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The Passing of Steve Jobs: A Christian Perspective

10/06/11

The Passing of Steve Jobs: A Christian Perspective

The passing of Steve Jobs is indeed news in light of the modern construct of the daily news feed. As I sit and type this blog on an Apple product, I know that his work directly affects me, and his influence in the technologies of our life cannot be underestimated.

I am not 100% sure how to approach his death. In all honesty, if the news of his passing had just been a blip on the screen in the public eye, I probably would have not given it much thought. But there seems to be a deluge of people from news organizations to everyday Facebook users eulogizing and lamenting the loss of Jobs. Something about it makes me uncomfortable. I have thought on the matter and really wanted to have an answer by the time I sat down to write. Alas, I do not have a sure lock on how to approach his death. I can, however, think aloud (in this case think in type) and open up a conversation with you. So here goes?

It is no secret that Apple has been driven by the personality of Steve Jobs. He made Apple. Even though it was not a singlehanded effort, he proved to be the linchpin of their success. That made me curious about him. What caused him to rise above all the others to accomplish as much as he has? Information about Jobs is not scarce. Many books and bios have been written including a book called Inside Steve?s Brain.

In my very brief look at his life, I learned that some who worked for him knew him as an egomaniac and a frightening man. Some days were good, but other days employees were fired on the spot within the first few minutes of meeting the man. This was never denied by Jobs. With my personality type, I would have avoided him like the plague if I worked for his company. So do I view his death in light of his running Apple in such a manner? I could say he was not a good man. His behavior at times proved that, so we should not honor him. I don?t think, however, that is what makes me uncomfortable with the overwhelming response to his passing. He was born a sinful man just as I. To take an aspect of his fallen human nature that is manifested in his personality and say he should be completely disregarded because of that would be hypocritical on my part. Certainly if that attitude was used to gauge any of our lives, the focus could always be on the mounds of evidence that points to the fact that none of us are good. In fact, these things make me feel more empathetic toward Jobs. He needed exactly what I need: a Savior.

Apparently Jobs never saw Christ as his savior. He embraced Buddhism throughout most of his life as a result of a spiritual journey he took to India. I can say that without a doubt Buddhism is an incorrect way of approaching life and its problems. The overall problem of mankind is our broken relationship to God, and Jesus Christ is the one whom God sent to bring us to Himself. This is the key and crux of human existence. If Jobs remained a Buddhist, he was deceived. It is not his Buddhism that gives me pause at the news of his death, however.

Jobs, unlike his counterpart Bill Gates, was not a philanthropist. He apparently did not believe that the wealth he gained should be used to help others. Gates, as of 2007, had given more than $28 billion to charities. When Jobs returned to the helm of Apple, he made sure to stop all philanthropic activities. So many see him as a wealth hoarder. He is the pinnacle of corporate greed to some. He doesn?t see his wealth as a gift to be used not only for himself but for others who are less fortunate. This, however, does not make me feel uneasy either. He made his money, and he earned his success. He can do with it as he pleases. It would only be legalism to say he has to do certain things with his money and please the public with his giving. It is his money, his business.

But in the question of his charitable giving, I believe I stumbled across the reason why I feel so uncomfortable at the over-eulogizing of Steve Jobs. On September 2, Dan Pallotta of the Harvard Business Review wrote an article entitled Steve Jobs, World?s Greatest Philanthropist. In the article, Pallotta paints Jobs as a man of such single focus and purpose, that to be a philanthropist in any measure would derail the work he was meant to do. So, in Pallotta?s estimation, Jobs did more for humanity by sticking with innovation on the technological front than he could have ever done by donating millions to children?s hospitals or AIDS research.

In just one example, Pallotta says that without Jobs?We'd still be waiting for a cell phone on which we could actually read e-mail and surf the web. ?We? includes students, doctors, nurses, aid workers, charity leaders, social workers, and so on. It helps the blind read text and identify currency. It helps physicians improve their performance and surgeons improve their practice. It even helps charities raise money.? I agree with Pallotta. I am using Jobs inspired technology right now. What Apple produces becomes tools in our hands to spread the Gospel of Christ.

There is something a little more sinister, I believe, than just seeing Jobs as a man who created great tools. And in Pallotta?s article, I think I found what causes me to feel uneasy with how he is being talked about upon his passing.

I believe it boils down to humanism. In short, humanism is a philosophy that finds solutions to life?s problems in human reason and the expansion of human knowledge. Everything is done for the advancement and betterment of humankind. This is how many are approaching Jobs. He is uplifted, praised, and remembered fondly because of his advancement of the human cause. It is seen that we are better off today than before Jobs came along. On one hand, you could say that is true. When given thought, however, do we really know if we are better off? Can that be said in absolute certainty and in light of God?s redemptive plan? I am thankful for the tools God allows me to use that originated in Jobs? brain and are now in my hands. But I cannot say that the advancement of human achievement in this realm has made us wholly better off.

There will come a day when iMacs, iPads, and iPhones will not exist nor be needed. These things will come to an end. So-called human progress will cease. God has allowed us to possess in a smaller measure His attribute of creativity. He allows us to invent and grow and add tools to our toolbox in our subduing the earth. More often than not, however, these are not seen as gifts from the Almighty. We take them and run with them in order to make of life what we want. We do not give glory to the Creator, but take what He placed within us and see ourselves as self-sufficient and able to forge our own path toward fulfillment. Every gift of creation and innovation harbored by Steve Jobs was there only because of the One who created him. God gave Jobs his ability, but it seems that Steve Jobs did not acknowledge the One true God as the source and reason for what he did. In his passing, he is being praised for the advancement of human kind without acknowledgement of God. This is what bothers me. We do not know or see completely how Jobs fits in to the ultimate plan of our sovereign God. Yet many, with great enthusiasm, praise Jobs solely for his contribution to the betterment of mankind as if that was the ultimate aim for anyone.

Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

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