No man ever became a great artist by tracing, and no man will ever become a great thinker by reading. (Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science. E. P. Dutton & Company, 2011.)
In various forums this past week, a couple men have told those willing to listen to their preening that their own august judgments should be trusted because they have read and read and read. They know their subject and should be deferred to.
The man who reads and reads and reads has not yet begun to think. Any pastor confronted with parishioners who regularly read the Bible devotionally will readily admit this.
I was called to serve one congregation that had lost several hundred members in the two or three years before I came. It was very sick, yet it oozed pride in its knowledge of Jesus. From the beginning, I noted that people never stopped talking about their knowledge of Jesus, their love of Jesus, their love for God’s Word, and so on. Yet lovelessness and spiritual presumption were rife.
I kept wondering at all their talk of Jesus when I saw almost no fear of God among us and no public witness to the Gospel outside our homes and church-house. Yes, they read their Bibles, but their reading produced no good fruit.
So I decided I needed to preach through the Gospel of Matthew. We needed to be introduced to the Jesus we’d read and read and read about, but didn’t know.
Reading is good. Reading is essential. I despair over the death of reading anything other than social media today—particularly the death of books.
Nevertheless, reading is no replacement for thinking. If you get done reading a book and all you can do is repeat what the book says, what was the point? This is particularly true of Scripture. If God speaks of His Word as a hammer and fire, we should come from our open Bibles hammered and burned. As high as the heavens are above the earth, aren’t His thoughts that much higher than our thoughts? If so, how can we leave His Word complacent?
Don’t trust men with some educationist degree of some sort who tell you they’ve read lots of books and are experts in this or that subject. The real expert never ever claims his degrees and reading as his authority. Rather, he takes the text he’s read and…
Then he applies it—first to himself, then to you.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)