Risk & Faith: The Christian-Creative’s Response to the Death of Steve Jobs
For the last 24 hours or so the internet has been filled with stories, memorials, anecdotes, and words from and about Steve Jobs. While it was certainly expected that Mr. Jobs may come to rest in the relatively near future, it was never foreseen that it would happen this soon and, as some would say, “unexpectedly”. I foresee another month of such anecdotes and another few years of memorials and mentions here and there, and I do foresee an earth-bound legacy that will continue to influence just as we hear the echoes of Newton, Edison, Franklin & Ford today. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was a visionary, innovator, and “forward” thinker, and his influence spreads across culture and, yes, even religion.
How many pastors have iPhones or Macs? Even iPads? How many of you? I dare say 3/4th’s of the 2 groups I’ve mentioned. Is it wrong? No, no, that’s not my point at all. Why aren’t Apple products written off in Christian circles to be a waste of money, an adherence to trendiness, or even downright envy and materialism? Because they are functionally superior products, not just glitz and bling like some sports car. They accomplish purpose more efficiently. They don’t do the work for you they simply make the work you do more organized. They don’t innovate for you they simply foster it. They don’t create they only inspire.
Can technology take away from God’s glory? Probably more than just about any one thing that exists on this planet besides sin and human nature itself. But I would pose that any given technological advance, item, novelty, accessory, fashion, food, or circumstance could do the same thing if it were the “idol of the age.” But what of sermons organized and quickly gotten on iPads? What of the endless resource libraries available through such devices at any given time? What of the video calls made to and from missions teams describing need, showing orphaned children, or displaying a vast field of degraded humanity? What of knowledge of your co-habitants of this world? What of all these things could be called useless and sinful? Sure they can become so as a Church or ministry becomes obsessed with the means rather than the message, but isn’t this the same choice we face with EVERYTHING?
How many of you own computers? Almost all of you. Can you watch pornography? Almost certainly. Will you watch pornography? Now there’s the turning point. The computer itself is a means to an end just as books are a means to ideas wether they are righteous or sinful. The means are not the problem; your mind, heart, and will are.
But wait, what about Steve Jobs?
Jobs lived and died on the idea that it took people who were risk-takers to change the world. It took people who weren’t satisfied with the way things were and wanted to push everyone “forward.” It took diving in head-first to uncertainty. But to what end?
Steve would say “progress.” But progress towards what? I don’t think even Jobs would’ve been the man to answer that question. He seemed happy with the general progress of the human race. He was happy with the current innovations he and his team were making to make his children and his children’s children’s future more advanced. But at the end of the day, he had to ask himself the same question we ask all of ourselves:
Well, Jobs definitely had his own reasons if for no other reason than for the sake of progress itself. But what about Christians? Specifically, what about Christians in the creative arts? To what end and what place does risk place itself in our lives? And faith; what about faith?
Are risk and faith the same things?
No. But I’d say Steve Jobs utilized both of these things as he took risks in faith that he had “nothing to lose.” Jobs often spoke of death being the great life-agent. The finality of death was enough for him to pursue a life-long philosophy of “no risk-no reward.” Now, as Christians, we may disagree with the implications of what that meant personally to Jobs but i think if we don’t so immediately judge innovators as prideful blasphemers, we could actually see just how close Jobs was to the absolute truth and how, in a certain sense, he was spot on.
Christians don’t like to use the word risk. In truth, most Christians don’t even like the idea of it. It seems unwise and foolhardy. Risk means you have something to lose and we certainly don’t want to harm the “cause of God,” which all of these given diverse risks could “certainly do.”……….Is that so?
Nope…it’s not (not according to the Bible any way)
I absolutely love John Pipers outline of risk as both a concept and as a constant in scripture and in Christianity itself and I highly recommend you check it out; it is well worth your reading or your listening.
But I want to highlight some verses he highlighted where we see Biblical characters whom we know and love taking risks WITHIN THEIR FAITH.
2 Samuel 10: Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.
Here we see men getting ready to go into a battle that could make Custard blush, and we see that a risk is taken regardless.
Some say that these men simply had faith. Heres the problem with that
1. You can’t take a faith in risk. That’s not the way it works. You take a risk in faith.
2. These men, if they were talking about just having faith, would’ve said, “let us play the men for our people and for the cities of our God; and we’ll have faith that we will either win or live.” Faith is a certainty of an unseen thing, person or event. But their faith wasn’t limited to the fact that the only way in which they would take the risk would be in knowing that God would protect them. Rather, they took a risk based on their faith in a God who was so good and holy that no matter what happened to them, it was His desire for that battle that mattered in their minds.
Those men had such a clear idea of who God was. They knew their lives were not in their hands but in Gods. Did they fight? Of course. Did Christian men prepare for battle? Yes. But what does scripture teach?
Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture addresses the idea of the foolishness of human “certainty.”
James 4:13-16: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
This is such a massively missed concept in Christiainty today. There is no risk. We only make changes when they are a “sure thing,” and then play them off as “discernment.” Discernment is great until you discern your way to inaction. Every action should be judged biblically. Unfortunately I think what we do is mistake uncertainty for “foolishness,” when clearly, as outlined in the above Scriptures, that’s not the case. Act in wisdom, act in discernment, act in faith knowing that the risks you take and decisions you make will ultimately serve only to concrete the sovereign will of God. You can prepare, you can make this or that choice, you can buckle your seatbelt or not, all of which entails both wise and foolish, right and sinful choices, but ultimately it is God who decides wether you prosper or fail, live or die. I’ve known of many people who died in car crahses even though they had steel-framed cars, seat belts, and fully functioning airbags. They wisely prepared for their lives, and God snatched it when he saw fit because “He holds the keys of life, death, and hell.”
It would’ve been foolish for them to not do such things; they prepared their “horses for battle,” but it would’ve been more foolish to assume that ultimately these things would delay or outmaneuver God’s hand over their own fates.
So what in the world does any of this have to do with Steve Jobs?
It has EVERYTHING to do with him.
Almost all great innovators were non-Christians. Why? I’d love to say it was humility but I’ve seen too many “bumper lanes” on most Christian’s lives to call it humility. So what did they get that we don’t?
In my opinion, it was the thought that they had nothing to lose that governed them (and, as I said, Jobs even said as much). They had faith that their legacy was all they had left them and they took risks within that faith accordingly. You have an all wise, all powerful, all loving, and all sovereign God left to you. What kind of risks will you take according to your faith in Him?