Do you know anyone who sits down for three meals a day to a plate piled high with candy and sweets? No vegetables, no meat, no fruit–just tooth-rotting, deadly sugar, day after day?
Of course not. We wouldn’t purposefully deprive our bodies of such necessary nutrients, nor would we poison them by continuously indulging in what is unhealthy.
So why would we ever do that to our souls?
Sadly, it can be so easy to obsess with how we treat our temporal, physical frames yet neglect the state of our inner, spiritual selves. What are we feeding on each day? Are we satisfied with the Word of God, or are we filling up on seductive sweets until there’s no room left for the Bread of Life?
Women, we are the target of a culture that wants us to believe we’re too unintelligent to actually study theology, too shallow to love and understand the Bible. So often the books written specifically for us are meant to prey on our emotions, keep us in the dark when it comes to truth, and tempt us to become preoccupied with ourselves and our “self-esteem.” Worst of all, they try to supplant the roles of the Bible and the pulpit in our lives with their own authoritative teachings.
But how do we know that the books we’re reading or the teachings we’re following are candy instead of meat? Can you tell the fluff from the real stuff?
Five signs it’s fluff:
1. Lacking substantial Scripture verses or biblical principles
I’m not saying the book needs to have a Bible reference in every other sentence. In fact, I don’t always quote the Word directly in my articles. But everything I write is based on principles found in Scripture, and I often refer to the Bible indirectly when there isn’t a specific verse I’m including.
If, however, an entire 200-page book doesn’t mention the Bible more than once or twice (or uses a loose, non-translation like the Message), that’s a big red flag. Especially if what the author is saying doesn’t line up with Scripture at all, but only her own opinions and insights.
In order to spot this sign, we need to know our Bibles inside out so that we can tell the difference.
2. Overemphasis on feelings and personal experiences
Emotions are important. God gave us the ability to feel for His glory, and we don’t want to become emotionless robots with mere head knowledge. Yet it’s possible to run in the opposite extreme and make our passions, desires, fears, and hopes the center of our universe.
In the same way, we also don’t want to put the experiences we’ve had in life on a pedestal above the Bible, so that what we’ve “been through” becomes the authority over what the Word says. Ultimately, it’s God who tells us what’s real and what’s right, not what we’ve learned in life on our own. If something we feel or experience doesn’t match what the Lord says is true, it’s not true. Period.
If we’re feeding on fluff, we’re turning in on ourselves, introspectively, to find our source of comfort and truth, rather than looking outward to the objective, holy standard of God and allowing Him to transform us. Sheep who follow themselves will wander and get lost. Instead, let’s follow our Shepherd.
3. Trying to solve life problems without wisdom from above
I’ve noticed that many of today’s most popular books for women claim to help us deal with the daily difficulties we face. Particularly, issues like self-consciousness, anger, worry, frustration, and discontentment.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with trying to resolve those areas of our lives. Our attitudes and hearts matter to the Lord, and we want to honor Him with them.
But when our happiness and success move to the forefront, and God becomes a means to an end of securing what we want, we know we’re in dangerous territory. In these fluffy books, the so-called wisdom given by the author isn’t rooted in contextualized Scripture, but isolated Bible passages ripped out of their natural meanings, or worse, moralistic platitudes invented by the writer herself.
If the “wisdom” isn’t from above–pure and fruit-bearing–then it’s earthly, and even demonic, because it promotes vain self-seeking (John 3).
4. Focusing on stories about the “messiness” of life and flattering the reader
“Girl, you’re just a masterpiece. Yes, your life is messy, you make mistakes, but don’t forget just how beautiful you are! You must be great, underneath it all, if God would choose you! Let me tell you story after story of how I screamed at my kids, envied my neighbor, refused to submit to my husband… yes, I messed up, but isn’t that what life’s all about? We’re not in heaven yet. We’re surrounded by crazy circumstances we can’t control, and they make us react the way we do. All we need is to remember that everything’s forgiven and to just try our best next time. But if we mess up again, that’s what grace is for!”
I wish I could say I was completely exaggerating here. I’m not. This is pretty close to an exact representation of what the fluff sounds like. Low view of sin, low view of our ability to be holy, and a very high view of ourselves–contradictory to Scripture.
Let me offer you an alternative:
“Sister, we are wretched sinners apart from the grace of God. We don’t merely make mistakes, we willingly and knowingly sin against our holy Lord, even though we know He died a bloody death on the cross to pay for our debts. Let me say with grief that I’ve acted wickedly toward my family and community, by hurting others but most of all, refusing to glorify God. I know I don’t deserve any more forgiveness, yet our gracious God offers it to me and you on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. He is sanctifying us through His Word day by day, and it’s only through His work that we can change. The next time we are in a difficult situation, let’s remember that we must exercise self-control by His power, that we don’t have to succumb to our sin, since it no longer has dominion over us. Let’s pursue holiness and purity of heart out of love for Him, remembering His promises and the eternal life to come.”
5. No growth, no gospel, no glory
At the end of the day, fluffy books and teachings are like cotton candy for the soul. They offer no benefit, but do the opposite–deceptively harm us in their “sweetness.”
Digesting them leads to no true spiritual growth. They never express the full, beautiful gospel and how we live it out in our daily lives. They never attribute glory to God or help us do the same. Lacking these essentials, what good could they do for us?
Worse yet, we see these fluffy authors handing out their books of pretty-looking poison and calling them “Christian.” Now, false teaching is spreading like gangrene in the church, especially among women who are not being guarded and protected by sound doctrine or men willing to lead them in it.
But the good news is, the more we feed on God’s Word (and on books and resources that don’t replace, but complement the Bible with good theology), the more we lose our appetite for the fluff. Believe me, it’s worth the difficulty of preparing the meal and being picky about what we eat, because in the end, it’s a delicious feast that fills our souls with what we truly need.
So let’s abandon the fluff. Leave it gathering dust in the bookstores until they realize, we don’t want it anymore. And let’s instead run to the feast, worship and commune with Him in His Word, and enjoy it for His glory.