It is hard to review a book like this fairly, so I will first discuss its contents, and then review the book briefly from two perspectives, one of them laudatory and one of them critical, as a way of giving a fair hearing to its virtues while also commenting on where it falls short. The book itself, written by a rabbi/businessman, contains at least a couple dozen collected and sometimes connected short essays that were part of a weekly presentation to business leaders set up by his boss. The essays themselves deal with a variety of subjects including communication, mistakes, conflicts of interest, the legitimacy of wealth and business. The author, and his writings, sit at the intersection of the business world and the religious world, showing a desire for businesspeople to feel some sort of blessing from religion. This is a common desire, in fact, and a common exercise of writers like John Maxwell as well.
There are, of course, a lot of difficulties with this approach. For one, this book talks a lot about new age ideas like meditation and ego denial, and constantly panders to contemporary trends in psychology. This book is a poster child for baptizing various fads in an ecumenical but superficial approach that is likely to appeal to those who wish to feel as if they are living according to the general standard of godliness that is humanly accessible apart from following God’s ways, and as that is a large audience this book should find many appreciative readers. The fact that the essays are so short hinders any of them from going in depth into any of the subjects that they deal with, and the book as a whole is written with the same sort of restless naval gazing as that made famous by M. Scott Peck . Readers who dislike endless appeals to optimistic thinking, find New Age practices and contemporary psychology to be offensive, and dislike the attempt to assuage the guilty consciences of worldly businesspeople who want to believe that their practices are godly will find much to dislike here.
Yet it would be unwise to simply reject this book out of hand. To the extent that the book wrestles with the tensions of life and seeks to find depth and nuance into examining apparent paradoxes and avoiding easy answers, it gives an approach worth emulating. Some people need to be reminded that wealth is not evil, that we ought not to despair and that hope and joy are godly fruits of life to enjoy. The fact that businesspeople have a desire to gain wisdom and insight from God’s word and from history and culture in general is a positive sign (even if it is often pandered to in a superficial way). Seeking to apply lessons from scripture and history to an activity of great importance in our lives is certainly better than the alternative of avoiding such applicability and relevance altogether. This book is evidence of a great hunger for meaning and significance in labor, and that hunger is a good thing, even if this book is like trying to feed that hunger on cheese sticks and kosher hot dogs.