Alongside Crazy Love and Radical, John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life completes the triumvirate of books pleading with our American Christian culture to do more with our life than chase after the American Dream. This came before the other two, and perhaps led to this new subgenre of Christian books. It is a message that I need to hear often, as I need to be reminded that this world is not all there is to life.
There is much in the book that I enjoyed thinking about. The two main areas are Piper’s thoughts on how we should view our work and how television is a great time waster. For work, Piper explains that “good, honest work is not the saving Gospel of God, but a crooked Christian car salesmen is a blemish on the Gospel and puts a roadblock in the way of seeing the beauty of Christ. And sloth may be a greater stumbling block than crime. Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’”(Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7). I was encouraged to be a better teacher as a better witness for Christ. We all worked with those Christians who spent more time jabbing on about religion or Jesus, but everyone knew then as a sloths. For the opposite, I think of my friends Dan and Jace serving in the Air Force at Kadena Air Base. Both are solid Christian men, and excellent workers in their respective shops. Good, honest, trustworthy work brings glory to God in ways that merely talking about Him cannot.
Piper’s section on “Television, the Great Life-Waster” was one of my favorite portions. No matter who you are or where you on in your walk with Jesus, we do not need to be convinced that T.V. wastes our time. Piper quotes from Neil Postman in saying that: “What is happening in America is that television is trans- forming all serious public business into junk. . . . Television disdains exposition, which is serious, sequential, rational, and complex. It offers instead a mode of discourse in which everything is accessible, simplistic, concrete, and above all, entertaining. As a result, America is the world’s first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death.”
I’ll end with a popular quote from this book regarding the clutter and trifles on which we waste our life.
I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.
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