Reading is an important facet of life. God has given us His Word which we read. He calls Himself the Word, so obviously words are important to Him, and words are there to be read. But that brings us to the question of what should we read? Is the Bible the only book we should read? Is nonfiction the only type of book we should read? Or does God make provision for a larger area of reading for us?
Obviously, we are to read the Bible and that should be our first source of reading material. We are told that the Bible was written for our instruction, so we grow by reading the Bible (Romans 15:4). Psalm 119:105 tells us that the Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path – the Bible gives us direction as to where we should go. We are to meditate on it day and night so that we will know what God’s will is for us (Joshua 1:8). It is useful in many aspects of life – for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
So, we know it is important to read, but what else can we or should we read? God has given us wise men who expound on Scripture and can make it easier for us to understand or bring depth to what we have read. The Bible tells us “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, we should think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). So, things that build us up and help our walk with the Lord are good for us to read.
Sometimes we need to read books that are helpful for us in our everyday life. A book about children’s illnesses might be very helpful for parents who are worried about their children. If a person wants to know how to knit, they use a book about learning to knit. History books teach us about the history of various areas. These are books that obviously are good for us to read that will benefit us in our daily lives.
Daniel and his three friends were all given learning and skill in all literature and wisdom by God (Daniel 1:17). Jesus used stories when He told the parables. Clearly, God does not prohibit us from reading fiction (stories). The important thing here is that they should be books that do not go against Scripture or have things in them that we would not want the Lord to walk in and catch us reading. Referring back to Philippians 4:8, we see the kinds of things that we should be reading. Reading fiction has been shown to increase the reader’s empathy, their understanding of others. This is a great reason for us to read fiction. If we have a better understanding and empathy for others, it will help us to reach them for Christ and help them in other ways also. Reading fiction also helps with processing information which is part of decision making. It has been said that the quality of our reading is an index to the quality of our thought.
The most important thing is that whatever we do, it should bring glory to God. We should never read anything that is dishonoring to God, no matter if it is fiction or nonfiction. We should read our Bibles, but then we should also read other books that can help us in our relationship with God and others and help us have a better understanding of the world and the people in it.