#GOOD READ: Tim Keller – “Every Good Endeavor”

every_good_endeavor_sm2_thumbPastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning talking about the message of his newest book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. I have not yet read the book, but something Keller said on the show this morning touched on one of the key points I have been making in my recent series of posts on vocation rhetoric. I have argued that we as Christians have been co-opted into the rhetoric and lifestyle of our occupation-centric culture, and the following statement from Keller suggests the harmful consequences of that phenomenon:

…When you make your work your identity, which of course is what we are invited to do in our culture now…you identify with your work, and that means if you are successful it destroys you because it goes to your head. If you are not successful it destroys you because it goes to your heart, and it destroys your self-worth; and what you need with faith is that it gives you an identity that is not in work or accomplishment, and that gives you insulation against the weather changes. So if you are successful you stay humble; if you are not successful you have some ballast…making your work your identity — kind of an idol, to use biblical terminology — is maybe the big sin of New York City.

You can view the whole interview on Morning Joe’s website. I look forward to reading Keller’s book, as the interview sparked my interest and raised many interesting questions in my mind.

2 thoughts on “#GOOD READ: Tim Keller – “Every Good Endeavor”

  1. This is helpful.

    As I was reading Keller’s quote, I couldn’t help but think this isn’t a recent phenomenon…hence surnames like Farmer, Smith, Shoemaker, et al.. If we draw on history (those occupations literally becoming ones identity) we can see this tendency’s stultifying nature: “I’m a Shoemaker…that’s my lot” We’ve become more subtle about it, but the result is no less deadening.

    I’ve been recently trying to distill my understanding/definition of vocation–specifically Christian vocation–to its most elemental form. Right now, I would define Christian vocation (regardless of occupation) as “the pursuit of shalom.”

    The Apostle Paul rendered “shalom” as the “gospel of peace” in Ephesians 6:15, and I believe this widened understanding of the big “G” gospel can encourage a very robust vocational readiness.

    To quote Keller again, “[The gospel] is not just a wonderful plan for “my life,” but a wonderful plan for the whole world; it is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things.” Joining God in that work seems like a good vocational framework in which any good work or occupation can flourish.

    1. Steve:

      I like the simplicity — yet rich meaning — of your definition of Christian vocation: “The pursuit of shalom.” It applies to every Christian in every situation they ever encounter, and it is an identity that, as Keller says, provides “ballast.”

      I would emphasize that pursuing shalom starts with families, and parents in particular. Imagine the impact of raising children who, once they become adults, possess a clear understanding and conviction that their vocational calling, aside from any occupation they seek to pursue, is to pursue shalom. The result of such an investment would be beautiful, and would certainly cause a paradigm shift to a vocation-centric rhetoric and culture among the Church.

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