What’s the purpose of life? Are we a cosmic accident? Is there intrinsic value to human life? Life in general? Why are we here? Why is anything here? Why should we be asking these questions? There are lots of different answers to these questions and they’ve been debated for – well forever. Ever since mankind became cognizant, we’ve been discussing meaning and our purpose for being here.
Some people think we live to overcome. We live to achieve, to grow, to accomplish and to make progress.
Similarly, others propose that we live for our descendants; to make sure that the human species, your individual family line, or your own culture lives long and prospers.
Others say that we should live for ourselves; we should live to be successful, happy, fulfilled, satisfied, powerful, and/or well-liked.
So which is it? Should we live for others? Should we live for self? Should we live for peace or to dominate and vanquish foes? Should we forgo happiness now for a higher level of happiness in the afterlife?
Yes. I think we should have all of that, but we can only have them, in reasonable proportions and in proper context, if we live for God. “Ohhhhh brother… here we go again!” Yeah, you should have seen this coming though so don’t blame me.
If we live for God then we can have the other purposes, but if we make one of the above purposes our ultimate purpose then we will become lopsided, oblong, out of wack. As St. Augustine puts it in his Confessions [to God], “Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you. He bears about him the mark of death, the sign of his own sin, to remind him that you thwart the proud. But still, since he is a part of your creation, he wishes to praise you. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism, echoing Augustine, says, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully enjoy him forever.” Pastor John Piper gives us a tiny but significant twist on this when he says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” The Christian and answer to Life’s ultimate “WHY?” Is simple: “God.”
A lot has been said about life throughout history, but the Bible talks not just about life here on earth but eternal life.,”and this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17: 3). So the afterlife isn’t about harps and playing with your childhood dog, it’s about knowing your Creator.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, a man asks Jesus “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”. This question is big. What does God, the reason behind everything, require? At the end of the day, what should I do, what’s it all about? What’s most important in life??
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So according to Christianity, the purpose of life is God. God is the reason we are here and we have been made to know and love Him as we live our lives for His glory, representing Him well in all our relationships.
“Ok, but Park you said you could have all of the purposes, now you’re saying we need to bail on all of those and focus only on God? What gives?” Well, when God is our ultimate goal, standard, and purpose, then we will obey Him, and in so doing we will achieve the lesser goals, like loving others, vanquishing foes, striving for greatness, and a higher level of happiness in the afterlife, but the game and players will change.
When we live our lives for God we can think rightly about who our real enemies are, and we see that our number one enemy isn’t our neighbor, work associate, or even the devil, but ourselves and our sinful desires. We work hard, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to battle the remnants of our sinful nature on a daily basis. We know that our battle is against spiritual forces who want to destroy us, but it’s our own sinful nature that decides to listen to them. The only way to vanquish our foes, both inner and spiritual, is to give ourselves to God and follow Christ daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. We put on the armor of God and fight, knowing that God has promised us victory over all our foes on the day of Christ Jesus.
When we experience the compassion and grace of God through the sacrifice of His son on our behalf we are free to show the people in our lives compassion and grace. Since we’ve been forgiven much, we are free to forgive those who wrong us.
When we realize that we’ve been made with a purpose, we can be thankful for the gifts and abilities that God’s given us, and we can be content with our limitations knowing that God is in control of everything. At the same time, the Christian had better be the hardest worker in what ever they set their hand to because we don’t work for perishable goods, but for the pleasure of the God of the universe who knit us together in our mother’s womb, who knows the exact amount of effort we put forth, and who knows when we are sand bagging our bosses, coaches, teachers, and teammates. Work, according to the Bible, is a good thing and there’s a reason the Protestant work ethic helped build the western world.
I think you’re getting the picture, God made us for Himself. Our purpose in life is to Know God, to love and enjoy him forever, and to love our neighbors as we ourselves. If that’s true then it makes sense why this world is in such turmoil. We’re living with the wrong standard, goal, and purpose; we are dislocated out of joint, looking for the creation to satisfy that which only our Creator can satisfy.
The purpose of life is to know and to love the Giver of life, God Almighty.