On the Stewardship of Books

I recently had to relocate my entire library, and it got me thinking about books. With boxes stacked upon boxes full of books, my wife’s face grew in dismay as she worried where we would store them all. However, we eventually got them all transported and set up on one too many Ikea bookshelves. Now that I’ve finished up my first decade in ministry, I dreamed about the growth of my library and the mass of books I will accumulate in the years to come.

For those of us who have been blessed with a solid theological education and a library of resources to display and consult, we have a profound responsibility. For most pastors and Christian academics, the size of our library dwarfs those of the past. For most of human history, books were prized and expensive possessions. Though Gutenberg’s printing press reduced the expense and increased distribution, access to books for many was still limited. As I gaze around my study looking at shelves full of theology books, biographies, commentaries, and devotional works, I’m reminded of just how precious of a gift the Lord has blessed me with my library.

As anyone with a library can tell you, each book is a little friend, an intellectual partner that formed you at a particular moment in your life. For many of my books, I can pick them up and recall the time of my life in which I read it and the lesson I was taught. Others, I’ve yet to read, and its presence in my library represents the vast amount of knowledge I still need to learn. The unique fingerprint of a person’s library tells a story of an intellectual journey. If you have a theological library and border on compulsive bibliophilia, you know what I’m talking about.

However, for those of us blessed with acquiring such a library, we must steward this gift well. Our libraries are not trophies to display our intellectual accolades, but tools to be used in the shed of hard study and writing. We read and synthesize vast amounts of information in order to teach others through blog posts, sermons, lectures, or in the writing of books. We comb through the tattered pages of our books with highlighters and sticky notes for hours, so that we might produce something useful for the academy and the church.

So, put your books to work! They do not exist to puff you up with knowledge, but to help make you a more faithful servant of Christ. God has entrusted you with your library so that you might use it to build up his church. Read, study, and write as an act of sacrificial love. Do not squander your library by keeping its knowledge to yourself.

If you dream of acquiring a solid theological library, check out Danny Akin’s great resource, Building a Theological Library. It provides a wonderful list of some of the best theological resources to place on your shelf, so you are not wasting money on books that aren’t worth obtaining.

For those of us whose accumulation of books knows no end, continue to expand your library with solid resources that will help you serve others. Your library is a gift, steward it well for the glory of God.

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