What should I read? Top of the list is, as I said before, the Bible—the Book of books. And as I also said before, if you haven’t time to read it, then there’s no point getting recommendations for other books to read. If you find or make to to read them, you’ll still not have any time to read the Bible. So make reading the Bible your number one priority. Other books can be read only if you have more reading time.
Now, I can hear an objection to this one book suggestion. Am I seriously suggesting that reading only one book is all you need? Won’t it get a little boring reading the Bible all the time? OK, it’s God’s Word, so it couldn’t be boring, but it could become a bit monotonous—it’s all the same thing.
But that’s the beauty of the Bible, apart from being God’s Word which give it a supreme importance, the Bible is a book of great variation. I’m so thankful it’s not all like the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles—not that they’re boring, but I don’t imagine they’re too many people’s favourite chapters in the whole Bible. The Bible itself is a book of great variety because it is a collection of books. It contains a great deal of history, but note the dry academic kind of history written by some professors of history nowadays. It’s more biographical history, for usually it follows the ups and downs of one man or woman, or their family. It is history with a human face.
And then there’s wonderful poetry to suit all kinds of moods and circumstances. There are also lots of sermons, as you’d expect from a ‘religious’ book. Not just in the New Testament, either, where we hear Peter, Paul, and, of course, Jesus himself preach, but in the Old Testament where Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the other prophets preach. There are also books of more philosophical reflection like Ecclesiastes and Job (which at times almost seems like a play).
And running all through the Old and New Testaments is instruction. I’m never too happy with the term law because it doesn’t really capture the full nuances of the many Hebrew and Greek words used to describe this part of Scripture. There’s much more to it than a list of do’s and don’ts, A good deal of it aims to inculcate principles by which we may come to make our minds up about those ‘grey’ areas of life. And yes, the Bible isn’t all black and white. There is a good deal that is clear—murder is most definitely wrong, and so too is sexual behaviour outside the bound of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. But what about drinking alcohol? There’s only one prohibition about that—don’t get drunk. But that’s not the same as saying don’t drink. The matter is largely left to individual conscience, though not entirely. There is a principle that is taught that we ought not to do thing s that may stumble others. So I ought not to drink alcohol in the presence of those who may be addicted to it, nor if those who may consider it improper, but by my example may drink to fit in and sin against their consciences.
Now, to return to the main point. The Bible is a book of different kinds of literature. It has a great variety with its covers, and this illustrates well how I should approach my extra-biblical reading—read a variety of types of literature. This is an important general guideline for any reading—read widely. The contents of the Bible itself demonstrate this important guideline.
Nor it is just something akin to the saying ‘variety is the spice of life’. It’s not merely variety for the sake of keeping interest, though, of course, variety does keep one’s interest from flagging. Reading widely is also reading wisely. There are certain lessons that are best taught in particular ways. Prohibition, rebuke and persuasion are entirely different ways of dealing with wrongdoing, depending on whether it has been contemplated or perpetrated and on the seriousness of the action, or the manner in which it is contemplated. Poetry conveys emotions and feeling that law is incapable of conveying.
So what should I read? Read a wide variety of different types of literature. Follow the pattern of the Master Author.