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Steve Jobs Didn’t Like On/Off Switches

Last weekend I watched a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Job’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, and I was intrigued about many things from Steve Job’s life. I confess that I have not yet read the biography, but after watching this interview it is on my ‘soon to read’ list.

Steve Jobs was in every way a fascinating man, a brilliant leader and one of the most creative thinkers our society has ever produced. His genius was in his simplicity. Sometimes knowing what not to be involved in is as important in making you successful as knowing what to be involved in. Jobs took apple from the brink of bankruptcy to the position of second most profitable company in the US by eliminating dozens of good projects to focus on only a few. Jobs was also provoked by the “impossible;” he thrived on turning what others said could not be done into household reality.

Most intriguing to me, though, was how spiritualism and Hinduism from India shaped his life. He spent some time as a young man wandering in India, and he credited Hindu spiritualism as the inspiration for a lot of the simplicity of Apple’s design. Yet it also led him, according to the 60 minutes interview, to make some disastrous decisions, including not getting surgery on his cancer in its early stages (in defiance of the doctors’ strong recommendations) when it could have very easily been eradicated. He instead tried diet changes and spiritualist remedies. When it became apparent that the spiritualist remedies were not working, it was too late.

The interview showed some clips of Steve Jobs being interviewed about God. He said he gave God a 50/50 chance of existing: As he approached the end of his life, however, his belief in God went up, primarily, he said, because he really wanted there to be a God, because if there is no “God” there is no afterlife. He said (and I paraphrase), “When you die, what else matters? If there is no God then it’s all over at that point. That’s all that matters.’ He continued, (Again, my paraphrase) “Sometimes I think there has to be a soul that lives on forever. There is too much inside of us that wants that. But other times I feel like the human body simply has an on/off switch, and once it’s off, it’s off.” The interviewer noted that was why there is rarely an on/off switch on Apple products… Jobs just didn’t like the concept of just turning something off forever.

I’m grateful for Steve Jobs and the things his creativity and brilliance have added to our lives. I am also reminded, from Jobs’ own mouth, of how even the greatest accomplishments, apart from everlasting life in God, are totally useless. I couldn’t help but that about what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:10

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.