Because I like to go straight to the point, let me do away with the long introduction and answer this question now:
And here’s why
Jesus didn’t isolate himself from the world. Instead, he conversed with, dined with, and died for sinners. Of course the Bible doesn’t say anything about Jesus reading contemporary fiction, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Bottom line: Non-Christian literature gives us a deeper understanding of the human condition.
Why does that matter?
One word: Evangelism.
In order to tell others about Jesus, we need to be able to understand them. We need to be able to know how it is to be in their shoes. Of course, being born a human being already gives us access to that, but what about the times when we’re confronted with people who struggle with substance abuse or addiction or simply the overwhelming drive to enjoy life with no rules and boundaries, or other things we haven’t actually gone through ourselves?
You cannot gain a listening ear unless you first know how to empathize. God himself became man so that the words in John 16:33 can give their full meaning:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
What not to read
It’s all well and good to read secular books, but let us be careful not to be carried away in our attempt to empathize that instead of simply trying to understand, we find ourselves dancing to the rhythm of the world.
Be careful to avoid books that celebrate and advocate sin. In essence, it’s the book’s attitude towards sin that determines whether or not we ought to read it. To cite a simple example: it’s okay to read a novel where the characters struggle with lust, but it’s not okay to read erotica.
About 95% of the books I read are non-spiritual. I’m not saying that this is the recipe to follow, nor am I sure I shouldn’t reevaluate my priorities, but it’s not an intentional figure; it just happens to be what my preferences have amounted to.
Whatever your taste in reading, if you’re a Jesus follower, you have got to ask yourself the question that brought me to my senses some 10 years ago:
Have you actually read the Bible?
And by read, I mean from start to finish — and studied and understood what you read. Answer that, reflect on what your answer implies, and everything else will spring from there.