Are Books Your Shell Collection?

Are Books Your Shell Collection?

The glasses gave it away.

If it weren’t for those glasses, his unruly hair and wild beard would cause you to mistake him as a peddler. You’d reach your hands in your pocket in search for some coins. But those glasses — and the penetrating eyes behind them — give you pause.

This old man isn’t a beggar hardened by long nights on the streets — he’s a thinker, worn down by a million ideas.

He offers you a tour of his vast library, an experience not many have had. With a little suspicion, but more intrigue, you venture into his darkened home. Here you learn that this peculiar man is a well-studied theologian. His mound of books on the millennial reign of Christ would likely take a thousand years to read (perhaps a literal thousand years).

But as you look around in awe, Jesus’s words come to mind:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)

This old man doesn’t own a Rolls Royce. He doesn’t have walls full of priceless paintings. In fact, by the looks of his house, the only possession he really cares about is this extensive collection of books about Jesus. He has given himself to study — to theology — but his treasure is in the wrong place. Though his books are about another world, he’s been laying up treasure in the present one.

On the day Jesus returns all of his books will be for naught. Every question he had about the second coming will be answered. His other theories will be resolved. And he’s left without treasure. Because in all his reading, throughout all his pursuing theology, he never found time to pursue Theos.

It may turn out that he has correct opinions about every doctrine, and the perfect rebuttal for everything wrong, but what is most important is that this man’s heart treasure the truly inexhaustible: God himself.

Our views on spiritual gifts, end times, the author of Hebrews, and a hoard of other things will pass away. When the perfect comes our views will disappear. And we must be careful not to lay up treasures in our views and miss the One who is truly worth treasuring.

Good theology books are very important, but even the best, when left on the shelf, emphatically cannot replace what it means to know God. If your library doesn’t lead you to a deeper affection for Jesus, then it’s as useless as a collection of shells.


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Mike Leake (@mikeleake) is the author of Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in Suffering. He lives in Jasper, Indiana with his wife, Nikki, and their two children. There he serves as an associate pastor at First Baptist Jasper. You can follow his blog at http://mikeleake.net.