The Bible teaches that we should meditate on the words of God (Psalm 1:2). It also teaches that, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). In other words, other books that encourage holy living can be helpful in our walk with Christ. Commentaries, Bible studies, devotional literature—there are many writings that can deepen our understanding of Scripture.
Further, other books are helpful for many practical areas of life. From medical information to car repair, information we need for daily living can be found in books.
Third, some fiction is useful for both learning and enjoyment. As long as the book honors the Lord, a novel can communicate truth, just as Jesus did in His parables. First Corinthians 10:31 teaches, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is the standard for the believer. If a particular book is read for the glory of God, then there is a legitimate reason for reading it.
Fourth, some books can help us to better understand and reach out to those who do not know Christ. The Bible is clear we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Books helpful in this cause could include language study, cultural analysis, and even the religious works of other religions. While much care should be exercised with this last category, it is helpful to be acquainted with the literature of other cultures in order to more effectively communicate the truths of the Bible.
Of course, there are some books that Christians should not read. Certainly, books that “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20) should be avoided. Also, books with gratuitous descriptions of immorality or bloodshed are not worthwhile, especially if they include graphic images or pornography. Such books are part of “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11), which Paul calls “shameful” (Ephesians 5:12).
Finally, it should be clear that the Bible is the most important book and should receive highest priority among Christians. Other books can be beneficial and include truth, but only the Bible is “God-breathed” and inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Sometimes, Paul appealed to other writings (Acts 17) when communicating Christ to others, but the vast majority of his references are to the inspired writings of the Old Testament.
We are called to study the Bible: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This requires much time in Scripture.
Jesus Himself serves as our greatest example. When He was tempted, how did He respond? Three times He appealed to the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11). Other books can help in our walk with God, yet they must never distract from our commitment to the Word of God.