A Shelf Full of Fake Books

October 26, 2008

For anyone who doesn’t spend their days poring over history books, here’s a quickie biography. Charles Spurgeon was the first mega-church pastor. He pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle in England during the mid-nineteenth century. He was very interesting as a person with lots of funny stories and noteworthy achievements, but that’s what Wikipedia is for.

One of Spurgeon’s many famous traits was that he was an avid book lover. He read a book a day. He read Pilgrim’s Progress, a very difficult book 97 times.

I’ve read 97 words of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Spurgeon built large bookshelves in his home when he was a young man which he planned to fill with books he loved. (Which he eventually did – and his personal library now rests at the seminary I attend.) But when he was younger, poorer, and had fewer books, he had a lot of empty bookshelves.

He must have hated the look of empty shelves because (in between preaching 6 times a week, writing 500 letters a week, and reading a book per day) he fashioned false wooden books. He painted blocks of wood to look like leather bound books complete with titles and authors on the spines to provide the illusion of full bookshelves. When he purchased a real book, he would throw away a fake book. I wonder how much those wooden books would have been worth today…

Now with Spurgeon, this was just a funny little hobby which I cannot fathom actually spending time in performing, but it does provide an apt illustration of the life so many of us (myself included) try to live. We try to give the illusion to others of learnedness, spirituality, wisdom, wealth, power, or any other commodity. But behind all the illusions we have tried to fill ourselves with, there are so often just a bunch of empty bookshelves full of fake books, devoid of any knowledge or wisdom or spirituality. We’ve taken the books off the shelf and replaced them with the television…or People.

What’s on your bookshelf?