Doug Phillips on Steve Jobs
Many have offered up analyses and opinions and eulogies on the recent death of Steve Jobs. Doug Phillips, the president of Vision Forum Ministries, has provided a balanced perspective from the Christian worldview that I submit for your consideration. (Emphases added)
On the Death of Steve Jobs
by Doug Phillips
The fifty-six-year life of Steve Jobs has ended. What is the message?
1977 – Jobs introduces
the Apple II
(AP Photo/Apple Computers Inc., File)
First, this was the full life of one of the greatest innovators and marketing giants since Edison. He was a man who understood that the computer revolution provided an unprecedented opportunity in history to shape culture. Over the last thirty years, American culture has been shaped by Hollywood, by music videos, by Madison Avenue, by the government schools, and by Steve Jobs. It is time for Christians to take inventory of these influences and consider our response.
1984 – Jobs introduces
the Apple IIc
(AP Photo/Sal Veder, File)
Second, Jobs lived a type of aggressive life which thrived in controversy. This may be one reason why public opinion of this man unwisely tends to run from gushing idolatry to utter detestation. He showed us that businessmen could have the popularity of rock stars and the contempt of fallen politicians. My perspective on his life is different-appreciation, gratitude, disagreement, sadness. His life is a reminder that whether your name is Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, or Steve Jobs, in the end, your physical body becomes food for worms. More importantly, your eternal soul faces the same Judge that every human must stand before. This is just one reason why human idolatry is folly. We must never worship men (future worm food), but only the Lord. But it is also folly to be unduly disgusted with leaders like Steve Jobs, especially if such disgust shows a lack of appreciation for the fact that God used this man who was made in the imago dei to accomplish His providential purposes.
1984 – Jobs introduces the new “Macintosh” Personal PC
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Third, Jobs reminds us that men of influence must be creative, have some understanding of aesthetics, work hard, and take initiative. Jobs was a college drop-out whose calligraphy-inspired love of minimalist art would help to shape the aesthetic tastes of an entire generation, not through art, but technologies-Steve Jobs made computers elegant. He was the Wunderkind who took a financially devastated company called Apple and turned it and the business world upside-down using innovation, moxie, and creativity. He was the CEO of Pixar who gave the world some of the more memorable digital films in history. He was even once a twelve-year-old boy who demonstrated initiative by calling Mr. William Hewlett, President of Hewlett-Packard, to ask for help on a school science project. He not only got the help, but a job offer.
1990 – Jobs introduces the new NeXTstation
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Fourth, Jobs gave us practical tools of dominion. That may not have been his purpose, but he did it nonetheless. For these tools I am thankful. Creating clever tools was the mark of his life. Consider that long before Jobs gave the world iPods and iMacs, he was the visionary who introduced the world to the mouse. This being said, the coming of Steve Jobs’ wonderful machines did not mean that the world would become wiser or full of more knowledge. Society may have unprecedented access to information, but this does not mean it has greater understanding. Only the fear of the Lord brings knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10-there is a strong argument that we have become stupider and less wise because of our unprofitable use of these devices.) So while the world has changed greatly because of Apple and Jobs, we are not necessarily better off in any ultimate sense. It is righteousness and the very Spirit of God, not existence of technology, which ultimately prospers a people.
1998 – Jobs introduces the new iMac
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Fifth, when men take initiative, exercise diligence, and fight very, very hard, they are often rewarded with temporal success. Jobs did this. He was the beneficiary of what theologians describe as God’s common grace. Christian men can learn much, both about what to do, and what not to do, from the life of this focused, hard-working visionary.
2004 – Jobs introduces the iPod Mini
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Sixth, the death of Steve Jobs reminds us that to be wise we must understand the times-our technological times. We live in a world in which technology tends to master men, not the other way around. Furthermore, technology is so ubiquitous that it is nearly inescapable. That means we better become the masters of it. Ironically, Jobs may not have written his own epitaph or obituary, but he made the tools for disseminating them. The death of Steve Jobs may be the first time in history when it could be said that most people on earth learned about the demise of a leader on a device created by the leader himself. In fact, at this moment I am writing you on a computer that Steve Jobs designed, having just spoken to my wife on my iPhone 4, and having earlier today home educated one of my children with a teaching aid on an iPad which Jobs introduced to the world less than two years ago. His technological and marketing fingerprints have become ubiquitous.
2010 – Jobs introduces the iPad
Seventh, the life of Steve Jobs reminds us of one of the great fatherhood questions of our generation: Is it worth it to win the whole world, but lose the hearts of the children that God has given to us? Now to be fair, little is known of Mr. Jobs walk with his children except what he said himself. But during one of his only and final interviews on his private life, Jobs offered some insights into his personal absenteeism as a father. Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ authorized biographer, explained:
A few weeks ago, I visited Jobs for the last time in his Palo Alto, Calif., home. He had moved to a downstairs bedroom because he was too weak to go up and down stairs. He was curled up in some pain, but his mind was still sharp and his humor vibrant. We talked about his childhood, and he gave me some pictures of his father and family to use in my biography. As a writer, I was used to being detached, but I was hit by a wave of sadness as I tried to say goodbye. In order to mask my emotion, I asked the one question that was still puzzling me: Why had he been so eager, during close to 50 interviews and conversations over the course of two years, to open up so much for a book when he was usually so private? “I wanted my kids to know me,” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Jobs won the world, but he needed a writer to reach out to his children on his behalf.
Finally, there is no evidence of which I am aware from the public record of Steve Jobs that he knew Christ or biblically sought to honor God. I hope that I am wrong. But if I am not, then this means that while he accomplished much in his life, none of it matters for eternity as far as his own soul is concerned. Zero. In other words, it is possible to lead a very successful life and even to be a tool of mercy for others used in the hands of God, and yet none of your philanthropies or business accomplishments earn you one moment in Heaven.
The death of all men reminds us of the brevity of life, the lost condition of our souls, and the uselessness for earning eternal rewards through human accomplishments outside of Christ.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 6:23
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
President, Vision Forum Ministries