Due to the torrential downpours we’ve been experiencing as a result of Tropical Storm Fay, my husband and I have been trying to intersperse our evenings with quick errands or outings to curb our cabin fever. Last night, we went to our local Christian bookstore. I honestly don’t frequent Christian bookstores very often, normally opting to make my purchases online. However, my husband had his eye on a new CD, so we enjoyed a little shopping trip.
Once in the store, we ran into our pastor and his daughter, and were later joined by a high school girl’s discipleship group from our church. What was intended to be a quick stop turned into a 45-minute gabfest…and an article!
First, I was totally caught off-guard when I found a display of Betty Crocker cookbooks on one of the aisle’s end-caps. I continued wandering through the store, only to find an even greater variety of cookbooks in the Women’s section and the Christian Growth section. I didn’t know we had reduced Christian growth to literally expanding our waistlines, but evidently I’m not on the up-and-up of Christian chain stores.
One of the girls in the discipleship group asked me about a book I have been reading about feminism. It’s an excellent read that traces the roots of feminism through the culture and the church, and it’s chock-full of sound theology and meaningful teaching. So, I approached the counter and asked if they had said book in the store. After quite a bit of computer searching, the salesgirl responded with, “No, but we can order it for you.”
Very frustrated, I returned to my group and proceeded to wax eloquently on my soapbox. I had already perused the various titles on the shelves of the Women’s section. Some were about chocolate, others were about fashion or self-image or motherhood. Oh, and we can’t forget the plethora of Betty Crocker cookbooks. However, a basic book on biblical womanhood and the rise of feminism was nowhere to be found! So, let’s teach women how to cook, but not how to feast on the Word of God while understanding their God-given role. Let’s all rejoice in our shared love of chocolate while forgetting that God’s Word is sweeter than honey to our lips.
I left that section in disgust and joined my husband and our pastor in the Bible section. On my way, I passed another display of “The Smart Person’s Guide to” the Bible, women of the Bible, Revelation, prophecy, and so on. Actually, these were neatly packaged imitations of the Dummies book series. Unfortunately, we as Christians can’t admit that we’re biblically ignorant and illiterate. We make ourselves feel better by buying a “Smart Person’s Guide” because we’re too busy learning how to cook or solving Bible sudoku puzzles (that was another one of my amazing finds in the bookstore!).
Once I reached the Bibles, I was so irritated that I was ready to brave the monsoon outside in order to get back to the car and go home. But my “joy” only intensified as I examined these shelves. It seems like everyone these days has some type of study Bible. There are study Bibles for dads, moms, grandparents, lawyers, teenagers, women in ministry, history buffs, sports enthusiasts, leaders, outdoorsmen…you name it, it’s out there. I personally don’t agree with stamping your name or your idea to the outside of God’s Word, but that’s probably another article entirely.
In addition, I found another genre of designer Bibles. One Bible came in a waterproof case. Unfortunately, the pages were still thin paper, so what happens when you are scuba diving and decide to actually take it out of the case and read it? The warrior’s Bible was tightly bound inside a metal case. Other Bibles were ornately decorated with bright leather, camouflage, feathers, sequins and stickers. Really?
Seems to me like we’ve dolled up the outside of God’s Word while still neglecting what’s on the inside. Now my Bible is fashionable enough for me to carry in public, but it’s still not practical enough for me to read in private. Unfortunately, I think this merely mirrors the problem in our churches today. We masquerade in neatly polished facades of righteousness and religion, but we’re being eaten alive on the inside by sin and compromise and self. We’ve exchanged the true study of Scripture for spoon-fed Bible studies, feel-good sermons and self-help books, all the while pretending that everything in our lives is “just fine.”
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon encourages us to diligently seek after the wisdom and riches found in Scripture:
“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek for her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you,” (2:1-12, italics mine).
This article isn’t meant as an insult to Christian bookstores. They do provide valuable resources to the church and her members. More importantly, this is an admonition to believers to not forsake the ancient paths and the pure study of God’s Word.
What wealth, what treasure, what wisdom are found in its pages! The truths and promises and depths of God’s Word are inexhaustible. The cookbooks and sudoku puzzles will pass away. The metal cases will tarnish, and the feathers and sequins and leather will fade. But the Word of God will remain forever.
© Stephanie Bennett, 2008