Four years ago an older, frail, gentlemen walked into the bookstore I worked at when I was a college student. He came in and requested some books for him and his wife. I struck up a conversation with him and we talked about theology. It turns out he was a pastor at a small church outside of the city. About two weeks later he calls the bookstore and asks me if I wanted to look through his pastoral library. He said, “Bring big boxes because you’ll need them.” My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I drove 30 minutes to his church. On the way back I realized I gathered five big moving boxes worth of books. Most of those books still sit on my shelf today.
Over time we have kept in touch. Every time he would invite me over he would always send me away with two or three books. He has been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and was a trustee at the seminary I now attend. He has an earnest desire to equip the next generation of pastors and he shows that by giving away sound theological resources. His example rubbed off on me. Even before he was kind to allow me to have part of his library, I tried my best to give away books. I was just never in a financial position to gather a lot of books when I was in college. But now, living on a seminary campus, I get books free or for next to nothing.
My hope is to not be stingy with the books I own. This is why I think every person who is building a personal library should not hold it with such a firm grip, but a relaxed grip. We should be willing and ready to give away our sound theological resources.
Giving Away Our Books Helps Us to Practice Generosity
One of the most difficult issues I’ve heard while being a church member is other church members who may not have a theologically robust education or study that do not know how to find healthy resources. One way we can help our brothers and sisters to find these resources is by directing them to our own library.
You don’t have to start off by giving your books away, but you can start off by lending your books out. This gives you time to explain why and how you choose to add to your studied collection. Though there are some good blogs out there that help church members find healthy resources I think letting them see first hand what that looks like is helpful.
Every pastor and healthy church member should desire that their church grows in their understanding of who God is. Too often, we wonder why our fellow brothers and sisters in the church aren’t growing, but maybe it is because they aren’t pointed to the right resources. When we are generous with the books God has given to us we can enable hearts to grow in a deep, healthy love for God. Do you remember a time where someone introduced sound theologically material to you and helped you grow your own personal library?
Giving Away Our Books Equips Fellow Believers
Do you remember watching old TV shows where the mom was cooking and needed a cup of sugar? Instead of taking off to the Dollar General down the street she went next door and asked if the neighbors could spare some sugar. I believe the church could learn from the old-timey tradition of being generous with our possessions, even our books. Our church has a small library that allows our members to borrow books.
The leader of my community group gives away a book every time we meet up. Whenever my wife and I have company over, I try to show them my library and offer to give them a book. When I was a member of a church back in Arkansas they had a book table where members could borrow books. The pastor would even encourage us during the service to read certain books to equip ourselves with a proper theological view of current events.
A good understanding of what the gospel is and how it has transformed us is the foundation for our ability to give a reason for the hope that is within. But it also starts with working through certain doctrines, worldview, and understanding the culture through the lens of Scripture.
God has enabled men and women to compile biblical thinking into pages of books that are rich and thought-provoking. God brings men and women to the faith from different backgrounds. He saves them from certain sins that they can then address and equip others to rebuke with the authority of Scripture. We are familiar with the verse “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” but in the next verse David exclaims, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalms 51:13) Let us rejoice in the fact that God delivers people from sin to help others fight sin through writing books.
Giving Our Books Away Helps Us Not to Become Puffed Up
This reason is personally tailored to me. When Callie and I moved to the seminary campus, one of my initial anticipations was to see fellow students personal libraries. I was eager to visit our neighbors just so I could see how big their libraries were. My personal library started when I was a roommate with a friend in college. Between the both of us we shared about 50 books and we thought we were big time! By the time I got married, I had a little over 200 books.
I got a wife who is beautiful, organized, and cooks delightful dishes, she got 200 books. Let’s just say I thought I had a lot to offer because of my “enormous” library. In the past three years of marriage, my collection has grown, but it seems now I am giving a lot more books away than I ever have.
I find that to be a good thing because there was a point in my life that I would cling to my books. I was the guy who collected books just because I wanted my library to be my identity. I desired to have my own personal office with two sets of double bookcases made of real cherry wood. Then reality we lived in a small duplex, I was paying for seminary, and we didn’t have finances for my dream personal library. This was for the best.
Building a big library can sometimes inflame someone’s pride. This is why I think we should give our books away. I’m not saying this would sever the root, but it would help avoid the temptation to be prideful. If we are gathering books for the sole purpose of “showing them off” or to build our reputation up we have it wrong. Christians who are building personal libraries should be utilizing these resources for the purpose of being conformed to the image of Christ and helping others to follow suit. If you are purchasing sets of books so that other people can talk about how solid you are, then you need to repent and look to Christ for relief. God has been so gracious to allow me to build my own personal library not so for me to grip them tightly, but to give them away.