Steve Jobs and God

Steve Jobs is, hands down, one of the most important business and cultural leaders of all time, but…


I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs, and I read the following:

Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’ 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 ans 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. (pp. 14-15)


I know that struggle with God’s sovereignty.

Images of starving and suffering children from around the world have become so ubiquitous that we tend to merely give a collective shrug.  From a Christian perspective one might want to jump in and say, “Steve, it’s Christ you are looking for!” But we should be careful that we do not proclaim Christ and lack the response of Jobs. He rightly was grieved by what he saw on the cover of Life. Francis Schaeffer once wrote that he was saddened by how the passionate youth of the sixties had, by the mid-seventies, largely abandoned their socio-political critique and gave into the pursuit of personal peace and prosperity. He was saddened not because they had abandoned their solutions, which they had but which Schaeffer also saw as inadequate, but because they had abandoned their critique. In others words, the troubles of the world no longer bothered them as it once did. They gave in to affluence. We should be as bothered as was Jobs.

On the other hand, is it not interesting that Apple Computer has given us so many insanely great products, and even changed the world in ways that we love, because its founder and driving life-force, was a man who passionately sought answers to life by first consciously refusing to accept the God who made him? Is it not ironic that we benefit from that?


Jobs was driven to perfection, in part, because he was seeking ultimate meaning which remained out of reach once God no longer existed, or was irrelevant. There is no doubt that Jobs was a genius; a truly brilliant man whose passions changed the world. But the more I read of his life the more I find him not a good person—not that I’m a saint. One could say he was troubled, or tormented, or that he just wanted excellence. But the fact is, his commitment to himself and what he wanted constantly overshadowed his ability to love others. I don’t think this was just a shortcoming, like not having enough information. And I don’t think it can be blamed on his being given up for adoption, as many want to say. (I can only speak about reported things he did and said; I cannot speak about his heart.) I think his troubles were spiritual.

In short, Jobs’ vision of the world, at least through much of his career, did not include a wise understanding of, or commitment to, love. Which is interesting considering he was so committed to spiritual enlightenment. It is also somewhat predictable that the person who dismisses God because of a story about children suffering on the other side of the world will be blind to his own profound lack of interest in loving his own neighbor, co-worker, waiter, friend. Perhaps Jobs changed later in his life, but I haven’t got to the end of the book yet. I hope he changed, for his own sake as well as others. And perhaps he has not yet reached the “end of the book” either.

And don’t you wish that Lutheran pastor had been more prepared to answer Jobs’ questions? A lesson for us all.

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