#7 Subtle Symptoms of the Idolatrous Bookworm

I started a book again!

I hadn’t read a paperback in months and I felt guilty. Of all people, writers are meant to read.

But this past Tuesday, I finally picked up a new novel, River of Grace.

I savored it from the beginning. The pleasure of reading returned to me like a neglected friend. I rediscovered the urge to read in every spare moment, the bittersweet (mostly sweet) guilt of reading past my bedtime, the adrenaline rush when I thought about the next chance I would get to crack open the cover, the secret relief when I got stranded somewhere because of the rain and… oh well. *Sigh* I guess I’ll just have to read as I wait it out, even though there were a dozen more import things I should be doing.

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God-loving, God-fearing, readers, beware:

Rejoice though I did, when I considered the vocabulary I would have used to describe my relationship with reading, I had this unsettling feeling that something was wrong:

My priorities.

My affections.

So I lent some thought to the matter. Here are 7 subtle symptoms of an idolatrous bookworm that I identified from my own life:

#1. Books consume the thought life

The mind constantly jumps back and forth between whatever we’re meant to be doing and the book we want to be reading. There’s a sense of restlessness – the jitters of the mind – until we sweep our eyes along the lines of prose again.

What should consume all our thoughts is our God. And thanksgiving to Him and affirmations of our trust in Him or pleas for help when our trust is lacking. Shouldn’t we be constantly talking with Him?

#2. Responsibilities suffer at the hand of our books

We’re somewhat (or completely) absent-minded when we turn up at school or work or Bible Study. Everything around us seems to be happening a mile away. We become less proactive and dedicated to our commitments, whatever they may be.

The attitude we should have toward our responsibilities is one of commitment and selfless giving. As representatives of God in this world, we should show them that He is a quality God; not half-hearted or absent-minded.

#3. The pleasure of reading belittles guilt

Perhaps somewhere, beneath the resistant skin, we feel the Holy Spirit convicting us of putting our books on that pedestal. But we make light of it. We pretend His voice is no big deal, or we tell ourselves that it’s not His voice.

The attitude we should have toward that prompting is one of willingness to listen and be moved by it. True, Satan is called the accuser, and often he tries to make us feel guilty when we may not be. But we should be willing to search the matter more deeply to discover who is speaking, rather than brush guilt away at first glimpse.

#4. Books usurp relationships

We choose the book over a neighbor. The book over a friend. The book over a work- or room-mate, or a sibling or a parent… The book over God. The choice is too easy. It doesn’t require us a second thought. It may not require thought at all.

A sister and dear friend, Hosanna, has brought up the topic of materialism on her blog. She and her readers have been exploring together the idea that we express materialism when we take something material (even something useful) and elevate it above people.

The pecking order should be relationships first. God, then others… then ourselves in the form of reading or anything else we so desire (within the loving boundaries God sets as our Father).

#5. The very thought of reading invokes adrenaline

Okay, so I can’t completely argue this one based on biblical truth or science… but it seems intuitive, at least to me. Something has to be pretty high up on our list of top affections to cause our blood to pulse faster at a mere thought.

#6. “It’s okay… I can read”

This is what I experienced on Thursday. I was stuck at my workplace. The sky was bucketing down rain and I only had a motto to get me home. I really did need to get back if I was going to tend to the house chores, reply to emails and such. My one reassurance was that I could read as I waited for the rain to subside.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to have reassuring thoughts. But our first reassurance should be God’s goodness and sovereignty. If the reassurance of reading is replacing the reassurance of God, might we consider that reading may be replacing God?

#7. We justify any or all of the above

Our first reaction is defensiveness. We justify ourselves by our own “biblical” ideas… or by our own authority. “I can love reading this much because I want to,” “…because I say so,” “…because I…”. Or perhaps we just make light of the matter.

Personally, this is where I was finally convicted. Because ultimately, I had shown every other symptom – #1 to #6 – before the gravity finally caught up to me and I realized that I had been justifying myself all along.

Are you up for discussion?

  • Was this post too heavy? Did it feel like overkill? Would you argue that it’s really not that bad?
  • Have you idolized books? (Remember, if you have, you’re in good company. One way or the other this is a safe place to share.)
  • What is the most effective way to deal with book-related idolatry once we’ve identified it in our lives?
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7 thoughts on “#7 Subtle Symptoms of the Idolatrous Bookworm

  1. Yes, books can definitely be a problem.
    *gasp* What did I just say?!? 😛
    They really can! I think I’m getting better at putting other priorities first (mainly because I’m running into a supply problem), but this post was still sobering and helpful. Thanks! 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment… Leona, right?

      It certainly was sobering for me, too. At the same time, I was kind of hesitant to post this because it seems like it could be a kill-joy to many well-meaning christians. What do you think? Is this sort of post appropriate? I’m considering doing some sort of a follow-up post next Saturday… we’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. 😉
        I think it is very appropriate. I love reading, and I know a lot of people who love it, too… but there is definitely a problem with reading (or writing, in some cases) too much. If you think about it seriously: are you really pleasing God by reading? In my case, the answer is no most of the time. Now, writing can be a way to witness to people, but reading… I really hate to say this… but I’m preaching to myself as well. 😉

        Like

      2. I think you’re right. There’s a problem with reading, writing… doing almost anything too much.

        I think there *are* ways to honor God through reading, but my opinion on specific ways isn’t very developed. It helps us relate with other people? It exposes us to ideas that we can test against the Bible to sharpen our understanding of the Truth? It allows us to recommend good books (or warn against bad ones) to our fellow readers? They’re some ideas. But – coming back to what you said – I think we can definitely read too much, and there’s a problem with that.

        I noticed you mentioned writing. Do you write outside of your blog/reviews?

        Thanks for commenting, Leona. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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