For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Tim Watson leads us in discussing Part Two: Problems with Work.
I have a few problems. These problems came out when I read Part Two of Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor. The chapter titles?
Chapter Five: Work Becomes Fruitless
Chapter Six: Work Becomes Pointless
Chapter Seven: Work Becomes Selfish
Chapter Eight: Work Reveals Our Idols
Let’s just go through my Keller-revealed problems (and the corresponding truths) one by one, shall we?
1. I’m human.
Tell me I can’t do everything, or I can’t do something as perfectly as I imagined or planned, and I can get cranky. Downright nasty, even.
I like to operate from a position of strength. I like to think I have a capacity both broad and deep enough to tackle multiple projects and pursuits, each with excellence. I want to read a book a week; wash and hang-dry cloth diapers; make every meal from scratch; create an eighth-grade poetry curriculum for home school; support and attend every church event; and play tennis without ever double-faulting.
But I have bought frozen pizzas (not even on sale), used disposable diapers (gasp!), and skipped Bible study mornings. I never did get around to planning that poetry class. And I always, always double-fault.
Have I let this make me feel a failure? I have, but I shouldn’t have.
In all our work, we will be able to envision far more than we accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us.
– Keller, page 90
Reality . . . check.
2. Difficult ≠ Wrong (and Easy ≠ Right).
When things get hard and the road bumpy, sometimes I wonder if I should’ve turned onto a different road.
Reality . . . check.
Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. . . . You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation. (page 94)
The easy way is not always (or not even usually) the right way. I suspect the apostle Paul and those Old Testament prophets would agree.
3. My Work ≠ Me.
I have confused my work with my identity. Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by challenging His identity and trying to make Him believe If you can’t do this, you’re not You. The flip side of this kind of temptation: Prove yourself. If you want to prove who you really are, accomplish this (and that, and that).
Reality . . . check. Check. Check.
We either get our name—our defining essence, security, worth, and uniqueness—from what God has done for us (Revelation 2:17), or we make a name through what we can do for ourselves. (page 115)
4. I’ve had pride and forgotten grace.
Often, when I accomplish a task or fill a role successfully, I start to think I am my own sustenance and power.
Reality . . .
You worked with talents you did not earn; they were given to you. . . . Everything you have is a matter of grace. (page 124)
5. I’ve taken on tasks based on guilt.
If guilt is the extent of your motivation, you can be sure it will wear off before long. (page 125)
Enough said. Check.
6. Accepting God’s love and grace makes me more selfless.
I’ve said before that Every Good Endeavor boils down to selflessness. It’s my favorite theme in the book and pops up again and again. And Keller says that the way to be selfless is to receive God’s love and grace. At first this may seem counterintuitive, but it does make sense.
If you see Jesus . . . as a Savior doing these things [saving people through identification and mediation] for you personally, then you will see how valuable you are to him. . . . And ironically, when you see how much you are loved, your work will become far less selfish. (page 127, emphasis mine)
This is God’s reality. This is my reality.