When I realized the extent to which I’d been duped, I was shocked. I had swallowed this thing hook, line and sinker. These philosophies had somehow gotten past my barriers. They appealed to everything human within me. It was a testament to my heritage. It claimed witness to the truth that I was a product of the loins of the great thinkers and prideful men of the city of Babel.
I should have been aware. I should have been more vigilant.
A few years ago, I attended a conference and my roommate at the time, pointed out that many New Age teachings appear to be deceitfully sound to many Christians because many of them find their roots in Biblical principle. However, that which spouts from the ground is bent, twisted and directed into places that deviate from the root. At the time, I noted the great truth in what she said, but still I was somewhat deceived.
The Science of Getting Rich, Think and Grow Rich, and the Magic of Believing to name a few are some of the books which I’ve spent my time studying during the Past couple of years. I’ve read quite a few additional books from this same genre and I’ve listened to quite a few hours of audio of the same nature and they all have a similar core: a message of self and distorted faith. So many Christians have fallen prey, and unfortunately, many, like me who were supposed to be protectors of the faith are guilty of disseminating this material. But I thank God that he has opened my eyes to see, and I will share with you a few reasons why – as a Christian – I am reading less self-help material.
It Builds Self-Reliance
In accordance with Biblical principle there is nothing inherently good about the self. The self is treacherous, the self is dangerous, the self is deceitful, the self seeks to take away from God’s glory, it produces selfish ambition; the self caters to the flesh. The self is such a powerful antagonist to the communion which we share with Christ that we are encouraged to go into a state of violence where the self is concerned. We are encouraged to daily kill self.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24 (NLT)
Self-help material teaches something entirely different. Self-help material encourages belief and confidence in self (flesh), and leaves very little space for a true acknowledgement of, and dependence on God. Self-help material encourages “construction” of the self. It says, that we should rely on this ghastly thing that we’ve been told is so treacherous and dangerous.
What room is there for God when I have developed within me a super human who directs the course of her life with her thoughts and faith in self?
This leads me to my next point.
Self-help denies the sovereignty and power of God
Many self-help books teach you that you can do anything that you put your mind to if only you believe. To further cement the validity of this philosophy these writers often use the example of the tower of Babel and the verse Genesis 11:6. What they do not point to is the failure of the tower of Babel. The tower of Babel NEVER came into fruition and wasn’t because those who were spear heading the project did not believe.
“Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!
Genesis 11:6 (NLT)
God, in his power and authority decided that this project would be detrimental to his relationship and communion with human beings and out of a sense of deep love and concern, he came down and brewed confusion in the camp.
Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.
Genesis 11:7-8 (NLT)
This is not to say that we aren’t to make plans, dream dreams or believe that things that are seemingly impossible to others can come to pass. It is, however to say, that we must allow God free rein, that we should be attuned to his desires for us, and we should be subject to him without end so that when he desires a detour we joyfully travel the path that he charts.
When I was reading self-help books I lost that sense of abasement and the ability to hear with clarity the Lord’s heart and mind where my destiny was concerned. In my world everything that I believed for automatically translated to everything that I believed God for. but that was far from the truth. I would sometimes miss the signs or the voice because I was so determined to make things happen on the power of my belief and the strength of self all while neglecting that that which occurs out of alignment of the will of God for my life wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
The Concept Of Faith Is Severely Distorted
The basis of faith is not the hope which we have in Christ but the basis of our faith is the inherent greatness within. We can attain every single thing that we desire if our faith is deep, wide, large or tall enough. Unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever angle you choose to look at it from, this is not in keeping with the patterns presented in the Word of God.
From my studies I have gleaned that faith is a testament of the strength of our relationship and trust in God and not a currency that purchases what we want from heaven. Sometimes God chooses to bless us with material things and generational promises because of our faith, but there is no guarantee that God will bless our faith with material or physical gain. The guarantee of our faith is God’s pleasure and an eternity with him.
I Deserve Everything Good
The truth is that if you are a human you are inherently sinful and thus deserving of nothing but death. It is only by the grace of God that we have been given the gift of eternal life. It is only by the benevolence of God that we make strides and gain things in this life.
Self-help books can sometimes usher their readers into a place of entitlement; a place necessary to keep motivation and drive towards a particular goal. Oftentimes when that sense of entitlement is not appeased, we can become bitter and angry towards God. We question his timing, we lose sight of the existence of seasons and we sometimes blatantly ignore his will.
Greatness is misunderstood
Indeed we are all called to greatness but I believe that the definition of greatness is often misunderstood. So what is this greatness? This greatness is servant hood. It has nothing to do with the pomp, flair, fine linen, expensive jewelry and self aggrandization that so many self-help writers so often encourage. It is not about titles, and being served. On the contrary, if service is really your aim, titles and pandering will be the least of your worries.
So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:42-45 (NLT)
It is important to note that I am not in any way promulgating that fine linen, expensive jewelry and the intrinsic greatness found in service are mutually exclusive. Service is an internal posture, and a mindset that all should aspire to. I am, however, emphatically stating that the measure of one’s greatness is not found in the aforementioned list.
So if this is the case, why is it that I have not stopped reading self-help material entirely? Why Am I Reading Less as opposed to Not Reading anymore? The truth is I don’t want to say out rightly that all self-help books misconstrue or distort Biblical principle. I also do not wish to discourage exploration and reading. But, I do caution against freely subjecting thought and mindset to self-help content. Instead, read with a critical mind and be sure that you’re grounded enough in the Word that you can identify easily when certain things that you read are not in alignment with the teachings of the Word of God.
There is also the matter of the one book that I can’t stop reading. This is the only self-help book that I am willing to openly recommend, if I can even call it that. Perhaps, it is more suited to the genre of Personal Development. It is the Bible. It is the undiluted, un-convoluted Word of God. When reading it there is no need to be wary of possible contradictory messages. It is God’s.