Self-help books are a booming business, there’s even a faith-based category from religious authors, but readers should use caution with such books as some delve into advice and concepts that contradict the Bible.
There is nothing inherently wrong with reading self-help books. The harm isn’t in reading.
Part of the success and appeal of certain self-help books is how good they make you feel when reading them. They offer the promise of a better you, more joy, happiness, and a better life filled with purpose and meaning.
In fact, the above paragraph contains words that are featured in the title of some best-selling self-help books written by Christian authors.
Self-help books become problematic when, in their goal to inspire the reader, they venture into ideas that are contradictory to what the Bible teaches. The harm is in believing ideas antithetical to God’s word.
The advice in certain self-help books becomes problematic when they espouse ideas that contradict the teachings of the Bible.
The most common error is the idea that humans can manifest what they want in life by a combination of the power of positive thinking and the so-called law of attraction, that by maintaining a certain mindset you can attract the things you want in life to you.
The problem here is that you eliminate any need for God and, in fact, put yourself in the role of God, creating what you want in life by your own power. In essence, you become your own God, all-powerful, and make an idol of yourself. This idea is satanic and matches accordingly with many of the temptations of the devil used in the Garden of Eden and on Jesus.
Another red flag is books promoting the concept of the so-called prosperity gospel, the idea that God wants us to be wealthy and healthy. Jesus said the opposite:
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'”
– Matthew 19:21
In fact, Jesus said wealth is an obstacle to reaching heaven.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 19:23
“But test everything; hold fast what is good.”
–1 Thessalonians 5:21
The best guideline for Christians when it comes to self-help books is to read with discernment. That is, filter everything the author is telling you through the lens of Scripture. If it contradicts the Bible, discount the advice.
That said, one must read with a sharp eye. Sometimes the author blends concepts with Scripture, or bends the gospel in a way that seems right, but may not be at all. It can be done very subtly.
Trust your instincts. When something sounds questionable, compare it to Scripture and discern if the ideas are in conflict. If you are unsure, discuss it with a teacher at your place of worship or someone knowledgeable of Scripture whose opinion you trust.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
– 1 John 4:1
Lastly, pray to the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and wisdom. Never give greater importance to the ideas of human teaching above God’s word. The best self-help book for the Christian is the Holy Bible.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”