Hundreds of books about the intersection of faith and business have been written in recent decades, often with conflicting conclusions. Tim Keller’s recent book, Every Good Endeavor, written in conjunction with a former Silicon Valley CEO, cuts through the cacophony of this literature to ask three simple questions:
- Why do we need to work in order to lead a fulfilled life?
- Why is it so hard to work?
- How can we overcome the difficulties and find satisfaction in our work?
One of the most poignant observations Keller makes with respect to the first two questions is the modern fallacy of seeing work as an all-important means to self-actualization:
“In traditional societies people found their meaning and sense of value by submitting their interests and sacrificing their desires to serve higher causes like God, family and other people. In modern societies there is often no higher cause than individual interests and desires. This shift powerfully changed the role of work in people’s lives. …In the modern world-view, it becomes an arena for self-realization…the defining activity of [humanity]” (141-2)
Beyond this cultural critique, Keller’s response to the third question shows pastoral concern for those whose working life seems futile or pointless. In the end he arrives at hope, a fresh vision of work rooted in the gospel story. When we cease looking to our work as a means to construct our identity and receive our vocation from God instead, we “finally have the power to work with a free heart. You can accept gladly whatever level of success and accomplishment God gives you in your vocation, because he has called you to it. You can work with passion and rest, knowing that ultimately the deepest desires of your heart…will be fulfilled” in this life or the next. (241)
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