Every Good Endeavor
Every Good Endeavor
Author: Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf

Introduction

With deep insight and often surprising advice, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about our work. In fact, the Christian view of work - that we work to serve others, not ourselves - can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life.

Key Chapter: Chapter 9. A New Story for Work

(The background for this chapter is found in pgs 150-152)

(150-151) The idea of creation and our work to redeem it is going to be finished is foolish…Only by settling one sure fact: Nothing will be put perfectly right, until the day of Christ at the end of history (Phil 1:6).  Until then all creation "groans" (Romans 8:22) and is subject to decay and weakness … To talk about fully redeeming work is sometimes naiveté, sometimes hubris. The Gospel provides us with resources for more satisfying and faithful work:

1. It provides an alternative story line for our work.
2. It provides a new and rich conception of work as we partner with God in His love and care for the world. It helps us appreciate ALL work and both Christians and non-believers. We appreciate all work as well as discover how we can work distinctively as Christians.
3. It provides 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.
4. It provides new motivations for work and fills us with new and durable inner power that will be with us throughout thick and thin.

(155, 156) Making sense of the world is the foundation of our worldview. Based on what storyline you believe will directly impact our response; our emotions and actions might be completely different. In any case, if you get the story wrong your response will be wrong."If you get the story of the world wrong - if, for example, you see life here as mainly about self-actualization and self-fulfillment rather than the love of God - you will get your life responses wrong, including the way you go about your work."

A story has these elements: something knocks life off balance; there is a struggle to restore the balance between good and evil; the story ends with restorations or failure."So for a story to be a story, there must be a problem that takes life not as it ought to be.So a story must have an account of how life should be, an explanation of who it got thrown off balance, and some proposed solution as to what will put life right again." Stories are often merely entertainment. A worldview is a master narrative.


(157) Worldview (definition): the comprehensive perspective from which we interpret all of reality (from the German term Weltanschauung)

A worldview is a master narrative, a fundamental story about:
a. what human life in the world should be like
b. what has knocked it off balance
c. what can be done to make it right

(157) "No one can really function in the world without some working answers to those big questions; so to provide those answers, we adopt a world story, a narrative that explains things- a worldview." Including explaining the need and purpose for work.

(158, 159) "Worldviews, however, are not private or unique. In fact, whole groups and cultures have their own preferred world-story filled with generally accepted answers to the big questions and shared idols that heighten the drama. Leslie Stevenson's classic book, Seven Theories of Human Nature,lists influential views of human nature pioneered by prominent thinkers who influenced whole societies." The problems are:

1. Plato the physical body and its weakness;
2. Marx unjust economic systems;
3. Freud an inner unconscious conflicts between desire and conscience;
4. Sartre not being completely free since there is no objective values;
5. Skinnernot realizing that we are completely determined by our environment;
6. Lorenz innate aggression because of our evolutionary past;
7. Secular: no meaning to life answered by self-expression, sexual pleasure & affluence

Gospel: sin and evil throughout all of creation is answered by love - loving God and your neighbor.

Christian Worldview distinctives:
(160) What makes a biblical worldview distinct globally is that its "relational ...it "uniquely understands the nature, problem, and salvation of humankind as fundamentally relational. We were made for relationship with God, we lost our relationship with God through sin against him, and we can be brought back into that relationship throughout his salvation and grace."

(What makes a biblical worldview distinct is that it embraces eternity. A biblical worldview in the USA, where plurality exists, finds secularism as its umbrella for its numerous worldviews such as Existentialism, Pluralism, Humanism, Positivism, Pragmatism, and Hedonism. {per RC Sproul})

(162) Only the Biblical worldview locates the problem with the world not in any part of the world or in any particular group of people but in sin itself (our loss of relationship with God). And it locates the solution in God's grace (our restoration of a relationship with God through the work of Christ). Sin infects us all, and so we cannot simply divide the world into the heroes and the villains. (And if we did, we would certainly have to count ourselves among the latter as well as the former.) Without an understanding of the gospel, we will be either naively utopian or cynically disillusioned. We will demonize something that isn't bad enough to explain the mess we are in; and we will be idolizing something that isn't powerful enough to get us out of it. This is, in the end, what all other worldviews do.

The Biblical Worldview outline: Creation (plan), fall (problem), redemption and restoration (solution).

(163) Summary: "The gospel is the true story that God made a good world that was marred by sin and evil, but through Jesus Christ he redeemed it at infinite cost to himself, so that someday he will return to renew all creation; end all suffering and earth; and restore absolute peace, justice, and joy in the world forever."

Implications of our worldview

(165) "Every worldview is influence by alternate worldviews and their attendant idols, each assigning ultimate value to some idol - that doesn't fully take into consideration our sin or God's grace."
Definition of an idol -" An idol is a good thing that we make into an ultimate thing."

(167) "Sin runs through the heart of every worker and the culture of every enterprise.…This is why it is so important for us to be intentional applying the counter-narrative of the gospel to business."

(168-9) "To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest or not sleeping with your coworkers.It even means more than personal evangelism or holding a Bible study at the office.Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God's purposes for your whole work life - and for the who (or part -SF) of the organization under your influence."

(181) Questions to Ask About Your Work Through the Lenses of a Biblical Worldview
- What's the story line of the culture in which I live and the field where I work?
- What are the underlying assumptions about meaning, morality, origin, and destiny?
- What are the idols? The hopes? The fears?
- How does my particular profession retell this story line, and what part does the profession itself play in the story?
- What parts of the dominant worldviews are basically in line with the gospel so that I can agree with and align with them?
- What parts of the dominant worldviews are irresolvable without Christ? Where, in other words, must I challenge my culture? How can Christ compete the story in a different way?
- How do these stories affect both the form and the content of my work personally? How can I work with not just excellence but also with Christian distinctiveness in my work?
- What opportunities are there in my profession for:
a. Serving individual people?
b. Serving society at large?
c. Serving my field of work?
d. Modeling competence and excellence?
e. Witnessing to Christ?

(182) Becoming a Christian is a lot like moving to a new country; only it is more profound, because it gives us a new perspective on every culture, every worldview and every field of work.In the long run, the gospel helps us see everything in a new light, but it takes time to grasp and incorporate this new information into how we live and pursue our vocations. And we can be sure that this ultimate learning experience will never truly end; we are told the angels themselves never tire of looking into the gospel to see new wonders (I Peter 1:1-12)

 

Key Insights 

(18) Habits of the Heart by Robert Bellah identifies "expressive individualism" and that "we are moving to an even greater validation of the sacredness of the individual person, (and that) our capacity to imagine a social fabric that would held individuals together is vanishing… The sacredness of the individual is not balanced by any sense of the whole or concern for the common good."There needs to a return "to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one' own advancement". (see page 66 for similar insights)

(19) The Latin word, Vocare - to call - is at the root of our common word "vocation".Today the word often means simply a job, but that was not the original sense. A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself (we must then revisit the original idea and apply the word vocation to its intend… an integration of faith and work).

(20) Some...have been frustrated by the shallowness of the advice and examples. Others are bewildered by the diversity-some would say cacophony-of voices giving counsel on how to be a Christian at work.

(24-30) Review of Leaf By Niggle by J. R. R. Tolkien

Chapter 1 -The Design of Work
(36) Goodness of Our Work - It was part of God's perfect design for human life, because we were made in God's image, and part of his glory and happiness is that he works, as does the Son of God, who said, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working" (John 5:17). (I have completed the work you have given me to do - John 17:4.)

(38) The loss of work is deeply disturbing because we were designed for it.

(43)There is no better starting point for a meaningful work life than a firm grasp of this balanced work and rest theology.

Chapter 2 -The Dignity of Work
(48)We (not animals) are given specific work to do because we are made in God's image.(We have a job description - cultivate and subdue.

(49) Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God's place, as his representatives.

(51) All work has dignity because it reflects God's image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good.

Chapter 3 -Work as Cultivation
(Great chapter for Pastors to read)

Chapter 4 -Work as Service
(64) Illustration of Mike Ullman, former CEO of JCPenney, tells of a conversation he had with Starbucks founder Howard Schultz when he was first offer the job of JCPenney -"They (JCP) nee to put service back into the mission of that company, and you're the guy to do it." The role he saw was an opportunity to reorient twenty-five thousand retail employees to seeing that their work matters and that serving their customers is an honorable career.

(67) The question regarding our choice of work is no longer " What will make me the most money and give the most status?"The question must now be "How, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing aha I do of God's will and of human need?"

(69) Insights to Martin Luther's view of the priesthood of believers.God could easily provide the food and water needed to sustain us, but rather he works behind the masks of priests, so that we might enjoy Him and others through him.

(73) If religious work did absolutely nothing to earn favor with God, it could no longer be seen as superior to other forms of labor. /The gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity throughout work, for we are already proven and secure… All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely; and by extension, a way to love our neighbor.

(74)(Love) This (love) way of looking at work gives all work a common and exalted purpose: to honor God by loving your neighbors and serving them through your work.

(76) Illustration: "imagine that everyone quits working, right now! What happens? Supplies life quickly melts away. Food vanishes from the shelves, gas dries up at the pumps, streets are no longer patrolled, and fires burn themselves out. Communication and transportation services end, utilities go dead.Those who survive at all are soon hobbled around campfires, sleeping in caves, clothing raw animal hides. The difference between a wilderness and culture is simply, work." There may be no better way to love your neighbor, whether you are writing parking tickets, software, or books, than to simply do your work. But only skillful, competent work will do. / if God's purpose for your job is that you serve the human community, then the way to serve God best is to do the job as well as it can be done.

(80) As Eric Liddell's missionary father exhorts him in Chariots of Fire, "you can praise the Lord by peeling a spud, if you peel it to perfection. " / in the Liner notes to his masterpiece a love supreme, John Coltrane says it beautifully: this album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say, "thank you God" through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May he help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.

Chapter 5 -Work Becomes Fruitless
(84) Only if we have some understanding of how sin distorts work can we hope to counteract its effects and salvage some of the satisfaction God planned for our work.

(85) Ahen Adam and Eve disappoint date this command, they did become "like God," as the serpent (who deceived them into disobedience) said they would. That is, they put themselves in God's place; they took upon themselves the right to decide how they should live and what was right and wrong for them to do. For them to become like God in this way was catastrophic. We are designed to know, serve, I love God supremely - and when we are faithful to that design, we flourish but when we instead choose to live for ourselves, everything began to work backward.

(90) "Part of the curse of work in a fallen world is its frequent fruitfulness."

(96) Christians have, through their hope in God's story of redemption for the world he created, deep consolation that enables them to work with all their being and never be ultimately discouraged by the frustrating present reality of this world, and which thorns grow up when they are trying to coax up other things. We except the fact that in this world are work will always fall short just as we centers always fall short of the glory of God….


Chapter 8 - Work Reveals Our Idols
(132) Martin Luther defined idolatry as looking to some created thing to give you what only God can give you. Luther came to realize that those two ideas - to set up an idol and to try to save yourself through your own efforts - are describing essentially the same thing.

(134) It could be argued that everything we do wrong - every cruel action, dishonest word, broken promise, self-centered attitude - stems from a conviction deep in our souls that there is something more crucial to our happiness and meaning than the love of God.



Chapter 10: A New Conception of Work

(184) Our distinctive way of working is not distinctively Christian in its entirely. God as Creator causes us to ask, "how can we love God?"God as providential over the work (the acts of loving, caring, and nurtures his creative work) a laborer will ask, "How can I love my neighbor? "Work is a major instrument of God's providence; It is how he sustains the human race.

Common Grace
(186) "When we learn to value all people's work and all kinds of work, we are moving into a realm of Christian theology called "common grace"… Without an understanding of common grace, Christians will believe they can live self-sufficiently within their own cultural enclave…. and why non-Christians so often exceed Christians morally and in wisdom (191)…. This view would lead neither to withdrawal nor to uncritical consumption, but rather to humble, critical engagement with culture "(193)

Chapter 11:A New Compass for Work

(201) The limitations of ethics is seen in the most common answer for why should be ethical in business: " Integrity is profitable; dishonesty isn't" in the long-run. But this is not enough. Sir Fred Catherwood - integrity takes a community not merely an individual effort.

(202) Keller refers to Paul Batchelor of Transparency International work as awarning us to not believe the "gross oversimplification" that corruption is in the backward parts of the world. It is in all parts of the world and in all parts of society. Referring to Hugh Heclo's book, On Thinking Institutionally, says that the loss of confidence is in all American institutions. That the workplace breeds wider effects on society.

(203) "...Bruce Waltke points out, the Bible says that the very definition of righteous people is that they disadvantage themselves to advantage others, while 'the wicked…are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.'"

(208) "As {Luke} Ferry notes and others have argued extensively, {the} understanding of human rights grew out of the soil of the Christian belief in the image of God."

(218- 220) A Christian perspective on generosity.

(222-225) A Christian perspective on relationships

Chapter 12: A New Power for Work

Keller brings perspective on the power of passion, sacrifice, deep rest (Sabbath).

 

Every Good Endeavor, Dutton Publishing, 2012, 253 pp.

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Book Notes by Steven French

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