But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
– Ecclesiastes 12:12 (NASB)
For those of you who have been following my blogs, you may have already noticed that I have, over the years on this website, presented to you one book after another that I have read and wanted to share with you. I have posted one book review after another. I have discussed books on studying the bible, on daily bound devotionals, on social relationships, marriage, etc.
Why do I do this? Why so many books? Don’t I realize that perhaps you do not have the time or the budget or even the interest to read any of these books? This is what I want to discuss in this post.
In my life I have read many books – both while in school and outside of the classroom. I find reading (and still do) enjoyable and rewarding. I know that many of you have different “normal” lifestyles than mine and have other pursuits and hobbies in life. But if you were to talk to my brothers and my sister, you would hear that my room has always been filled with reading material. By the way, related to books, I have always enjoyed taking extra classes on various subjects. One of my cousins jokingly told me that when I die it will be in a classroom.
Anyway, how did I become an avid reader? Just to let you know, as a kid I did do other things that kids do. But when I was younger living in New York, I often was sick. After my family moved to Connecticut, my health greatly improved. I started playing softball, bowling, touch football, a little basketball with family and friends. But, still, I found myself reading more than the average kid, I guess. I also had the priority of completing all of my homework assignments early when I got home from school. So what did I do afterwards? I watched many TV programs – more than I should. My parents were probably a little too lenient with me over this since, again, I always did my homework on time and always done well in school.
Regarding TV, I enjoyed many science fiction shows (mostly reruns) such as Outer Limits, Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Those shows spilled over into science fiction books that I began ordering at tremendous discounts the school was promoting. One science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, still comes to mind.
When I got older, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov gained my interest. Later on, in high school, science fiction books connected with social issues came into play. I enjoyed books such as 1984, Brave New World, and Animal Farm.
These latter books on futuristic society had much symbolism. I struggled at first to understand them even in the classroom. But later, slowly but surely, as I thought about them, their messages became clear to me.
Books eventually became more my friends. Why? It all developed when I started 6th grade. As I briefly mentioned earlier, my family moved to Connecticut (Meriden) from New York City, and of course, that meant attending a new school. The name of the first school in my new hometown was Jefferson Middle School on Center Street (today a modern post office stands at its location). To make a long story short, I wanted to make new friends at that school. My health was not all that great at that time, [click here, Standing In The Need Of Prayer] so highly competitive sports in school was out for me. So, I started thinking about joining a club in that school. Which one? I considered the chess club being a good place to start.
Although I knew nothing about the game, I was always fascinated with it. Maybe it was because of a futuristic looking, 3-level game of it I saw on an episode of Star Trek – I don’t remember – that piqued my interest. So I bought a cheap chess set and decided to learn the game. I then asked myself, “How do the pieces move?” And, most important, “How do you play to win?”
Since this was before the Internet, I went to the public library and took out as many books on chess as I could. The authors were famous, former, world chess masters such as Alexander Alekhine, Fred Reinfeld, and Robert (Bobby) Fischer. I then memorized several sequences of proper, winning, opening moves. I studied the strategy of the middle game and the theory of playing the end game. I learned how to protect myself from opponents’ attacks. I became inspired on how to develop the right combination of chess pieces leading to checkmate. After practicing several chess moves and concepts from these books, I joined the chess club.
What I soon discovered was that no one in the club actually knew how to properly play the game! They did not know what I already knew. This was middle school and they, of course, had not initiated as I did to study from any chess book. Again, there was no internet for them at the time on how to play the game, let alone win.
So I began defeating one opponent after another. I crushed the first player I faced. Wow! Then pulverized the next challenger and demolished yet another. I had a blast! One by one the challengers came and fell. Again, why? They had not studied the game! They did not take out any books on the game. As a result, I became unbeaten in the club throughout the school year. The only person who I could never defeat was the director of the club who was my favorite teacher, Mr. Turner, who taught English, by the way.
He had a warm smile every time I lost a match against him. At the end of the school year, during an auditorium school assembly, Mr. Turner came on stage and announced to the school how I, a beginner, came onto the scene to become the chess champion. I was called from the audience and presented with a beautiful chess set that I cherished as the highlight of my first year in that school. I do not remember making any new friends in the club, however.
Anyway, that year’s experience taught me valuable lessons. One of them is this: Through the reading of books you can quickly learn from others’ crucial, lifetime knowledge they had gained in their years of endeavor of understanding life, history, science and the ways of success in this world.
This lesson carried over to learning about the Bible. The Bible was never taught to me as the Book of God’s Word. When I attended parochial elementary school in New York, I was taught only the Catechism version of it – which was basically a collection of questions and answers about the major doctrines of the Catholic faith. But it was not presented to me as a Bible. So, to this day, I study the Bible plus read books on what others have learned relative to it. Wow!
So how do you explain the above opening Bible verse, Ecclesiastes 12:12.? Is it saying that we should not read any other book except the Bible? What is the context surrounding this verse? What is Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes actually warning us about books?
Many of you know that the reading of many books is unavoidable. When we went to school it was one book after another that we had to absorb throughout the year. Almost every class subject required at least one book. Typical English classes often used multiple books – especially in the higher grades, right?
And those of you who went for your bachelor’s degree already know that it takes many books, many expensive textbooks, to succeed. And if you worked toward a Masters and/or Doctorate degrees, – are you kidding?! – it is nothing but books that is the protocol for completion.
Some of you might say that the Bible is the only book we need in this life. I understand and respect your point, good response, but I want you to study this Bible verse in Ecclesiastes 12 carefully. What are your thoughts? That is my assignment for you. Yes, there is much production of many books, but today there is also: ….
- the publishing and digesting of many magazines…
- the programming and playing of many computer games…
- the creating and downloading of many Apps …
- the printing and reading of many comic books…
- the filming and watching of many movies…
- the construction and sleeping in many hotel rooms that you can book… (pun intended)
- the advertising and going to many vacation spots…
- the broadcasting and channel surfing of many TV stations – especially cable TV…
Anyway, may God continue helping each one of us grow in the knowledge, maturity and love of Jesus Christ – what really matters in life – that the Father God desires for each of us. Amen.
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