Keller, Timothy. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. New York: Dutton, 2012. 287 pp.
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. He has labored there for over twenty years, and the church is now home to over five thousand worshipers. In Every Good Endeavor, he seeks to correct a view of the world that separates the physical from the spiritual. He writes to an audience that has professionalized Christianity to the point that ministry jobs are viewed as more God-honoring than the jobs of lay persons. Every Good Endeavor seeks to remedy this erroneous thinking about work, allowing readers to see that all work is a calling.
Keller opens by showing God’s plan for work. He develops the concept that work existed before Adam ate the fruit and fell into sin. Because work existed before the Fall, work was pure, holy, easy, and good. God designed Adam and Eve to work the land, and God designed the land to work for them. Everything Adam and Eve did was fruitful. Then, sin entered. No longer was Adam’s work easy. No longer was procreation painless. Because of sin, work would now be difficult. However, work was still designed to honor the Lord, and in that design, Keller argues, man can still find dignity in work.
After the reason for work is established, Keller moves into the second part of his book entitled “Our Problems with Work.” He writes that man feels that work is a burden, that it is a necessary evil that we must endure until someday we can quit. He gives a dichotomy that exemplifies the feelings of most people about work: “…our work is profoundly frustrating, never as fruitful as we want, and often a complete failure. This is why so many people inhabit the extremes of idealism and cynicism—or even ricochet back and forth between those poles.” Keller sees the result of sin in work, and it is devastating to man.
In the third part of the book, Keller finishes by connecting the gospel and work. This section falls under the redemption portion of his creation, fall, redemption structure. Because of Christ, the world now has a new source of dignity in work. Believers even have a new direction and power from which to work. He even looks at unbelieving people and appreciates their contributions to the world because of common grace.
Timothy Keller wanted to write a book that allowed for all people to see what they do as valuable and worshipful. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This passage summarizes the purpose of how Keller approaches work. All things man does, outside of sinful professions (sex trade, defacing of human life, etc.), can and should be used as acts of worship to the Lord. This means, to use just one example, that the journalist can look at stories to see the goodness of the Lord in this fallen world.
As a woodworker, Keller’s point is played out in how I use my hands. I can certainly work according to 1 Corinthians 10:31, and I can just as easily work for myself. Business practice, use of money, and even types of jobs accepted are all components of making every work a good endeavor.
The line between sacred and secular that so many want to draw is one that Keller wants to abolish. He argues that no work is inherently more spiritual. Because man is created in the image of a Creator God who works, all work is used for the purpose of fulfilling that image. Keller’s position is in stark contrast to that of David VanDrunen (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms), who argues that the work of gospel ministry that the church carries out is different from all other types of work as a result of the two distinct kingdoms on earth that the Christian lives in. Worked out, VanDrunen would say that the pastor preaching the gospel and caring for the souls of man has intrinsic, kingdom of God value in his work that the mail man does not carry. To this, Keller would respond that such a view separates what God has combined for his glory.
In conclusion, Timothy Keller writes a book that has had a profound impact on myself and has the potential to positively impact countless others. Because he writes from a gospel-centered view and includes his own personal experiences, the implications for the Christian are easy to see even if they take a lifetime to adopt. The book destroys the mindset that says, “Someday I will work for the Lord.” Instead, it takes people right where they are and commands, “Begin!”
Reviewed by Josh Hancock, Facilities Director at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church