Is it Okay for Christians to Read Self-Help Books?

Written by Jonathan Malm, USA

I have a confession to make: I write self-help books.

No “Christian Living category” author ever wants to admit that they write self-help materials. Surely our work is far more important than mere self-help. But when we examine the deep recesses of our souls, we have to acknowledge there’s a whole lot of self-help in the books we write.

I have a devotional called Created for More that helps creatives do better work while also tapping into their walk with God. Then there’s also The Hidden Option, a book that helps you make decisions when none of your options seem good.

Because I write self-help books, I’ve had to ask myself a couple of questions: Is it okay for Christians to read self-help books? Is it okay for me to write them?

The Bible doesn’t actually say, “God helps those who help themselves.” The truth is, that’s a phrase we invented because it sounds right. Nevertheless, if you walk down the aisles of a Christian book store, you’ll find tons of books from pastors and thought-leaders about learning how to help yourself. And these books sell like crazy.

I have a Christian friend who’s a self-help junkie. Every time I sit down to have coffee with him, our conversation inevitably comes around to a new author he’s reading and his thoughts on how to lead a successful life. “Have you read _______?” Or, “It’s like what ______ says . . .” I’m pretty sure my friend’s self-help book budget surpasses some countries’ GDP.

At the same time, I don’t see my friend making much actual progress in life. Each time I talk to him, he’s still struggling with the same insecurities and drama. And that’s the problem with self-help books. Self-help books don’t tell the whole story for believers.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with reading self-help books. But if that’s where you leave it, you’re only getting part of the way there. It’s like watching the first Lord of the Rings movie, but not finishing the other two—and seeing Frodo ultimately destroy the ring (#spoileralert).

Any ounce of self-help might give us a little bit of progress in life—which is great—but there are greater things available to us. Scripture says “we can do all things”; now that seems to be a self-help start. But it doesn’t end there.


1. God gives us the strength.

In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” That means only through God can we overcome obstacles and make a lasting impact on people. To be honest, I’ve had a hard time with this Scripture in the past. I know if the Bible says it, I should believe it. But I’ve also seen people who don’t even believe in God seemingly capable of anything. The human spirit and our capacity to achieve is far greater than we even know.

But acknowledging the source of that potential is the key to letting God work in and through us so that we can do more than what we dare ask or imagine.


 2. Only God can tell us the things worth doing.

The reason it’s so important to understand the source of our power—that it comes from God—is that potential is wasted when it’s put toward the wrong things. For instance, what’s the point of becoming the wealthiest individual in your city if you’ve left a trail of broken relationships in your wake? Or what good is having tons of influence if you just waste it on your own vanity?

Being able to accomplish anything I put my mind to is a nice idea. But what if everything I’m striving for is ultimately of no value? Only God can guide me into doing tasks that will make lasting impact.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Self-help books can’t tell me what God has prepared for me to do.


3. Apart from God, we can only do human-sized things. With God, we can do God-sized things.

Finally, self-help books can’t tell you how you fit into the bigger story God is telling. What’s your role in the story of humanity? How depressing it is if your life only touches itself. But through God’s empowerment and direction, we can do things that will echo throughout eternity. Like the guy who stands up for injustice and infuses God’s perspective into the situation. Or the college student who invites her roommate to a Bible study—after showing months of unconditional love like Jesus does.

When we do our work intentionally for His glory, we get to showcase His splendor to the rest of the world. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” For me, that means my writing, though labeled tritely as self-help, can bring God glory—as I make Him the central focus of my books and not just a side note in a self-centered pursuit. One dumb book, written in Jesus’ name, can become a glorious thing. And the same is true for your life.

So yes, it’s okay for Christians to read self-help books. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing out on something greater. Seek God for His direction and enablement, by praying and reading His Word.

Thank God for the strength He has given you, and ask Him where He wants you to direct that strength.

4 replies
  1. Samuel Mwaura
    Samuel Mwaura says:

    I see people often quote an author they read case in point Rick Warren who wrote the much acclaimed purpose driven life …

    Others read Max Lucado books and claim to feel all inspired ….

    Book like these are a dime a dozen and it’s easy to fall prey into the habit of heaping praises in the wrong direction !!!

    At one point I was a fun of Derek Prince and I invested every teaching letter he wrote to the point I started downloading all his stuff ….

    God had to warn me about making inspiration an idol and from that day I’ve ceased reading these kind of literature and I focus my efforts to reading the Bible instead !!!

    Still 12 yrs since I got saved I keep seeing folk sucker punched into subscribing to text messages that claim all manner of wisdom and knowledge ….

    During my yrs in church the buzz was downloading Bible software onto cell phones instead I chose to listen to a messianic preacher from Canada !!!

    I’m an avid enemy of anything self help but I keep my comments to myself and leave non Bible readers to carry on ….

    Joshua when taking the mantle from Moses was instructed not to let this book of the law depart from his mouth and so it is with us …

    The Israelites never listened to Moses so he told them In the book of Deuteronomy ….

    Y’all didn’t listen to me or to the council of God but he will raise another prophet like me and woa to you if you don’t give heed to his commandments !!!

  2. Samuel Mwaura
    Samuel Mwaura says:

    On the subject of self help I find folks taking in too much of these books they forget that it’s just a book …

    And they forget that the myriad of books are as varied in their approach to life as there are depiction of the zodiac in newspapers !!!

    Though these same authors claim to have an angle on their pet subject they fail to tell you that the advice they give is not full proof and it’s not even tested on the population that read their books !!?

    Very soon readers of self help books are on the trail of the next book by the same author or the latest sensation in town …

    They spend oodles of cash on seminars tapes books and online download which only help to fuel the fan of popular opinion no ???

    Very soon these types of books only lead us in circles and we go round the bend on too many times ….

    King Solomon said in the book of Proverbs that there lies weariness in much reading but those who study the word often find peace of mind !!!

    The only book we should bank on Is the AV the authorized version that logos and it is profitable for teaching rebuking exhaling correction and training in godliness !!!

    Amen ….

  3. Michael Lee
    Michael Lee says:

    Before I read this article, I never would have thought about self-help books the way that you said. I love watching self-help videos and how they make me feel inspired and like I can improve. Thank you for the perspective that there are multiple ways to look at self-help material.


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