My daughter is reading The Book Thief for school. It’s a sweeping story of lives intertwined during a period of harsh book censorship in Nazi Germany.
Yesterday, glancing at the book sitting on my kitchen counter, I thought of the freedom of speech we enjoy here in modern America. And I thanked God for letting people like me write books and read books and generally explore any kind of literature or films or websites I want to.
Freedom is a beautiful thing.
But it also comes with risk.
Because when nobody is deciding what’s consumable for the masses, the masses get to determine for themselves what to consume. That is generally the whole point of freedom. Yet the Bible tells us we humans are easily deceived, and sooner or later we’ll become hungry for junk.
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3–4)
There’s been a good deal of controversy in recent years over certain books by authors who say they’re Christians or publish under a Christian label, yet their messages lack sound doctrine. In some cases, the claims these authors make actually oppose Bible truth and lead people astray.
Maybe the authors know they’re off the mark; maybe they don’t. Ignorance is often more attractive to our “itching ears” than wisdom.
But here’s my point. As an author myself and a Bible teacher and a woman who loves the Lord and truly wants to follow and serve Him well, I’m not going to tell you not to read those books. Just like I’m not going to tell you not to listen to that podcast or watch that television program.
We each have to decide for ourselves what input we’re going to allow.
But always—always—check it against Scripture.
That goes for today’s best sellers, highest acclaimed movies, most popular preachers and bloggers and YouTubers. It goes for this blog post. Please don’t read anybody’s words outside the Bible and take them at face value. We’ve got to filter all input through a God sieve.
And how in the world are we going to do that well unless we’re reading HIS book first?
“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” (1 John 4:1)
We all have our favorite voices. Authors, speakers, teachers — God gifts His people to share their messages with the world, and in many ways they bless us. But our wayward hearts are easily wooed by celebrity and success, even within the Christian culture. We can easily trip the threshold from fan to follower, trailing blindly behind whichever voices we choose.
And it’s nothing new. The apostle Paul scolded the early church for the very same thing.
“When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:4–7).
The question is: What “seeds” are your favorite teachers planting and watering in the first place? As believers, we get to decipher the difference between freedom (to do whatever we want, believe whatever we want) and freedom in Christ.
One tickles the ears.
The other steers us toward wisdom.
And real wisdom comes from God.
So no matter which books we’re reading, let’s make sure we’re following Him first and foremost. Only then can we discern what’s true and what’s false—and experience the kind of growth only God can do.
Becky Kopitzke is the author of “The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood” (Shiloh Run Press) and “Generous Love: Discover the Joy of Living Generously”.Becky lives in lovely northeast Wisconsin with her husband and their two daughters, where her home office is overrun with bouncy balls and tween craft supplies. For weekly, keeping-it-real encouragement, visit Becky at beckykopitzke.com.