66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2012
While others have written more scholarly defenses of the theology of vocation, Every Good Endeavor is the most accessible and helpful book I've ever read on integrating a Christian perspective with our daily work----whether that work be "blue-collar" or "white-collar," physical or mental, menial or high-profile. Moreover, Keller simultaneously (and winsomely) speaks to non-Christians who are trying to make sense of the frustrations and pleasures of their work 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:
"First, if religious works were crucial to achieving a good standing with God, then there would always be a fundamental difference between those in church ministry and everyone else. But 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 of salvation through sheer grace holds a second implication for work....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. But the gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure."
The second section of the book unpacks the many frustrations of work that the Fall made inevitable. As Christians, however, we can know that while our work in this world will always fall short, "our work in this life is not the final world." We labor 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 (or from being, providentially, well-connected to others in power). Finally, Keller deals with how our work lives reveal our most deeply held and pervasive idols. Different cultures have different idols. Keller gives of the main idols of three dominant cultures of Western history: traditional, modern, and postmodern.
Part three is about the gospel and work. Put simply, the Christian worldview helps us make sense of our work. Keller flushes out how the gospel relates to business, journalism, higher education, the arts, and medicine. This section also includes an excellent treatment of the doctrine of common grace. Everyone, including non-Christians, ultimately does God's work in the sense that they utilize their God-given talents. And everyone has some knowledge of God's truth; even if they suppress it in unrighteousness, it inevitably bubbles up. Some non-Christians are highly moral. 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 Christians 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 (we got those from God). Unpacking Matt. 11:28-30, where Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon us so that we can find rest for our souls, Keller explains:
"The yoke or harness put on a beast of burden was a symbol of slavery and grinding toil. How could this be a solution to the problem of deep weariness? Jesus says that it is his yoke and burden--and it is the only one that is light. Why? "For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (verse 29). He is the only boss who will not drive you into the ground, the only audience that does not need your performance in order to be satisfied with you. Why is this? Because his work for you is finished."
All in all, Every Good Endeavor is an excellent read for anyone seeking a better understanding of how their faith can be, and should be, integrated with their work.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
The Christian Scriptures give us hope for work, but work can be deeply frustrating and difficult, so the spiritual hope must be profound if we are going to face the challenge of pursuing vocation in this world, according to Timothy Keller in this book. Everyone has the experience of imagining accomplishing things but being incapable of producing them. Without God, all our best endeavours ultimately come to naught, but with God our work can be part of bringing about the future healed world.
The book goes on to consider a number of aspects of work and the relationship between work and faith, including the importance of work as an indispensable component in a meaningful human life; the dignity that work gives to us as human beings, regardless of its status or pay; work as a way of cultivating creation; work as an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it; problems with fruitless, pointless and selfish work; the relationship between work and idolatry; and the ways in which the Gospel changes the nature of work.
I was particularly interested in the Epilogue, which describes what the author's church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, does to help its people integrate faith and work. The church has five primary ministry areas: worship and evangelism, community formation, mercy and justice, church planting, and faith and work. Redeemer's Center for Faith and Work runs an intensive theological and leadership development program for young professionals, an entrepreneurship initiative, vocation groups, retreats and classes, literary publications, art exhibits and performances, and a range of lectures and conferences.
Most Christians who find themselves in employment other than full-time church ministry face questions about how to live out their faith in the context of work, and most churches do not know how to help their people address these questions. I found this book to be a very helpful resource. I highly recommend it because it provides a range of useful ideas that churches can use to lead their people into more effective Christian engagement in the workplace.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Tim Keller has given us another excellent resource. In my 40 years of ministry I have done lots of things, one of those was operate the Job Training Program for an inner city ministry. We had a ten week Theology of Work (written by Dr. Keith Phillips) course that we took our young people through and then helped them to find good employment opportunities.
Until now I have not found a book on the Theology of work that I felt did an adequate job with the subject. Keller's book handles it well, documents the Biblical principles and gives a good practical application for all that he is discussing.
Do you feel as though you have a "job" or a "calling"? That is one of the questions asked by Keller. Most of the time people think of a "calling" as being something a Pastor / missionary / professional Christian worker has from God. But Keller does a great job of reminding us that God put work in place as something for all of us, and it is a "GOOD" thing. Thus we are all "called" by God to do our work in a way that pleases Him and brings honor and glory to His name.
God gives each of us talent and intellect. He gives each of us a "calling" to the work that we do. As such we need to be asking other questions such as, how can I bring honor and glory to God through my daily work? How can I share God with others through my daily work? How will my attitude at work actually be a positive witness to others about my walk with God.
Keller's book is wonderful. It would be a great book for small groups to read together and then discuss. I would recommend that it would even be a great book for you to read, place on your desk at work and see if it will generate discussions with co-workers about your belief that God gave us work as a "good" think not as a punishment.
I believe everyone will benefit from this book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
Point: God created work, but in a fallen world man is liberated to satisfaction in work only through the gospel.
Path: Divided into three parts, Keller walks through God's plan for Work, Our problems with work, and The Gospel and Work. The book closes with an Epilogue discussing Leading People to Integrate Faith and Work.
The foundation of the book is Genesis 1-3. Creation, the Fall, and the Promise combine to help explain why there is work, why it could be good, why it is not toil, and to whom we can look to make it right.
Sources: Keller regularly references OT scholars such at Waltke, Kidner, etc. Calvin and Luther are sight-setters during the Reformation. As always, C. S. Lewis makes several appearances with thought provoking statements.
Keller weaves personal illustrations, examples from those at RPC, and other stories into his work.
Agreement: This has been the best work on work I have read. I appreciated its approach at undermining our misconceptions and building a biblical foundation. Keller does a great job at connecting the Gospel to my work, challenging me to see myself and my work in the light of God's redeeming work in Jesus Christ.
I think a detailed table of contents would have greatly helped my first reading through the book. Main points are in bold throughout, but it would have been helpful to keep my place. I typed out most of the main points if this is your first time reading through and if this would help. See below.
The content was great, I am just not sure whether everyone will stick with it to the end. Maybe parring it down a little would help, but I am not sure what the authors would be willing to leave out.
Personal App: Am I viewing work as a way to get what I want, or as a way to participate in what God wants?
Favorite Quote: "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" (29).
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.
If this review was helpful, let me know here.
God's plan for Work
1. The design of work
In the Beginning, there was work
The Forms of God's Work
The Goodness of our work
The Freedom of our Work
The limits of all work
2. The Dignity of work
Work as a demeaning necessity
Work as a mark of human dignity
The Material world matters
3. Work as Cultivation
Filling and Subduing the Earth
Culture Making with God
All Work is Culture Making
4. Work as service
Called and Assigned
Vocation and the "Masks of God"
Vocation and the Gospel
Work as an Act of Love
Work as a Ministry of Competence
Our problems with work
5. Work becomes fruitless
Things Fall Apart
Thorns and Thistles
6. Work becomes pointless
Under the Sun
The Meaningless of Work
The Alienation of Work
The Danger of Choice
A Handful of Quietness
7. Work becomes selfish
Making a name for ourselves
The Power of Being "in the Palace"
The Peril of Being "in the Palace"
Living with Greatness in the palace
8. Work reveals our idols
The Pervasiveness and Power of Idols
Culture and Corporate Idols
Idols of Traditional Cultures
Idols of Modern Cultures
Idols of Postmodern Cultures
Finding Hope for Our Work
The Gospel and Work
9. A New story for work
Making Sense of the World
Stories and Worldviews
The Gospel and Other Worldviews
The Gospel and Business
The Gospel and Journalism
The Gospel and Higher Education
The Gospel and the Arts
The Gospel and Medicine
The Christian Worldview shapes All Work
10. A new conception of Work
Everyone Participates in God's Work
The Balance of Common Grace
The Freedom of Common Grace
The Dialogue of Popular Culture
Dualism vs. Integration
11. A new Compass for Work
The Limitations of Ethics
A Different Set of Virtues
A Different View of Humanity
A Different Source of Guidance
A Different Audience
The Orientation of a New Compass
Christian Ethics in Your Vocation
12.New Power for Work
The Work Under the Work
The Power of True Passion
The Power of Deep Rest
The Rest Under the Rest
Epilogue: Leading People to Integrate Faith and Work
Read Os Guiness's The Call
Al Wolter's Creation Regained
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Rule #1 on Keller books: Always read the footnotes. I have never been disappointed and in this book, it is the only consistently good section.
That being said:
I pre-ordered the book last year (2012) and onIy finished in March 2013. It was a difficult slog, not because of content but because of its inconsistent style. On p. 144 of the hardcover edition, Nietzsche is introduced and what follows is a spritely discussion. But at p. 157, I read "Everyone knows that things in this world are seriously out of whack." These stylistic turns go on throughout out the book and are maddeningly distracting. Certainly, there were nuggets scattered about, but finding them was not easy. I write in the margins of my books, but this book has the fewest of any of my recent reads.
Most disturbing, I sometimes felt I was reading an apology for the wealthy for their avarice. Other times, an injunction to Christians that have bought into the entitlement mindset of today. By its end, I was just relieved it ended.
Keller is an outstanding author and I will buy his next book, if it is not co-authored. The differences in style, breath of experience, and technique between the co-authors did not work in this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's challenged me to view my job as a service to mankind rather than an empty road to self-image. I'm a big fan of Timothy Keller and feel all his books contain a wisdom distilled by decades of intellectual challenge and a commitment to love others. Read this book, and then read all his others as well, especially if you enjoy clear writing about issues that matter.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As someone who has worked as a pastor, a barista, a bus driver, a lawn service professional, a retail specialist, and a writer, this book is immensely practical, possesses theological depth, and is a delight to read. The threefold structure, tracing "God's Plan for Work", "Our Problems with Work", and "The Gospel and Work" is elegant and accessible, and gives instruction concerning work's original intent, the impact of sin upon our work, and the redemption that is offered in Christ. Tim Keller, in both his speaking and writing ministry, is a true gift to the Christian world.
While a lengthy review could easily be written, these brief words will suffice: you will seldom find a book that in its simplicity and clarity provides Christians with a helpful framework for understanding and undertaking work, to the glory of God.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The routine is the same: get up, get ready and get to work. Our commute is a fog. Sometimes our day is, too. And many of us find ourselves wondering, "Is there really a point to all this?"
It seems like work is, at best, a necessary evil. But is that how we should view work? More importantly, is that how God views work?
Tim Keller wants you to see that your work really does matter--and more than that, it's a fundamental way in which we worship our Creator. Our problem is, we lack a theological foundation to understand how. Providing that is the purpose behind his recently released effort, Every Good Endeavor, where Keller examines God's original plans for work, how sin distorts it and how the gospel restores and redeems it.
Keller's greatest pastoral strength is applying doctrine to everyday life--showing the practical nature of the Christian faith. This book is no exception. Each chapter is rich with implications for the reader in how he or she approaches work.
Among the most helpful aspects of chapter one is Keller's reminder that the Hebrew word used to describe God at work, "mlkh," is the very same word used to describe normal human work. This reminds us that:
"Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration." (34-35)
This is an important reminder for us today. With so many books on the market offering new ways to look at work--particularly those focused on "results only"--it's easy to get caught in the trap that work isn't as important as the rest of your life. It's the thing you do to do the rest of your life, but it's a means to an end only. But God values it because He does it. He created it and it is fundamentally good.
More importantly, while there are certainly some kinds of work that are morally wrong, there isn't really a type of work work that is of lesser value than another. Keller writes, "The Greeks understood that life in the world required work, but they believed that not all work was created equal. Work that used the mind rather than the body was nobler, less beastly. The highest form of work was the most cognitive and the least manual" (46).
This is essential for us to understand, particularly as we see the rise of a new underclass--extremely well educated young people who have no real career prospects. Our education system and culture has for so long pushed the Greek ideal Keller describes that many are left on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars of debt and only a Barista job to pay for it. All because we placed more value on teaching jobs than plumbing.
"Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God's place, as his representatives. We learn not only that work has dignity in itself, but also that all kinds of work have dignity. . . . No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God." (49)
This is also essential for us to understand in the Church because it reminds us there isn't a higher value on "sacred" work (vocational church, parachurch ministry) than on "secular" work (for-profit organizations, manufacturing, and everything in between). Being a pastor isn't better than being a plumber. Both can equally glorify God, and the sooner we get that through our heads, the sooner we may find we're sending fewer young people to be trained for something that doesn't bring them joy--and as a result, a healthier clergy and church culture may emerge.
But even in recognizing the dignity and value of work, we cannot neglect that sin has still tainted it. Work is harder than it was ever intended to be. It is plagued by "thorns and thistles" (literally and figuratively). Things fall apart. Colleagues flake out and fail us. Our work becomes fruitless toiling under the sun.
Worse, work too easily becomes our means of salvation apart from Christ--we derive our identity from it, and when we lose it, we are devastated. We put our value as people in what we do. This is where the gospel restores and redeems our view of work, something Keller spends the bulk of the book unpacking.
The gospel gives us a new worldview and conception of work, a new moral compass and a new power, all of which we miss without the finished work of Christ:
"When the extent and depth of Jesus' passion for you fully dawns on your heart, it will generate passion for the work he has called you uniquely to do in the world. When you realize what he has done to rescue you, your pride and envy begin to disappear because you don't need to get your self-worth from being richer, cooler, more powerful or more comfortable. Instead of working out of the false passion of acedia, which is born of selfishness, you are working out of true passion, which is born of selflessness. You are adopted into God's family, so you already have your affirmation. You are justified in God's sight, so you have nothing to prove. You have been saved through a dying sacrifice, so you are free to be a living one. You are loved ceaselessly, so you can work tirelessly in response to a quiet inner fullness." (233)
This understanding is so important because it really does change everything. If we see our affirmation as coming from God, not from others, how does it impact the way we related to our colleagues and supervisors? We can drop the unhealthy competition and one upmanship games we play and celebrate each other's accomplishments more fully. This is is such good news for us, and so desperately needed by many.
Where most books on this subject wind up swinging wildly in one of two directions--work is either a necessary evil or work is our god--Every Good Endeavor reminds us that while we "will not have a meaningful life without work, [we] cannot say that [our] work is the meaning of [our] life" (40). Our work--whether "secular" or "sacred"--is a chief means by which we glorify God. I trust reading this very fine book will remind you that this is good news indeed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work
In my Southern Baptist circles, I often hear too often "Not enough men go into ministry," or "preaching is the highest form of worship," or "I could do so much more for the Lord as a full-time minister." I believe this often creates guilt among laypeople and sets up a class divide-- either you're "really spiritual" or you're part of "the world." Keller argues that these types of statements lack a proper understanding of a theology of work. This book is a wonderful primer into theology of work, including praxeology. Keller cites from many sources, the bibliography is rich and helpful.
Redeemer Presbyterian has a Center for Faith and Work that seeks to equip individuals in all work spheres with tools to develop a biblical worldview, inspire creative and Gospel-soaked behavior, and help entrepreneurs both start new ventures and revitalize current ones with a view to the Gospel.
Keller's thinking is along the same lines as A.W. Tozer and others before him who saw everything we do as Christians being a reflection of God's work in us, and a way to worship and glorify Him.
"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."
Keller notes that the attitude of an actively working God, and a God who created a world that needs work (Genesis 1) which He has appointed us to do for His glory, sets Christianity apart from other religions and philosophies. Unfortunately, the Greek concept of work as a necessary evil to be avoided is what has permeated Church culture, particularly Catholic doctrines, until relatively recently.
"In the beginning, then, God worked. Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration."
Keller tears down the false dichotomy of "secular" and "sacred:"
"No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. Simple physical labor is God’s work no less than the formulation of theological truth... “Secular” work has no less dignity and nobility than the “sacred” work of ministry...No everyday work lacks the dignity of being patterned after God’s own work" (emphasis mine).
Keller does not cite A.W. Tozer, but I find my favorite Tozer quote from The Pursuit of God applicable here:
"Paul's sewing of tents was not equal to his writing an Epistle to the Romans, but both were accepted of God and both were true acts of worship. Certainly it is more important to lead a soul to Christ than to plant a garden, but the planting of the garden can be as holy an act as the winning of a soul...
"The “layman” need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister. Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry."
One beautiful allegory Keller often refers to is Tolkein's short story Leaf by Niggle. We should view whatever work we do here as having echoes in eternity.When Paul exhorts his followers that they should remain in the work God "has assigned to him, and to which God has called him,"
"Paul is not referring in this case to church ministries, but to common social and economic tasks—'secular jobs,' we might say—and naming them God’s callings and assignments."
Keller looks at how man is called to "subdue" the earth in Genesis, and how the Hebrew used to describe God's work in creation is the same as that used repeatedly for ordinary human work. God's call to "subdue" doesn't give a license for exploitation, but rather cultivation and invention-- to call forth things from the earth and bring order to chaos as God did with the universe. That is what we do as entrepreneurs and technicians.
"Your daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it—no matter what kind of work it is."
It's helpful to draw on earlier church sources for help in developing a theology of work, but Keller doesn't spend much time looking at various debates. He notes that Catholicism over the centuries has evolved from having the Greek view of work to now being more in line evangelicism in work being a way we can be the "fingers of God," as Luther put it.
"It means that all jobs—not merely so-called helping professions—are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs."
Keller and others argue that the Christian worldview is distinct among other belief systems in its approach to work. I found the chapters on "common grace" quite helpful-- we are all made in God's image and therefore many non-Christians will have amazing talents, creativity, senses of justice, and be among the best in their field. We should learn from them, but understand that what those people are missing is an avenue for greater glorifying their Creator. Similarly, because of sin all work Christians do-- whether ministry in the church or at the workplace-- will be tainted with sin. That's where redemptive grace comes in, we recognize that all work needs to be redeemed through Jesus.
Work, status, money, etc. can all become idols. But so can family, ministry, knowledge, etc. This definition of "idol" really rocked me:
"Now, if anything is our 'salvation' we must have it, and so we treat it as nonnegotiable. If
circumstances threaten to take it away, we are paralyzed with uncontrollable fear; if something or someone has taken it away, we burn with anger and struggle with a sense of despair."
Anything that is a "non-negotiable" to me-- that isn't Jesus-- is an idol. That's powerful. The Gospel frees us to work without fear of status or failure. Keller notes that too often our society, and our churches, look down on people who are "underemployed," not understanding that all work is worship and valuable and by fulfilling God's calling on our lives. Maybe I'm better equipped and called to be a $30,000/year teacher even though I could easily be a $250,000/year investment banker. And one job is not morally superior to another.
How this plays out in reality is the focus of much of this book, and Keller offers up many stories from Redeemer congregants. He rightly combats the "dualism" often much too present among Christian thought:
"Dualism leads some to think that if their work is to please Christ, it must be done overtly in his name. Or they must let everyone know that they lead Bible studies in the office in the morning before work hours...The integration of faith and work is the opposite of dualism."
If you're a carpenter, the best way you can serve God and love others is to make great tables...! There's an opposite dualism that's also problematic: "Christians think of themselves as Christians only within church activity." Christians need help in understanding that worship is a 24/7 thing.
"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 whole of the organization under your influence"
That's where the Center for Work comes into play, there are small groups of professionals bouncing ideas and ethical dilemmas off one another for wisdom and accountability-- that's how church should be done!
I found this work encouraging and would recommend it to all business students and faculty, as well as pastors and factory workers-- ie: everyone. Five stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Keller's latest is destined to be another best-seller as he, once again, connects with the reader in his unique and clear way of communicating.
As a reader of his previous books, I can't recommend this book highly enough for those of us who struggle with our true purpose and meaning of the "daily grind" and seemingly meaningless tasks. Keller offers, and delivers, a fresh perspective on work that is sure to encourage, motivate, and define how life here on Earth is connected to our true purpose and selves.
As with any other Keller book, this is not a book one cruises through despite the clarity of his writing. Rather, his clarity is something to ponder, absorb, process, and make one's own.