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The Purpose of Life

The young have no difficulty understanding that life is a gift, which should be enjoyed. As we grow it becomes increasingly clear that we do not have the insight, or the capacity, to truly experience the life we long for.

This is my fundamental consideration. I’m after only one thing. How can I find satisfaction in life – balance, integration, harmony, joy – as well, how can I help those I love find satisfaction? In my view, the task of the theologian, philosopher, and in fact every human being is to discover how they are to live their life well.

I seek to discover how to become integrated with reality so that I may thrive. I have no desire to force an ideology upon reality, let alone another person, because ideals often destroy lives and make the world an unbearable place to be. I desire to live in harmony/balance with the universe. I have chosen to follow Jesus because I find his story to be utterly beautiful. Furthermore, the Bible holds in tension with my unknowing, and is most in line with the longings of my pagan heart. I am enthralled by the idea that spirit, and Spirit, became and will remain flesh. What is the reason for such an occurrence? For what purpose was the physical world created? The possibility that life is meaningless unless I give it meaning utterly frightens me.

I tend to believe that the world is a place where the nature of the infinite being is displayed in a comprehensible manner-which is one way of saying that the creation exists to glorify God. But I think this statement has become meaningless and worse, misunderstood. Creation, humankind specifically, does not exist to simply sing God’s praises, as if he needed the approval. Creation exist to make God known – to demonstrate who God is and what he is like – and in turn to experience that demonstration. It is the very nature of all creatures to enjoy the goodness, beauty, and mystery of God. We were created to receive the pleasure of experiencing God through experiencing a world that reveals his being. So, quite simply, the purpose of life is to enjoy it.

Will we at this time put man at the center of the universe, making him the measure of purpose – ‘creation exists for man’s entertainment, for his consumption’. No! God is the giver of purpose and he created us with the purpose of enjoying him. Of course this will result in him receiving honor and praise.

The lilies in the field do not toil, yet they flourish. I desire to be taken up into life, enjoying every moment. To experience life is to experience God. The path towards God is the path of life; to walk away from God is to walk towards our own destruction and death. I want to throw myself into life. Unfortunately many Christians act as if enjoying physical pleasure is evil. We have some how given people the idea that we long for an escape from anything which pleases the senses. However, I see nothing in scripture that would lead me to believe that self-denial for the sake of denial is a virtue.

Our very nature draws us towards pleasure, because all good things come from our creator. Pain enables us to avoid that which will destroy us. Jesus himself repeatedly appeals to these innate desires. He calls us to follow him on the pathway of life, and warns us of the way that leads to death. To find life we must make sacrifices, we must accept hardship and pain for a season. But, we sow that we may reap. We are never asked to suffer for the sake of suffering. We may labor for a season, but it is so that we may receive an abundant harvest. We are asked to turn from those things we think will give us life, because they will actually destroy us. We endure the loss of pleasure for a moment, so that we may receive pleasure far exceeding our expectations.

This seems self-centered/ego-centric. We are told, “God does not wish to be loved for the sake of any advantage; he wants to be loved freely. The man who loves something advantageous does not love God but himself, and the Scriptures warn everywhere against such depraved love.”1 Yet, C. S. Lewis states, “ . . . man’s love for God, from the very nature of the case, must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love.”2 To think that we can ever love God “disinterestedly” is “diabolical.”3 We are needy created beings. We can only give from what we’ve been given; we can only love from being loved. We will never be like God, able to give without needing to receive. We are what we are and cannot pretend that we have the capacity to love God simply because he is God. We love him, because he first loves us.

Consider this: if my purpose for existence is not to enjoy God, but rather to do his will whether or not it is advantageous to me, then I should desire to burn in hell if that is his will. Such an outcome should satisfy the faithful servant who desires that God be glorified above all else. Does God ever ask such a thing?

We need God’s love. We were made to enjoy him. He cannot be treated as a means to an end, agreed. But, lets not pretend that he needs us, and we don’t need him. If God were ever to withdraw his goodness and beauty from the world, what misery we would be in. Still, many fear such thinking. They want to focus upon the commandments: love God; love your neighbor. However, the people who are focused upon their loving of God and others will be focused largely upon themselves. How can they not? They must constantly check their progress. The person whose focus is upon God’s love, his beauty, his wonder, will be focused upon God. Their gratitude will lead to love for God and others, and they won’t even need to think about it. They will be enamored with God and his creation, they will forget themselves, and they will forget their ego. They will be focused upon the world around them and the God who created it.

The purpose of humanity is to be loved by God, by enjoying him through his creation. We do not desire God because he is all-powerful. We desire him because he is love. We can’t claim to be loved by the ultimate lover and then say we don’t like it.

Now lets consider why human beings in particular were created. To ask why creation exists – the meaning of all life – is slightly different than asking why humans exist – the reason for human existence. According to Hebrew Scripture “God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

We bear the image of God. Yet, what is that image? How do we differ from the animals and the angels? It is unclear. There are many answers given, but each seems to be incomplete. Scripture never explains what the image is. I feel this statement should be treated as poetic. Meaning, it relates some specific idea, but that idea is multifaceted. It could not be presented as a propositional statement. It is multi-dimensional and it has diverse ramifications. In any case, it appears that God desired to create beings to which he could disclose himself in a unique manner, and those beings could experience his revealing actions in a special way.

We also learn from this statement in Genesis that human beings were created for a distinct reason. We were given a particular job. We are created so that we would be stewards of the earth. We have been given an authority over the created order. However a steward is not the master, he is a servant. Let us not forget Jesus teaches that to be a ruler means to be a servant.

So we see that humans are a distinct creation, but we are not an alien species. This world is our home, and we were created specifically to tend to it, to care for it and nurture it. We have been given the privilege of being the gardeners of Earth.  We have grossly misused our power. We have neglected our charge. We have spent much of our time abusing this world, because we believed that our reason for existence was only spiritual and wouldn’t really be fulfilled until we died and escaped our physical shells. However, it is through living life well, experiencing the physical world, caring for the physical world, that we glorify God – his nature is revealed – and God showers his love upon us. In this we can find satisfaction.

1.Phillip Melanchthon

2.C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brae & World, 1960), 13.

3.Ibid., 14.

4.Genesis 1:26, italics mine. 

5.Vigen Guroian, The Fragrance of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).