In May of this year, many in the US and around the world mourned the passing of pastor and author Timothy Keller. The founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Keller has been called a “pastor to skeptics” for his speaking and writing that promotes biblical orthodoxy while engaging secular thought and culture.
One great example of Keller’s contribution is the 2012 book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, a deeply insightful exposition on the intersection of Christian faith and work. Every Good Endeavor is co-written by Katherine Leary Alsdorf, who was the founder & former executive director of Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work.
The book is divided into three parts. In “Part One: God’s Plan for Work,” the authors expound upon the glory and goodness of work as God originally created it. They explain how, in contrast with the beliefs of ancient Greek culture which saw work as a necessary evil, the Bible presents work as one way we demonstrate our God-given dignity and live out our identity as God’s image-bearers. In addition, as Christians, our understanding of God’s saving grace and his common grace for all humans uniquely enables us to appreciate the work of non-Christians. Since we know God’s acceptance of us is not based on our work, we can readily accept the good work sometimes done by those who don’t even acknowledge him.
The second part, “Our Problems with Work,” traces the many ways that sin has distorted our relationship with work. The exposition of the words of the “Teacher” of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is especially enlightening, as is the discussion of the motivations of the people on the plains of Shinar as they planned and built the tower of Babel. The authors also discuss the concept of idolatry (which Keller has developed in detail elsewhere) and show how our tendency to turn good things into ultimate things shows up in our relationship to work. Overall, the authors powerfully describe how work is not itself a curse, but is under the curse.
Finally, in “Part Three: The Gospel and Work,” we read of the importance of having not merely a list of rules for doing work as Christians, but a worldview through which we see differently and are thus able to discern God’s will in sometimes ambiguous situations. The authors give examples of how this worldview lens might guide those in journalism, the arts, medicine, and other fields, applied both to workers and employers. While the book is focused more on theology and principles than application, the Epilogue (“Leading People to Integrate Faith and Work”) provides examples of how the authors have implemented the principles of the book in the setting of their local church.
Every Good Endeavor is a masterful book on the topic of the intersection of Christian faith and work, and we highly recommend it. Though more theological and conceptual than practical, everyone can benefit from the Biblical wisdom and pastoral insights the book contains.
For a brief explanation of the book by Keller and an example of him discussing these concepts in a secular setting, check out this video segment (about eight minutes) from the “Morning Joe” program, recorded about ten years ago.
Despite the ways sin has distorted our relationship with work, let’s pray for God’s grace to receive and take pleasure in the gift of work.
Note: A mention or recommendation of a resource in this e-newsletter does not necessarily constitute a complete endorsement of the content by US Navigators Missional Enterprise. However, we strongly believe that each resource described contains a significant amount of helpful content in line with our vision and values, and we encourage you to read (or listen) for yourself and glean from it what the Lord has for you.