I just finished Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs and it was quite a fascinating read. Fortunately, it was an honest take on Jobs’ life and gave readers an extended glimpse into his soul and what made him tick.
Yes, he was a genius in so many ways. He was also a deeply flawed human being, like we all are. Sadly, there is no evidence that Steve Jobs was a follower of Jesus as all the evidence points to the fact that he was not. In fact, besides his Buddhist beliefs and practices, there’s this insight from Jobs in the midst of his fight with cancer. “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of – maybe it’s cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” Then Isaacson quotes Jobs with this tagline, “Yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone.”
The book also affords details about Jobs’ philosophies and worldview. This blog is not the place to explore them all, but one in particular I find enlightening is his philosophy in the conception and creation of new products. He disavowed market research which seeks to find out what people want in a product, whether that be a computer, music player, or cellphone. Rather, his quest was not to produce a product that people wanted or asked for. His goal was to determine what we, the consumer, wanted before we even knew what we wanted. This idea speaks volumes to his genius as a visionary. But something else struck me. This was a quality that I find very God-like. Although there were dozens of ungodly characteristics that defined Steve Jobs, this one particular quality is one I think brings glory to the Creator of this great inventor.
Jobs’ conviction was that people did not know what they want until he devised a product coupled with intuitive software that would reveal to consumers what they never knew they wanted. Products like the iPod removed the blinding scales from the eyes of future consumers and spawned a new culture as a result.
Often, mainline Christianity paints God as someone who consults market research before He blesses and prospers His children. We hear how God wants to prosper us, in the sense of material luxuries, personal happiness, and fulfillment. So, when life is not going as we hoped, our nature is to blame God and call in to question His unwillingness to grant our desires for a comfortable and painless existence. When our dreams don’t materialize, or we are in the throes of mid-life crisis, we wonder why God didn’t do more to relieve our angst.
But God is not our cosmic butler. He does not consult Gallup polls to find out what will make us happy. He is not indebted to rain on our famished crops, He is not obliged to cancer-proof our bodies. He does not prosper us according to our definition of prosperity. God is not a mere inventor of human happiness, He is the Visionary of Eternal joy. Foreknowledge is not a crystal ball that equips Him to response, but a ruling scepter by which He sovereignly governs the future. He didn’t merely react to our rebellion, He planned for it from before the foundations of the world. He not only created the Serpent that invaded His holy garden, but He gave him fangs for the expressed purpose of bruising His Son’s heel, the same heel that would crush the Serpent’s head the way God planned.
In a sense, God aims to do the same thing with the Gospel that Steve Jobs did with the iPad. That is to provide something that we could never conceive of, to satisfy a need we were unaware of. Steve Jobs would not allow us to settle for inferior electronics, although most of us would have. Likewise, God will not allow us to settle for inferior glories. He knows that we prefer “making mud-pies in the slums over a holiday at the sea”. (to quote CS Lewis) He knows our heart’s natural desire is to be affirmed, exalted, and appreciated by men. But God’s eternal vision for us has nothing to do with granting us a comfortable life on earth.
He will not let us find satisfaction in His good gifts. He won’t permit us having perfect sex, sports teams that never lose, cars that never malfunction, family members who never die, friends who don’t betray us, or bodies that resist all manners of disease and trauma. He willfully and actively frustrates our good intentions. He regularly thwarts our plans. God is the Visionary that Created us as receptors of His glory. He knows what we ultimately want and will increase our joy for Eternity, even if we don’t know it yet.