Do we work to live? Or live to work? Is work just a means to an end? Or is it an end in and of itself? In today’s context, the idea of “work” has often been distorted so that it no longer reflects what God intended work to be. As a result, Christians often feel confused or conflicted when entering the workforce for the first time. If this is you, this book will provide you with a solid framework to view and engage with secular work, seeing the role it plays in God’s ultimate redemptive plan.
1. What is the book about?
In Every Good Endeavour, Tim Keller argues that there is a very real connection between our work here on earth and God’s plan for the world. He does so by first presenting God’s good plan for work before the Fall in Genesis 3. He states that work was not a result of the Fall but rather an essential activity of God; thus intrinsic to our human nature as his image-bearers. There is an intrinsic design and dignity associated with our work.
However, Keller also recognises the now fallen nature of work where work becomes futile, fruitless, and selfish idolatry. Keller quotes the book of Ecclesiastes where the teacher proclaims that all work under the sun “is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:17). Rather than leaving us with this bleak view of work, Keller then proceeds to explain how the gospel creates a new purpose, compass and power for work. This means that as Christians, our faith should enhance our work and our work should develop our faith.
2. What did I learn?
I read this book with a friend as we were both fresh out of university and had just started full time work for the first time. During this time, I found it hard to reconcile the work I was doing on a day-to-day basis with how it supposedly brings glory to God and builds His kingdom. Formatting spreadsheets and validating data just seemed so disconnected to the work of sustaining God’s creation and bringing people into the kingdom of heaven.
This book helped me to understand that there is dignity even in the mundane and that this feeling of “pointless” work is a result of human sin, not a fault in God’s plan for work. Ephesians 6:5-9 helped me put this into perspective by showing me that there’s a new audience for our work as Christians. We’re not just working for ourselves, our managers, our clients, or even the good of society; we’re working directly for God which in a sense is both more daunting and more liberating.
3. What did I enjoy?
I really enjoyed the way Tim Keller structured the book and the emphasis he placed on how the gospel can redeem the fallen nature of work we see around us. Keller was able to draw upon a wealth of experience he had in ministering to young workers and the struggles they faced. It was especially interesting to read about some of these stories and to understand how common these struggles are.
I also enjoyed the fact that Keller was really honest with the fallen nature of work and pointed the reader to Christ as the solution, not ourselves. This contradicts so much of what our culture teaches us of how our work should fulfill all our hopes and dreams.
4. Why should other people read it?
Whether you’re a Christian who has just entered the workforce or have been working for a while, this book helps you to answer the question of “why do we work?”. Answering this question correctly not only benefits you in interacting with work itself, but it’s also extremely helpful for engaging in conversations with your colleagues who you’ll see on a daily basis. By having this different mindset to work, Christians can stand out and create opportunities for gospel-centered conversations which, God willing, will lead to more souls being brought into His heavenly kingdom.