Christian scripture gives us hope for all of life. For all of our lives including our workplaces, despite frustration, they are to be places of formative spiritual hope in the face of pursuing vocation in this world. So here Keller considers the nature of work, how sin messes up work, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ relates to work. Everyone has the experience of imagining accomplishing things but being incapable of producing them. Without God, all our best will never measure up, but with God our work can be part of bringing about the future healed world.
While others have written more scholarly defences of the theology of vocation, Every Good Endeavour is the most accessible book integrating a distinctively Christian perspective to our daily work. Moreover, Keller winsomely speaks to non-Christians who are trying to make sense of the frustrations and pleasures of their working lives.
Keller begins with God’s plan for our work: The idea that work preceded the Fall, that work gives dignity to humankind, and that work allows us to cultivate the created order such that others are served. Keller also relates our vocation to the gospel doctrine of justification by faith alone.
We labour in the certain hope of redemption, and of a new heavens and new earth. Keller goes on to address how to biblically steward the responsibility, authority, and power that might come from a job well done. It’s what follows next that I think is most potent, as Keller deals with how our work lives reveal our most deeply held and pervasive idols, as different cultures have different idols.
There is a powerful revelation that the Christian worldview helps us make sense of our work. As Keller writes: “Properly understood, the doctrine of sin means that believers are never as good as our true worldview should make us. Similarly, the doctrine of grace means that unbelievers are never as messed up as their false worldview should make them.”
The gospel gives those who believe a ‘new-compass’ for work: we work unto the Lord, but for the good of others. This empowers us to be change-agents in our spheres, for the sake of others. We’ll have a winsome, peaceful attitude as we go about our work because we no longer ‘need’ the work to give us meaning and worth.
This is classic Keller. It’s some of his best, if not strongest work: powerfully translating a reformed and biblical worldview to communicate winsomely. Here are some of my highlights:-
“The doctrine of common grace brings a great deal of freedom to our work. Christians often feel false guilt for not creating an explicitly Christian product or service in their work. Non-Christians can be genuine co-workers, because they are pursuing God-honouring work.”
“Two things we want so desperately, glory and relationship, can co-exist only in God.”
“Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught. 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 endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”
Every Good Endeavour is an excellent read for anyone seeking a better understanding of how their faith can be, and should be, integrated with their work. It’s whole-life-discipleship at it’s clearest. Great insight, theological engagement and practical application all-together.
on 19 March 2016
This is a must have book for anyone wrestling with reconciling their commitment and service to God and humanity, with a calling and commitment to business, professional or public service of any kind.
Tim Keller is a highly respected Christian minister; but this book should be read by anyone who is torn between devoting their life in service to God and humanity, and using their skills and talents in the marketplace, or to make a real difference in lifting the human condition.
Keller argues that there is no conflict, and guides the reader with soundly structured arguments and clear examples from the lives of people he's work with (and biblical references) as he explains that God expects us to serve him and humanity through our work, by living out values that lift the standards of excellence of product and service delivery in a way that strengthens families, communities and nations.