The names of Edison and Ford are two of the few legendary names forever stamped on the pages of business history. They were inventors, innovators, and businesspersons who literally changed the world.
Although gaining entrance into this small and exclusive club is almost impossible, there will be one more name added to list. That name will either be Gates or Jobs– but not both.
I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It was an amazing, eye opening, 630 page read. Although the book was officially sanctioned by Jobs, it explored all of Steve’s facets. The good and the bad.
However, in this post I would like to explore Steve Job’s spiritual beliefs and practice. If you have an interest in the inside story of how Steve Jobs accomplish the technological feets that he did, I highly recommend the book.
Early in life Steve Jobs rejected the God of the Bible and Christianity. Isaacson writes:
Job’s parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will god know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?”
The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”
Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”
“Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”
Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and he never went back to church. 1
Wow… a difficult, but legitimate question! Of course, he is not the first to ask why an all knowing and all powerful God allow pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, Steve did not turn to God or the Bible to search for answers. Rather he looked elsewhere.
As a college student in the early seventies he explored what many other young people of the era were turning too. “Vegetarianism and Zen Buddhism, meditation and spirituality, acid and rock– Jobs rolled together, in an amped-up way, the multiple impulses that were hallmarks of the enlightenment-seeking campus subculture” 2
After dropping out of college Steve continued his search for spiritual enlightenment. At age 19 he spent seven months in India looking for a ‘guru’ or ‘holy man’ to follow. When he returned to California he continued his spiritual quest. “Job’s interest in Eastern spirituality, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and the search for enlightenment was not merely the passing phase of a nineteen-year-old. Throughout his life he would seek to follow many of the basic principles of Eastern religions, such as the emphasis on experiential prajna, wisdom or cognitive understanding that is intuitively experienced through concentration of the mind.” 3
While it may seem that Steve Jobs was an atheist, he would best be described as an agnostic. When Yo-Yo Ma, the world renowned celloist, played Bach on his 1733 Stradivarius cello in Steve Job’s living room Jobs teared up and said: “You playing this is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this.” 4
At the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer he said: “I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God. For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.” Though he qualified this by adding that as he faced death he “might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife… I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.” 5
Though he wanted to believe in an afterlife he wasn’t fully convinced. “But on the other hand,” he said “perhaps it’s like an on-off switch. Click! and you’re gone… maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.” 5
Some personal reflections
While it is possible that Steve Jobs had a last minute conversion, it appears that he entered into eternity without having first placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I find this tragic. How can someone so smart miss God’s fingerprints in creation?
Steve’s observation regarding Yo-Yo Ma’s talents was correct. Where did the human ability to create beautiful works of art? I agree with Steve when he said “a human alone” can not do this. Rather, I believe, humanity was given the ability to create by the Creator Himself– He made us in His image.
He also rightly felt that “there must be more to our existence.” It seems as if he really wanted to believe that there is a God, but couldn’t bring himself to point where he was fully convinced.
Steve Jobs will be remembered for his great, technological accomplishments: the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He will also be remembered for his business prowess for building great companies including Apple and Pixar. However the words of our Lord Jesus Christ comes to mind:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36 ESV
It could be said that Steve Jobs reached the pinnacle of success in this world… though I hope he didn’t forfeit his soul.
What about you? Are you living for world? If so, I pray that you will turn to the one true and living God by placing your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. For “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” John 1:12 ESV.
So, which name will be added to the elite club of world changing entrepreneurs? Gates or Jobs? Only time will tell~~ but note, I’m writing this on my MacBook Pro.
1 Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs, New York: Simon & Schuster. 2011. Print. pp 14, 15.
2 p 36.
3 p 48.
4 p 425.
5 p 571.