During the war of 1812, the Congressional Library became a casualty of war and was destroyed by the British. Afterward, Thomas Jefferson sold his 6000-volume library to the government to help restart a new Library of Congress. Later he would write to his friend and colleague John Adams, “I cannot live without books.” Not surprisingly he soon started the work of rebuilding his own library.
When we come to Paul’s last letter it would seem that the great apostle of the gospel could not live without books either. Towards the end of the letter while a prisoner in Rome, he makes a request of Timothy for certain books and especially parchments to be brought to him (2 Tim. 4:13). The books most probably referred to rolls of papyrus, while the parchments referred to animal skins, which were more expensive but had the advantage of being reusable. We cannot be sure what the books and parchments contained but it would be reasonable to conclude that they were a mix of written accounts of the teachings of Jesus and Old Testament proof texts. Either way the point not to be missed is that Paul while facing death was dying to have his hands on some books. And as such he is a poster child for the general rule, “Leaders are Readers!”
Leadership requires wisdom and thoughtfulness which itself requires a constant flow of insight, ideas, and information, and reading is a pipeline of such insights and information. I love what C. H. Spurgeon says of this text in 2 Timothy, speaking of Paul, Spurgeon says: “He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least thirty years, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give thyself to reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read!”
Good books are indeed a lifeline to better understanding, proven wisdom, and spiritual insight. In a day when less than half the adult population reads literature, the Christian needs to buck that trend and renew their mind through reading the Bible, reading books on the Bible and reading other books that add to one’s knowledge. Books deepen our understanding, expand our horizons, slay some of our Shibboleths, humanize our heroes, stir our passions and help us to love God with all our mind and heart. As to what to read, start with some of the classics of Christian thought and devotion. As to when to read, pick a time that works for you but always have a book in your possession so that you can read when you find the time. As to how to read, read with delight, diligence and discernment.
One final thought! God gave us a book, so I think he expects us to be readers!