Every Good Endeavor – Tim Keller
My Rating – Put it on your list
Level – Easy read, medium length
This is another book that is hard to summarize with just repeating the title or copy/pasting the table of contents. I guess the title isn’t super clear, it comes from a quote that he opens the book with. Basically asking, ‘God give us strength in every good endeavor’, so, to prosper and do well in any work or vocation we choose.
The book is broken into three main parts – God’s plan for work, our problems with work, and the Gospel and work. An interesting point in God’s plan is that work is not punishment. We often think we are required to work due to fall, but the punishment is only that it will be hard, not that we will have to do it. The problems section runs down the typical issues people have, be unmotivated and not ‘working as if for the Lord’, or being motivated by the wrong thing (money, prestige, etc.), or making work an idol.
The final section is the strength of the book. Not only are there some practical how-to-ness in there, but it is extremely encouraging. This may be most important part for anyone who does not like their job. You will be lifted up and maybe even be a little pumped while reading this last part. I know it changed my thinking. It caused/challenged me to look at things differently and to find different ways of approaching my job and its issues. Most of all, I was left with a feeling of hope, in that, if doing it for God, it cannot be pointless.
Keller is obviously a great writer, as evidenced by his seven thousand books, most of which are best sellers. The whole book is well written and reads quickly. Most importantly, it is theologically sound and Biblically based. The book’s only weakness (one it shares with almost all of these types of books) is that it is written for white collar professionals. It assumes education, mobility, and choice in careers. There is a passing reference to blue collar work, but I found it lacking.
The reminder that the curse isn’t the work is an important perspective shift for most people. If you are like me, you remember that the punishments are hard work of the land and pain in child birth. However, we were already called to work and exercise dominion. The reason we don’t like work isn’t because it’s a punishment. It’s that work isn’t what it is supposed to be – it’s hard.
I want to spend a little time reiterating some points for the third section. He does acknowledge that you may not like your job, you may even be stuck there, and in that, he goes on to point out what you can do for the Kingdom while there. Obviously, you can share the gospel. There are other things, though, that I thought were interesting. For one, he discusses just being a good boss. Making your place of employment a great place to work and a place that treats people right, and even more so, being an ethical place. That probably affected me the most as I am stuck in a place that often appears I will never leave. So, what can I do? If you feel this way, this is a good book for you.
I think just about anyone interested in a book regarding the Christian life and work should pick this up. Especially if you are in a white collar field, put it on your list. If not, it is still probably the best book on work out there, but there is just less for you – the only knock I have on the book and the only reason I didn’t rate it higher.