Steve Jobs and the God-like Pursuit of Excellence

After a number of posts about Steve Jobs I’m sure some folks think I have a very negative fixation about the man. That isn’t true. I want to take a page from John Van Sloten’s book and do some reflecting on what the life and passion of Steve Jobs can teach us about God.

Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography makes it very clear that Jobs was a complex man, a seldom happy man, and a man who was very hard on those around him. The book is fully of many accounts where Jobs was mean, nasty, insulting, demeaning, rude, condescending and unconcerned about the feelings of others. The book also makes it clear that he was like this because of his ruthless pursuit of excellence. He sought excellence in design of the products his company produced, excellence in appearance, excellence in execution, excellence in design. He was a ruthless perfectionist and the reason he was able to make such a significant cultural contribution through Pixar and Apple was due to this pursuit.

At the end of the biography Isaacson takes stock of this. Could Jobs have made a dent in the universe if he hadn’t have been such a jerk? There were times when his relational shortcomings were counterproductive to his pursuit of excellence. He failed to face the fact that his reality distortion field couldn’t impact the physics of the antenna on the IPhone 4. Jobs himself in the biography tries to do some summing up of his life in evaluating ways he didn’t do right by some significant others, especially family members. In the end, however, he was committed to his view of perfection and saw it as his legacy.

Why should I connect this with the character of God? God is passionate and ruthless about the reclamation of his fallen creation. He is passionate and ruthless about the restoration of his image in ourselves. He takes risks, knocks heads, goes to extremes that we judge to be irresponsible and unreasonable but nothing will blunt his passion.

Fortunately this is not God’s only passion. He is also gracious, compassionate, patient, kind, gentle, and respectful, things Steve Jobs didn’t do well with.

Christian theology teaches that the creator God lavishes his gifts and his image on all of humanity for the good of humanity. This means that we reflect him in part, not the whole. In an exceptional person like Steve Jobs it’s helpful to reflect on what he received and reflected that helped him make the dent he did.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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