Assembling an impressive personal library was a sign of taking knowledge (or at least the perception of knowledge) seriously for my generation of seminarians and up-start minister types.
Filling shelves, especially with hefty theological volumes, showed that we — as our professors had demanded and inspired — embraced the biblical command to love God with our minds as well as hearts and souls. And, God knows, the last thing the world needed was another ignorant minister piping off somewhere.
Sometimes the bound treasures landed easily in our hands — when a deceased or aging minister’s books were offered, or when our jobs came with a book allowance, or when our Christmas and birthday lists were marked-up publication catalogs.
When it came to books, we tended to operate with the unconfessed motive that it is better to receive than to give. And we learned to make a note when loaning a book to increase the chance that it would be recovered if not returned freely.
Books, for me, have come even more easily through recent years. As an editor I receive review copies on a regular basis. Only a few are worth more than a glance — and even fewer deserve published attention and/or space on a shelf.
Even with such selectivity, however, I found myself with many books that looked good displayed on the abundant shelves in my office but received little use. So I decided to give most of them away.
An attempt to cull books a few years resulted in just a few boxes of giveaways. But a recent visit to Koinonia Farm, the Christian community founded by Clarence Jordan and others in southwest Georgia, turned the tide.
So yesterday I made a quick drive down and back (between proofreading) to deliver hundreds of my own books that will likely get much more use there. (Some others, pertaining to Baptist history and theology, were sent to the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary library.)
Being smart and wise is better than trying to look smart and wise. And sometimes the wisest thing to do is to clear out some stuff in order to make room for other or fewer things.
Indeed, giving is better than receiving.