Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of Making Many Books There is No End

I walked through the book section of Ollie's recently.  I love walking through cheap bookstores, whether it be a used bookshop, a discount bookstore, or an online bookstore.  As I walked through the Inspirational section at Ollie's, though, I couldn't help but notice the shear number of books.  Books on every topic from how to have a fulfilling marriage (I think there were 30 different books with 30 different opinions) to how to read the Bible the right way (again, 30 books with 30 opinions) to who Jesus would be if He walked the earth today (insert comment with numbers) and what we should look like as followers of Christ walking the earth (I think this was more like 120 books with 120 different opinions).
The funny thing about book shopping at Ollie's is that you have two different types of books.  There are those that are written by well-known authors who either wrote a dud book that didn't sell, or had a case of books that got slightly damaged or were perhaps overprinted and therefore overstocked somewhere.  Then there are those books written by a no-name Joe Schmoe who decided he had something worth saying to the world, wrote a book, and then discovered that no one really cared or wanted to read it.  I've bought both types of books, and the interesting thing is that neither is guaranteed to be a good or bad read.  Sometimes, its the books that are written by some nobody just putting thoughts down on paper that are the most insightful and worth-while reading while the one written by a somebody in the book-writing world is full of already read ideas that are not helpful in the least, and sometimes the scenario is entirely switched around.  I try not to buy a book unless I've heard of someone else that read it, or I know the author particularly and have confidence in their style and thoughts, or the table of contents and preface seem particularly interesting.  I try....but sometimes I still leave these places with much more to read than I could possibly complete before the next buying venture.
I write this, though, because today I went onto Berean Bookstore's website and was browsing around.  They have a section on the books that they sell with about 35-50 tabs on the side with the names of different topics.  Scrolled down to the bottom and saw the heading "Worship", so I decided to check it out.  Now, I have read at least 5 books on worship (probably more) and have taught two seminars on worship, written a paper, and taught a 3 week Sunday School class on the topic.  I thought I was well-read on the topic and had a good grasp of what Scripture teaches.  Wrong.
I found that there are around TWO HUNDRED books on the topic of "Worship" on Berean's website alone!  As I browsed through the titles I couldn't help but notice the overlap, the number of books that seem to be on the same topic, using the same Scripture, saying the same things.  I couldn't help but notice the cliches, people who had heard someone say someone said something and had a thought inspired by it and didn't take the time to find that someone else had the same thought before them.  I couldn't help but notice the inconsistencies, one person writes about why they stopped singing hymns while another writes about why they stopped singing contemporary Christian music (really?  who cares?!).  And the question arose to me - Why?
Why have these people written these books?  Why did they feel the need?  What was so important to them or pressing that they felt they must put it down in words and try to SELL it for someone else to ingest their thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and research?
It made me think of the end of Ecclesiastes "The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd.  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."
And this, it seems, is why there are so many people saying so many things in the written word.  The words of THE WISE are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails.  Well, I want to be wise!  I want to write goads!  I want, in another 300 years, for my thoughts and God's revelation to me to be part of a collection that comes to be known as firmly embedded nails holding the whole structure of something together!  So I'll write, right?  I'll just write and this all will happen?
"Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them."  Of anything in addition to the words of THE WISE.  There are those who write who have nothing worth saying.  There are those who write who simply repeat what they've heard and been told.  There are those who write simply to write with no real purpose or meaning or understanding.  There are those who add to the sayings of the wise without really adding anything.  God, I don't want to be like them.
But yet, have I just done this?  I just wrote 874 words about the excess of writing, when someone much wiser than me, with much longer lasting thoughts, said the same thing in 43 words.  Have I really contributed anything or did I simply just waste your time and weary your body?
"Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to [the words of the wise].  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."
God, teach me what is worth writing, what is worth spelling out for others to see, and what is better left unsaid.

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