Steve Jobs, Jim Elliot and Legacies
On Wednesday of this week, the world was saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs, founder of all things Apple. He was an amazing man to say the least. I’m a gadget guy at heart. I love new ways to use technology…and maybe it makes me feel a little like James Bond…who knows? Anyway, while I have never had an Apple product (I don’t make enough money to swim in those waters), I have always been fascinated with his sheer genius. He has provided products that at the very least have made life easier for literally millions of people….and perhaps even made life better for many of them. The world has marked his remarkable achievements in the last few days and mourned the loss of a truly creative icon.
As much as I admire Steve Jobs, I couldn’t help but think of a guy that far fewer people know who didn’t even make it to the age of 26. His name is Jim Elliot. He was killed in an Ecuadorian jungle by warriors from the Waodani tribe…the very people he was trying to reach for Jesus. Some people may have read his story, or seen the movie End of the Spear, but those numbers pale in comparison to the global impact of Steve Jobs. Relatively speaking, Jim Elliot was a nobody who, like Jobs, died far too soon, but that’s about where the similarities end.
But the question rises, who left the greater legacy? Certainly, this is a no-brainer, right? Who in our modern culture doesn’t respect and/or envy the life the Jobs lived? Even among Christians? Who wouldn’t want to be memorialized by millions at your passing? Who wouldn’t want to have the influence and resources that Jobs had? Who would trade that or even compare that to Jim Elliot?
The legacy question may surprise you….but truthfully, there’s no comparison. The hands down winner is Jim Elliot. Why? Let’s look at a passage from scripture:
2 Peter 3:10 - But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 - By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
The Bible tells us unequivocally that a day is coming when everything temporary will be destroyed. While I heartily commend the Apple products that Steve Jobs created, I don’t put any of them in the category of eternal. In fact, I’m pretty sure that some of them don’t even last a few years (your mileage may vary). But even the best, most well-made ipad is destined to crash some day…and if not, then it will be burned when everything temporary is put in judgment before God.
On the other hand, Jim Elliot, who few people ever knew, made an indelible impression of the Waodani tribe that killed him (along with four other missionary companions). Eventually, through continued efforts of those desiring to carry out the mission effort that he began, most of the Waodani tribe came to Christ and will now spend an ETERNITY in heaven, forgiven and free forever, along with the missionaries whose lives they took.
When the life work of Steve Jobs and Jim Elliot are placed before God, this is how I see it:
- ipad – wood
- Waodani tribe member accepting Christ – Gold
- ipod – hay
- Waodani tribe member sharing the gospel with his family – Silver
- iphone – straw
- Waodani tribe member spending eternity in heaven with Jesus – Precious Stones
Our measuring stick doesn’t always look like God’s. But in the end, it’s the only measuring stick that will matter. While I’ve enjoyed the contribution that Steve Jobs has made to society, it is Jim Elliot’s legacy that will last for eternity. That’s the kind of legacy I want.
In a journal entry from 1949, Elliott wrote this…”He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
…and I can think of no better way to end this post