Book Review: Every Good Endeavor

As we all head back to work tomorrow after a much enjoyed Thanksgiving week, I thought it appropriate to post a review of Timothy Keller’s latest book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.  I’ll have to confess that I read this book on a cruise ship as my family and I maxed out the opportunity to enjoy the entire week we had off of school to adequately appreciate how thankful we are.  I’m so glad I read this book in a season of Sabbath…it definitely fueled my excitement to go back to work tomorrow within the proper balance of growing in my faith and loving my family well.  According to Keller, To rest is actually a way to enjoy and honor the goodness of God’s creation and our own. To violate the rhythm of work and rest (in either direction) leads to chaos in our life and in the world around us. Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design.”

This book is actually a compilation of research that Keller and others at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City have done on the link between Faith and Work.  Just as you would expect from a Keller book, Every Good Endeavor is chock fully of Scriptural references and application geared towards those who truly desire to follow Christ in all areas of their life.

I have pasted several things below that I highlighted while reading.  My prayer is that I will remember these things and live them out when I return to the office in the morning!

  • But near the end of Habits, the author proposes one measure that would go a long way toward reweaving the unraveling culture: To make a real difference . . . [there would have to be] a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement.
  • A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. As we shall see, thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and—as Bellah and many others have pointed out—undermines society itself.
  • When we work, we are, as those in the Lutheran tradition often put it, the “fingers of God,” the agents of his providential love for others. This understanding elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.
  • Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain,” writes Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 58.
  • The Bible begins talking about work as soon as it begins talking about anything—that is how important and basic it is.
  • “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).
  • According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives.
  • Freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, those that fit with the realities of our own nature and those of the world.
  • In the beginning God created us to work, and now he calls us and directs us unambiguously to live out that part of our design. This is not a burdensome command; it is an invitation to freedom.
  • If you make any work the purpose of your life—even if that work is church ministry—you create an idol that rivals God.
  • There is no better starting point for a meaningful work life than a firm grasp of this balanced work and rest theology.
  • Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives.
  • Work is our design and our dignity; it is also a way to serve God through creativity, particularly in the creation of culture.
  • A biblical understanding of work energizes our desire to create value from the resources available to us. Recognizing the God who supplies our resources, and who gives us the privilege of joining in as cocultivators, helps us enter into our work with a relentless spirit of creativity.
  • The question must now be “How, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?”
  • If the point of work is to serve and exalt ourselves, then our work inevitably becomes less about the work and more about us. Our aggressiveness will eventually become abuse, our drive will become burnout, and our self-sufficiency will become self-loathing. But if the purpose of work is to serve and exalt something beyond ourselves, then we actually have a better reason to deploy our talent, ambition, and entrepreneurial vigor—and we are more likely to be successful in the long run, even by the world’s definition.
  • Ecclesiastes says, “A person can do nothing better than to . . . find satisfaction in their own toil” (2:24).
  • Perhaps it is related to the mobility of our urban culture and the resulting disruption of community, but in New York City many young people see the process of career selection more as the choice of an identity marker than a consideration of gifting and passions to contribute to the world.
  • Our goal should not simply be to do work, but to increase the human race’s capacity to cultivate the created world.
  • Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:5–6
  • Don’t just get into the palace and bend every rule you can to stay there. Serve. You have come to your royal position for such a time as this.
  • Everything you have is a matter of grace, and so you have the freedom to serve the world through your influence, just as you can through your competence.
  • Near the end of the nineteenth century, Frederick Taylor developed “Scientific Management,” which was called the “rationalization” of production.133 It was the intense application of scientific methods to business processes to generate maximum efficiency. At the time, laborers in the factories taken over by Taylor’s methods reacted with fury. They felt dehumanized—since all personal discretion and initiative was taken out of their hands—and driven like slaves. Taylor’s system valued every task being simplified, standardized, and executed with absolute uniformity every time. As many have pointed out, this is how machines work. Peter Drucker, the foremost critic of Taylor’s approach argued that the extreme rationalization of work did indeed treat human beings like cogs in a mechanism. “Machines,” he wrote, “work best if they do only one task, if they do it repetitively, and if they do the simplest possible task. . . . [But] the human being . . . is a very poorly designed machine tool. The human being excels . . . in coordination. He excels in relating perception to action. He works best if the entire human being, muscles, senses, and mind is engaged in the work.”
  • Christians agree that when we sell and market, we need to show potential customers that a product “adds value” to their lives. That doesn’t mean it can give them a life. But because Christians have a deeper understanding of human well-being, we will often find ourselves swimming against the very strong currents of the corporate idols of our culture.
  • One of the reasons the Bible’s view of work is so compelling and so helpful in all cultures, social settings, and vocations is because it is so rich and multidimensional.
  • So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • The term “worldview,” from the German word Weltanschauung, means the comprehensive perspective from which we interpret all of reality. But a worldview is not merely a set of philosophical bullet points. It is essentially a master narrative, a fundamental story about (a) what human life in the world should be like, (b) what has knocked it off balance, and (c) what can be done to make it right.
  • Christian educators should be motivated by the gospel to find ways to resist the enormous economic pressures that are today working against both the quality and accessibility of higher education.
  • Whatever you do, do well. Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NLT)
  • God is Creator of the world, and our work mirrors his creative work when we create culture that conforms to his will and vision for human beings—when it matches up with the biblical story line.
  • Everyone who does not acknowledge Christ as Lord is operating out of a false view of ultimate reality, while to confess Christ as Lord is to be in line with ultimate reality. Everyone is operating from a worldview that either denies Christ or him. No one is objective or neutral; no one can avoid the question.
  • An understanding of common grace, as well as an experience of God’s pardoning grace in Christ, should lead us to freely and humbly work with others who may not share our faith but can be used greatly by God to accomplish enormous good. At the same time, an understanding of the gospel worldview means we should at times respectfully pursue a different path or winsomely point out how our own Christian faith gives us powerful resources and guidance for what we are doing.
  • The integration of faith and work is the opposite of dualism.
  • Christians must remain absolutely committed to an understanding of human rights based on the image of God.
  • Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:5–9).
  • “treat your slaves in the same way” means, “Look for ways to further the interests of the people under your leadership even as I just charged them to seek to serve you.” This means you take an interest in them as people and invest in their whole lives, not just their productive work capacity.
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart. Colossians 3:23
  • To rest is actually a way to enjoy and honor the goodness of God’s creation and our own. To violate the rhythm of work and rest (in either direction) leads to chaos in our life and in the world around us. Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design.
  • To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.
  • Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).

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