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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Why Read?

When you read, what's your purpose?

Why don't people read more than they do? Especially, why don't they read what Alan Jacobs calls "long-form" reading material - big, important books?

Dr. Jacobs reports on the frustrations of many academics like himself  "at not being able to sustain a permanent expansion" of what we might call serious readers ("Why We Can't Teach Students to Love Reading," The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 31, 3011). He believes that "Such people are born, not made, I think; or mostly born and only a little made." He adds, "It is more common to come across the person who has known the joys of reading but who can be distracted from them. But even those folks are a small percentage of the population."

The schools have not done a good job of promoting serious reading. They mainly want kids to pass tests, not master great books. We're more likely to find people who read with "hyper attention", skimming for overview or predetermined information. Dr. Jacobs thinks this is not a bad thing, especially in a day like ours, when we are overloaded with information from a wide range of sources.

Although Dr. Jacobs would like to see more students interested in "long-form" or "deep" reading, he realizes that's not going to happen with most students. So he is satisfied to teach students to skim well and to read selectively, so that they are able to find the information they need.

All of which raises the question: Why do you read? Is reading an important aspect of your life? But why? To gain information? Be "in the know"? But why do those matter?

I suspect that some people read because they enjoy words and ideas. They read for entertainment, albeit of a rather intellectual sort. Others read to learn new things, perhaps to improve their experience of life, or to gain some advantage for their work.

But why do you read? Especially in the light of Jesus' command to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, how does the reading you do - such as this column - help you to fulfill that high calling? If we don't know what we're after when we invest time and attention in reading, how will we know whether our reading has contributed to our Kingdom calling? Or whether we've just wasted another several minutes (or more) on some culturally-conditioned exercise that has no discernible point?

Answering the question, "Why do I read?", should make us better readers, and it should help our reading make an important contribution to our discipleship and our calling in the Lord. But first we need to answer that question.

We have the mind of Christ, so we shouldn't do anything in life that doesn't help us to realize and exercise that mind as the Lord intends. Reading can do that, but only if we know why we read.

Today is as good a day as any for you to articulate your own purposes and goals for the reading you do. Why do you read? How do you hope your reading will fit you for service to King Jesus? And does your reading need to be expanded, better focused, and more reflective?

Don't just read. Know why you read, and read with a purpose, so that your reading can help you to understand the times and make the most of your calling as a follower  of Christ.

Related texts: 1 Chronicles 12.32; 1 Corinthians 2.12-16; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5; Ephesians 5.15-17

A conversation starter: "When you read, what's your purpose? What are you hoping that reading will do for you?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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