The overemphasizing of a Christian’s freedom in Christ is not only common but initiates but can initiate the direction towards catastrophic failure. In such a discussion, the apostle Paul writes, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful.” In the midst of that discussion he urges believers towards godliness with these words: “. . . whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is a defining statement that influences the entire Christian life. With that in mind, we must ask, “What does this mean for our reading? How do Paul’s words impact our reading?”
At the most basic level, 1 Corinthians 10:31 must be integrated into all that we do and therefore should also define our reading. Consider a deeper, important point: reading both defines and identifies a person. Often times, many of us read for the sake of personal growth, seeking to learn and then apply that learning, therefore what we read can define us. Furthermore, what we read can say much about who we are. Others can learn about our joys, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses by simply observing what is being read. When God’s glory is incorporated into our reading then, it will be revealed in our identity, demonstrating an orientation towards God in our identity as a reader. God’s glory is crucial to what we read, why we read, and how we read.
To read for God’s glory requires three elements to be precisely defined:
- Rightly Define Your Purpose: The motivation to read can be generated from a wide range of purposes including to be entertained, to learn, or to gain perspective. Each purpose has a value, but that value is limited if there is not one overarching purpose. While each individual may have a different overarching purpose, I would propose that you start by answering the question, “How will my reading glorify God?” Depending on where God has placed a person, the answer to that may be different, but for me that answer is simply by using my reading to seek God and be transformed into the image of His Son.
- Rightly Define Your Priorities: Additionally, readers must define their reading priorities. Are they in line with God’s desires for your life and likely to cause change, inclining you towards Him? If the priorities flow from a rightly defined purpose then the answer should be, “Yes!” Personally, I’ve defined my reading priorities as the following: (1) To grow in Christlikeness; (2) To grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord; (3) To grow in wisdom and excellence for the Lord’s glory; (4) To grow in comprehension of the Lord’s past, present, and future; and (5) To grow in understanding of God’s creation and created people. The order of those priorities will also determine your reading for God’s glory.
- Rightly Define Your Publications: Finally, readers must rightly define the publications they read based upon the purposes and priorities. There is no other option except to place Scripture first and foremost as it alone is powerful enough to fulfill all priorities that are established by God’s glory. This does not make any other book useless but stipulates that all other reading must take place in light of what is read in Scripture and secondary to it. Additionally, priorities determine what is read and when it is read. For example, it may not be wrong to read to be entertained but those publications may be temporarily set aside when placed alongside of a book that reveals God.
These three aspects function together as a sufficient evaluation tool for what one is reading in light of God’s glory.
God’s glory defines who we are, what we were created for, and as a result, the activities that we undertake. This means that the glory of God must be a defining factor of what we read and how we read it. There is no doubt that books are an influential part of the Christian life. Therefore, readers must be purposeful in their reading and that step begins by considering the glory of God.
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