What really matters to Christians today?
Life in today’s world is so fast-paced, and there are so many distractions. We’re always working hard, without rest. Always hustling. But how does that square up with our Christianity? What are the consequences of this hectic pace and never-ending hustle? What are the consequences of the current culture we’ve built? What are the spiritual consequences of it?
I happened across To Hell with the Hustle in a unique way. In January, 2020, I was volunteering in The Bahamas on a project to help rebuild in the aftermath of 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. I wrote about the experience in a Medium post you can read here.
At our volunteer camp there was a “FREE” shelf where people left things for others to take. I found two books on that shelf: One was Ecotopia, a classic work of fiction in the realm of ecology. The other was To Hell with the Hustle by Jefferson Bethke.
There’s nothing on the cover that lets you know this is a Christian book. I only learned that when I read the description on the back. I said, “Oh, this is a Christian book? Then I guess God put it in my path because He wants me to read it.” I started reading it on the flights and layovers going back home.
I instantly connected with To Hell with the Hustle. It spoke to me at the time. What Bethke was talking about happened to be much like some things I’d been contemplating and some realizations I’d had. I nodded in agreement as I kept reading, happy to see much of what I’d been thinking about laid out on paper and fully articulated.
So yes, I do think God placed To Hell with the Hustle in my path for me to find it. It was something I needed to read at the time I found it, but it’s also something that all Christians need to hear right now. So let’s take a look at To Hell with the Hustle.
What’s in the Book
I wrote about this book in another one of my posts entitled Balance is Divine. In that post I was contrasting its differences against two classics of Christianity: Dark Night of the Soul and The Imitation of Christ. In part, I wrote:
The book’s subtitle is: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World. Much of it deals with checking out of the modern hustle culture that pushes us to produce and work more and more and more and to consume more and more too. It’s a rejection of the way our society pushes us to love the things of this world and how it creates idols out of wealth, status, work, productivity, and so on. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it.
[…] So much of To Hell with the Hustle deals with the importance of rest — and the sanctity of it. […]
Rest. Taking time to relax and recharge. And when you are working on something, taking your time to do it. Enjoying life at a healthy pace without rushing to get things done.
Most importantly, leaving plenty of time for God and our loved ones.
This is all heretical in today’s modern world, one which moves at a breakneck pace in a never-ending hustle of hard work. We don’t have time to take a break—we’re too busy hustling, right? We have to produce, after all. We have to feed the machine, so we can consume what it puts out.
To Hell with the Hustle is a rejection of our modern culture, written from a Christian viewpoint. It delves into topics that everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, need to seriously consider right now.
What are the long-term consequences of the way we live in this never-ending hustle culture? What is all the technology and information we have access to doing to us? How is it shaping us? Among other questions.
To Hell with the Hustle spends its time looking at individual aspects of our modern life and making arguments against each. The way we live today, it isn’t natural. It’s not God’s design that we should spend all our time working, only so we can consume needless items and whatnot. Among other problems.
The book tackles quite a few topics, all relevant to our lives today. It also talks about how our time doesn’t belong to us right now, and the benefits of reclaiming it. It talks about how we aren’t leaving enough time to love our families and our neighbors as God demands. It talks about how our society values and respects all the wrong things, creating idols out of what doesn’t matter. How God has been replaced by various worldly things.
There’s also a part about the value of silence and solitude, and the spiritual benefits of seeking this out. Solitude is crucial. Time spent alone in silence with no one else but God is so important for our spiritual growth. But so many people are scared of the idea. They don’t want to be ‘alone.’ But Bethke does a great job of explaining how important solitude is.
Most importantly, there’s a chapter on the lack of empathy in our world, and how it’s increasing tribalism and draining all love from our lives. It’s critical that we confront this crisis with fierce effort — the loss of empathy in our world is leading to a rise of hatred and narcissism.
The arguments in each chapter fuse together to form one cohesive argument in rejection of our current culture, the way we live our lives, and the insane hustle culture we’ve built along with its false idols. Everything has gone seriously wrong, and we need to look at what’s happening. Our lifestyle is unnatural, unGodly, and unsustainable — it’s harming us. We’ve erected idols all throughout our society and value all the wrong things. Love, compassion, and empathy are being drained from our world. Most importantly, so is our love for God. This state of affairs is all headed toward a tragic end.
We need to reject these unGodly ways, and not conform to them (Romans 12:2). We need to say “to hell with the hustle” and reject it, so we can live in line with God’s design. Our lives, our very souls depend on it.
That’s what this book is mainly about. It’s very thought provoking and Jefferson Bethke does a great job of explaining, and backing up his argument.
A Little ‘Light on Theology’
In my book reviews, I normally try to write at least one section of criticism. It’s not just for the sake of having criticism, or to be petty. No, it’s because every human work is flawed, and nothing is perfect.
But I don’t have much to say about To Hell with the Hustle. Am I too biased in favor of the book? I hope I’m not. But I don’t have much to say because when I consider this book and the argument it makes, my critical opinion comes down to: It is what it is. And I know that isn’t helpful, so let me try to explain.
This book is very straightforward, the arguments in each chapter forming part of the book’s main argument. And that’s about all there is to this book. You could think of it like a book-length essay. So you‘re either on board with how Bethke makes his argument, or you’re not. This book, it is what it is. It’s his argument in rejection of our current culture, and there’s not much else to it. So do you agree with what he’s saying, or not? That’s more or less what it comes down to.
For example, I can’t criticize the book’s theology because it’s Biblical and sound. It’s all legit. Bethke never goes beyond Scripture to add new concepts, of course (that would be heretical). But then again, Bethke doesn’t get into Scripture that much either. And that might be a problem. To Hell with the Hustle is a bit ‘light on theology.’
Scripture citations are few and far between here. Scripture may (or may not) be the basis for his thinking, but it’s a background element in this book. He mostly goes off on his own to make his points, with his own facts and arguments. Fortunately his ideas don’t go against Scripture, but some readers still may not like how ‘light on theology’ the book is.
‘Light on theology’ doesn’t mean light on Christianity; this is still a Christian book. But if To Hell with the Hustle lacks anything it’s theology, and theological arguments. I can accept what Bethke is saying without Scripture to back it up, because his arguments don’t violate Scripture, like I said. But more Scripture — more Christian theology — wouldn’t have hurt.
The result of how Bethke wrote To Hell with the Hustle is a book that could just as easily be read and accepted by non-Christians too. Because while his Christianity forms the basis of his viewpoint, it also doesn’t “get in the way.” The Christianity is here in these pages, but a reader could also overlook it if they wanted. But is that a good thing? Is that compromising part of the Christian message?
I won’t offer any opinion on that. You can think about it and decide for yourself.
The Final Word
It slowly dawned on me how important To Hell with the Hustle is for the times we live in. Its message is something all Christians need to hear, right now. And they need to seriously think and pray about what Bethke is saying.
The way we live these days, it’s not right and it’s not Christian. We value all the wrong things. We’ve made idols of productivity and prosperity, and we worship them. And we do everything at a pace that doesn’t allow us to worship our God like we should, or even to build a relationship with Him at all. It doesn’t leave us enough time for what’s truly important — to love God, our families, and our neighbors. In fact, love is being drained from the world.
Well, this is seriously wrong. This is a big deal. If modern life is built in such a way that it weakens our relationship with Jesus and makes it harder to follow Him, if it bleaches the love out of our lives and our world, then we need to not fall in line with that (Romans 12:2). We need to resist that, and live differently from the world.
This isn’t to be taken lightly. Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; others), so how do we know he hasn’t manipulated things to turn out this way? When we look at the chaotic pace of modern life that leaves no room for God, the hedonism of the world, the lack of love, and the constant encouragement to produce, desire, and consume things that are meaningless, it appears to have “Satan” written all over it.
Even if it doesn’t cite Romans 12:2, the message of To Hell with the Hustle is much like that: Don’t play along. The world has their own ways, but we follow Christ and do things differently. We must stay faithful to Him. Don’t get wrapped up in the world’s ways, stay focused on what’s important — stay focused on the things of heaven (Colossians 3:2).
Jefferson Bethke reminds us of those things of heaven as he rebukes our modern hustle culture point-by-point. This book is so relevant for Christians today, especially young Christians who are hustling hard right now to make it in this world. It’s nice to read a book written by a young Christian, facing down the same issues that are affecting us.
I don’t think being light on theology detracts from the message of To Hell with the Hustle. But opinions may vary on that, and I get it.
To sum it all up this was an excellent book with a solid argument that’s also easy to read. It’s an important book for our times, raising topics Christians and non-Christians alike had better think about. To Hell with the Hustle is a great read and I highly recommend you check it out!
To Hell with the Hustle
by Jefferson Bethke. Nelson Books, 2019.
Buy To Hell with the Hustle on Amazon (This is an affiliate link. I receive a small commission if you buy through this link.)
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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