Every Good Endeavor
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Dutton, Penguin Group (2012)
FES Library book call number: 248:413 KEL
Finding the Meaning to Our Work in “Every Good Endeavor”
I first heard about Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour (EGE) in my final undergraduate year. I do not recall how exactly I came to know the book, but I remembered it as a good reference to the Christian perspective of work. Given the subject’s relevance to my stage of life then, I eventually completed the volume just a few days before I began my first full-time job.
EGE opens with a remark on the increasing attention to what Tim Keller calls the “integration of faith and work”, which is interpreted differently by many strands in Christianity itself. These streams include the ecumenical movement’s view of work as a tool to further social justice, revivalism’s emphasis on the workplace as an evangelism field, and Calvinism’s belief that “the purpose of work is to create a culture that honors God and enables people to thrive”. In light of the many schools of thoughts, EGE aims to clarify how these points of view differ yet can complement one another “depending on [our] particular vocation, culture, and historical moment” and to ground them in “more vivid, real, and practical” ways.
Observant readers will notice that EGE is framed in the vein of major plot points of the Bible: work as a good Creation of God, corruptions subjected on work as the result of the Fall, and the Redemption of work as part of the salvation purchased by Lord Jesus on the cross. Each movement is equally explored in four chapters. One may question the absence of the last plot point of Consummation in EGE, but its trace can arguably be found throughout the four chapters of Redemption. This implicit inclusion warrants an explanation, which I propose is two-fold. First, no one knows what a consummated world (read: work) really looks like since we are living in the time between Jesus’s first and second coming. Nevertheless, by the work of the Holy Spirit in our works, they may become foretastes of God’s kingdom to come. In that sense, our works matter because the Lord is surely using them to glorify His name, bless the world, and give us His joy. (The introduction closes with an illustration of this point using J. R. R. Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle”, which I highly recommend.)
Having worked for more than three-and-half years, I have been greatly helped from time to time by the wisdom of God which EGE conveys. The point above on the already-but-not-yet nature of our Christ-redeemed work in particular has been empowering me to triumph over the Monday blues. Chapter 6 points out that the Fall has degraded work into a pointless, joyless activity. How many of us feel that our work is mere repetitive drudgery, with the cycle beginning on Monday, ending on Friday, and repeating after a surprisingly short weekend? However, according to this idea posited by chapter 6, we would find that the threat of blues does not only lurk on Mondays but practically every working day. Even the best of us must have had periods of boredom and nihilism at work. We see work (borrowing from the horror author Stephen King) as a hellish repetition, the pain generated and exacerbated from living through the same thing over and over again. EGE draws an alternative to this view from the book of Ecclesiastes: “there is nothing better for [us] than to be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (3:12–13). Indeed, in Christ we receive our work as a gift, knowing that “it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13 ESV).
EGE does not reinvent the wheel that is the treatment of faith and work, but helps us to see how work was originally designed by the Lord, how it was broken by sin, and how He is restoring it through His Gospel. In a sense, the book is Tim Keller’s own “good endeavor” to glorify God through his teaching. What a reading it is, to go through the very endeavor this book is endorsing and see how God is making all things new through our works (Rev. 21:5)!
A Review by Jefferson.
Jefferson graduated from NTU in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Earth Systems Science. He is currently working as an environmental consultant in TEMBUSU Asia Consulting.