoy our family library and have access to books that glorify God and align with Scripture. Discernment in our lives will take much work, but we live in a broken, sinful world. We cannot be women who eagerly and unknowingly welcome false teaching into our minds and homes. Stay strong in reading God’s Word, and may we be women who love the Word He has so generously given to us.