Name of the Book: Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
Author: Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf
Place of Publication: New York
Year of Publication: 2012
Reviewed by: J.N. Manokaran
This book is a wonderful contribution to understand the biblical perspective of work. As usual the author has done a thorough job of expounding the Scriptural worldview. The book has been divided into three major sections: God’s Plan for Work; Our Problems with Work and The Gospel and Work. The author attempts to recover the idea that all human work is not merely a job but a calling. For Christians work is shaped by ethics, motives, identity, witness, and worldview. Faithful work requires the will, the emotions, the soul, and the mind.
The author rightly points out: “The view of work – connected with divine, orderly creation and human purpose – is distinct among the great faiths and belief systems of the world.” The world was created by God like an artist who designs a masterpiece and he enjoyed his work of creation. “He forms a man (Genesis 2:7),plants a garden for him and waters it (Genesis 2:6-8), and fashion a wife for him (Genesis 2:21-22).” Work was part of paradise and God commissions workers to continue his work of creation. Like food, rest and sexuality, work is also a basic need for human beings. We are designed for work and need work to thrive emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Knowledge classes who are highly remunerated tend to look with disdain upon the poorly remunerated ‘service sector’.
“Western societies are increasingly divided between the highly remunerated ‘knowledge classes’ and the more poorly remunerated ‘service sector,’ and most of us accept and perpetuate the value judgments that attach to these categories.” Among all creation only humans are explicitly given a job to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion,’ or rule the earth. Since humans are representatives on this earth, work has dignity as God works. Holy Spirit does both gardening (Psalms 65: 9-10, Psalms 104:30) and preaching the gospel (John 16:8-11).
The author writes: “Work is our design and our dignity; it is also a way to serve God through creativity, particularly in the creation of culture.” The cultural mandate for humans is procreation as well as civilization and mandate to rule as stewards. We are created in God’s image so we have to adopt God’s pattern of work. The earth potential is undeveloped and it has to be cultivated like a garden. The invitation to name animals by God to Adam is an invitation to humanity to center into his creativity. “Though our work we bring order out of chaos, create new entities, exploit the patterns of creation, and interweave the human community. So whether splicing a gene or doing brain surgery or collecting the rubbish or painting a picture, our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world. In this way, we connect our work to God’s work.”
Choosing jobs is not to fulfill ourselves or accrue power, but to fulfill God’s call. Parents give children chores at home to develop them in their skills and character. In the same way, God uses work to shape humans. Commenting on today’s culture: “While ancient monks may have sought salvation through religious works, many modern people seek a kind of salvation –self-esteem and self-worth – from career success. This leads us to seek only high paying, high status jobs, and to ‘worship’ them in perverse ways.” The difference between wilderness and culture is work. To be sure that you are serving God in your work is to be competent. Luther argues: All work is objectively valuable to others, it will not be subjectively fulfilling unless you consciously see and understand your work is a calling to love your neighbor.
In the world disoriented by sin and sustained by God, work exists. Salvaging satisfaction God intended in work is through understanding how sin has distorted the world in every area of life; spiritual, physical, social, cultural, psychological temporal, eternal. “Adam completely avoids the real truth – that he has eaten of the tree – and only complains of his inner unhappiness and shame.” His hostility is also directed toward other creatures as well as God. Work is always painful, often miscarries even when it bears fruit. Thorns and thistles will encroach our work – expect frustrations.
Idealism says: Through my work I am going to change things, make a difference, accomplish something new, bring justice to the world. Cynicism says: Nothing really changes. Don’t get your hopes up. Do what it takes to make a living. Don’t let yourself care too much. Get out of it whatever you can. Biblical view: Work will still bear some fruit, though it will always fall short of its promise. Work will be both frustrating and fulfilling, and sometimes – just often enough – human work gives a glimpse of the beauty and genius.
“Whether quickly or slowly, all the results of our toil will be wiped away by history.” Young people define themselves by the status of their work. Biblical basis for choosing work:
- Choose work that you can do well
- Does that work helps people be making their lives better.
- Does this work helps to build the community and develop the work itself.
A balance biblical view: Recognizing and renouncing the idols of money and power (Eccl 4:4) and putting relationships in their proper place (Eccl 4:8) .“One of the reasons work is both fruitless and pointless is the powerful inclination of the human heart to make work, and its attendant benefits, the main basis of one’s meaning and identity.” Motivation to build in Genesis 11 has not changed – maximize their power, glory and autonomy. “Our pride and need for personal significance necessarily lead to competition, disunity and strife.”
Regarding Esther: “Through all these moral compromises, the rises to a place next the center of power. So we are posed with a question. In such morally, culturally, and spiritually ambiguous situations, does God still work with us and through us? The answer of the book is yes.” Commenting on the three books: Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther: “Here you have male and female, lay and clergy. You have people working for spiritual maturity, economic flourishing and better public policy, in cultures that defined and valued these ideas differently from the Jews. And God is using them all.” The author is right: “Unless you use your clout, your credentials, and your money in service to the people outside the palace, the palace is a prison; it has already gives your name.” –
If someone becomes a workaholic, or is rapaciously greedy, so that success or money has become an object of extreme devotion. Work becomes idol, when it is trusted to give control, security, significance, satisfaction, and beauty that only the real God can give. Idols are not only pervasive, they are powerful. “We know that people develop ‘fatal attraction’ for status and power, for approval and achievement, for romance and sexual pleasure, or for affluence and comfort.” In Traditional culture: Idols of race and racism; Modern culture idols of reason, empiricism, and individual freedom; Postmodernism: Technology, uncertainty and the market. Consumerism and cost benefit efficiencies – are now spreading into every part of the even family life. “The most obvious effect of the postmodern ‘means-without-an end idolatry.”
Finding Hope in our work:
- The gospel provides alternate story line for our work.
- The Christian faith gives us a new and rich conception of work as partnering with God
- The gospel gives us a particularly sensitive new moral compass, through a host of sound ethical guidelines to help us make decisions, as well as wise counsel about human hearts.
- the gospel radically changes our motives for work and fill us with a new and durable inner power.
The gospel, teaches that the meaning of life is to love God and love our neighbor, and that the operating principle is servanthood. The gospel worldview defines how you work. “Sin runs through the heart of every worker and the culture of every enterprise. The result is polluted rivers, poor service, unjust compensation, entitlement attitudes, dead-end jobs, dehumanizing bureaucracy, backstabbing, and power grabs.”
The author writes: “Catholic and Protestant colleges will be in the forefront of the preservation and recovery of the humanities – as the monasteries saved the works of ancient literature during the Middle Ages.” The gospel worldview equips Christians to see world and work with a unique combination of optimism and realism about life. Gospel is a set of glasses through which you look at everything in the world.
“Work is a major instrument of God’s providence; it is a how he sustains the human world.” So our work has its orientation toward our neighbor, and we must ask how it can be done excellently and for his or her good. “Christians should place a high value on all human work (especially excellent work), done by all people, as a channel of God’s love for the world. “Because Christians are never as good as their right beliefs should make them and non-Christians are never as bad as their wrong beliefs should make them, we will adopt a stance of critical enjoyment of human culture and as expression in every field of work.”
Today only one fundamental question is asked: Can money be made? In market place: Integrity is profitable, dishonesty isn’t. And most of the time, at least in the long run, this is true. ‘And he realized that to work for the money instead of the value that the work itself might contribute would damage the culture of the company he was joining.”
“Christians are equipped with an ethical compass and power of the gospel that can set us apart – sometimes sharply, sometimes subtly – from those around us.” Love has a supreme place in Christianity. The meaning of love boils down to loving God and loving others. Economically speaking some are more valuable, than others theologically speaking all of us are made in the image of God and are therefore equal in importance. Wisdom is not just obeying ethical norms, but doing the right thing in 80 percent life’s situations in which the moral rules don’t provide the clear answer. Wisdom is knowing God, knowing ourselves and learn through experience. Paul writes that the employers and slaves should change their audience, whom they work for? “If we begin to work as if we were serving the Lord, we will be freed from both overwork and underwork.”
Christians should work:
- work with respect and fear – courteous and not disdainful. Humble confidence.
- Sincerity of heart – singleness of heart
- Not only to win their favor when their eye is on you. – do not work hard only when watched.
- Wholeheartedly – work with cheerfulness and joy
- Do not threaten – do not use guilt and coercion to motivate people
- Treat your slaves in the same way – interest in them as people
- Class distinction make no difference to God. Masters should not be condescending, demeaning, or haughty.
Christians should not be ruthless, generous, calm and poised on the face of difficulty and failure. They should not worship acedia – Acedia – subtle idolatry – Pride to prove yourself, greed, gluttony for pleasure. “Resting or practicing Sabbath, is also a way to help us get perspective on our work and put it in the proper place.” Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design and declaration of freedom.
“In the Christian view, the way to find your calling is to look at the way you were created. Your gifts have not emerged by accident, but because the Creator gave them to you.” By serving your work you’ve been given you are serving him.
This is an excellent book. This book is biblically sound and contextually relevant. It is a good handbook for Christian leaders and all professionals.