Christian writers often debate and discuss what it means, and strive to write, for the glory of God. We fret and discuss over whether a certain genre, choice of words, or depicted scenes are sinful or not—whether it is sinful to even read them.
Few have discussed whether reviews can be sinful.
Shouldn’t the same standard apply? When a Christian reader writes a review, should it not be for the glory of God just as much as the Christian novel writer?
If you answered “yes” as I expect you did, how can a reviewer sin in writing a review? Here is my top three.
Disclaimer: I’ve not recently read any reviews nor do I have any specific reviews/reviewers in mind in stating the following. So if you’re wondering, “Is he talking about my review?”—no. If the shoe fits, wear it, but I’ve not seen and measured your feet lately. After all, then I would have already committed the first and most common sin in writing this . . .
1. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
“But wait!” I hear you say. “The whole point of doing a review is to judge a book. Are all reviews sinful then?”
Nay, they are not. The key difference is this: we are called to judge the morality of an action for our own instruction; we are not called to judge a specific person’s relationship with God based on those actions. Only God knows the heart.
There are several verses that speak to this matter: Matt 7:1, Luke 6:37, Rom 2:1, 1 Cor 4:5, 11:31, and Jam 4:11-12. But the clearest example of this is Rom 14:4 where Paul discusses the issue of eating meat offered to an idol.
Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Paul had no problem stating it is not righteous to knowingly eat meat offered to idols.
What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
2 Cor 10:19-21
But when it came to someone judging another over it, Paul declared it out of line. We can judge a certain action to be immoral and sinful; we cannot say a specific person is destined to Hell because of it.
A review can fall into this sin when it goes beyond discussing the pros and cons of a book into speculating on the morality or immorality of the author. Even speculating on the intellectual capacity of the author. It can happen through sarcasm or snarkiness, spoofing or elitism.
The sins listed in Scripture are intended for us to judge ourselves with, not to judge one another.
2. Dishonest Reviews
I’m not saying it is necessary to pick a book apart with a fine-toothed comb and list every error, but one has the obligation to give their honest opinion about a book. Don’t write that it was a page-turner when you fell asleep reading it. Don’t skip over the plot hole sticking out like a sore thumb. Don’t say you enjoyed it when three-fourths of it you struggled with boredom.
Remember, a review is not written for the author or the reviewer, but to the potential reader deciding whether this particular title is worth their time and money or not. Hiding important flaws or not stating your honest opinion does that potential reader no favors. That is a dishonest review and potentially sinful.
Sometimes a review is written because an author said or did something the reviewer deemed offensive, and they want to get back at them. One way is to create “sock puppet” reviews.
A sock puppet review is when a person creates a fake account on Amazon or other online review sites, for the purpose to write reviews on a product secretly. Authors are sometimes guilty of this, creating a list of glowing reviews for their books.
Some sock puppet reviews, however, are so an author or reader can anonymously write one-star reviews on a competitor’s book, or on an author who has rubbed them the wrong way. Aside from the dishonesty of such a practice (see #2 above), the motivation to write it is personal hate and a disregard for the truth. All of that can lead to a sinful review that does not glorify God.
Those are my top three sources of sinful reviews that do not glorify God. Agree? Have any of your own to add?