The Meaning of Life
What is the Meaning of Life?
Health, wealth, love, and happiness. These top the list of the most common responses. But what if I told you that the Bible actually says that life is meaningless? Pointless. Empty. Worthless. Without purpose…
Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s the meaning of life?” Of course you have (even before you watched/read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). But it’s an important question nonetheless.
Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
Ecclesiastes 1:8-11 NLT
If you truly believe that God does not exist, or that there is no life after this one, then life is ultimately a meaningless waste of time.
Some people may argue that the purpose of life is simply to enjoy it, treat others kindly, and make the most of our time here. Should we be content to just run on the hamster wheel? Or is there more to it?
If there’s nothing after this life, then why should anything matter? We die, our bodies decay in the dust, and we are no more. We would have no recollection of this life whatsoever if we simply cease to exist, as some suggest.
So, why do we have “regrets?”
It doesn’t matter.
Why do we try to be better people?
It doesn’t matter.
Why do we pursue goals?
It doesn’t matter.
I think we’ll all agree that this life is very temporary. But, if we simply vanish into non-existence, then ultimately anything we accomplish in this life is… pointless.
What was it all for?
Why did we try so hard?
Work so hard?
Sacrifice so much?
Did we really accomplish anything?
I mean, we can’t take any of it with us (I think we’d all agree on this point as well).
Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 NLT
Yet, we value life.
Let’s look at it from this angle. If an animal is injured or diseased beyond “reasonable” repair, if their quality of life is severely affected, the general consensus is to euthanize it. In fact, many people would agree that’s the humane thing to do (put the animal out of its misery). Now if we’re suddenly talking about a person, we no longer have an “it” and this idea becomes repulsive. But if we’re “here today and gone tomorrow,” why not just get it over with? Why let people suffer from disease, pain, being physically disabled, or even from simply being bedridden, unable to enjoy life as others do? Let’s continue to go a step further and ask: Should we let people struggle in poverty? In homelessness? In heavy addiction? In depression? Where do we draw the line?
Hopefully, it made you uncomfortable to imagine that we might put a person “out of their misery.” Could that uneasiness imply that you have an innate sense that there is, in fact, more to life than just living? It’s as if humans are set apart, above the animals (which we are, Biblically speaking). It’s as if we humans suspect that our lives are more than an empty existence – that perhaps there’s more to life. Perhaps, we have reason to value our lives.
So, what’s the point?
Many reading this may argue that the purpose of life is to enjoy it – make the most of it. But I challenge that thought: Is our entire existence built on a need to find a state of emotion called happiness? Is that why we were put here? Of course, if you believe that we evolved from an accidental chemical cluster, then you’d agree with my opening statement that life is meaningless.
There are more than enough articles to tell you that happiness is temporary and fleeting (such as this one). Furthermore, I believe this stance is relative to your socioeconomic status. For instance, many of the lower or middle social class typically believe a sense of happiness is still obtainable by climbing into a higher class (you’ll be happy once you have enough money). However, a closer examination of the upper class reveals they often are just as unhappy and unsatisfied as anyone else.
To clarify: my question is not “can we be happy?” Yes, we can and should try to be happy. But, my original question remains: What’s the meaning – the purpose – of our existence?
Let’s ask the expert:
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NLT
King Solomon (reign: circa 970 to 931 BC) had it ALL. Everything he dreamed of. Anything he wanted. From treasures to pleasures, he tried everything in an effort to find happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, and purpose. The temporary, earthly things of this life left him empty and without meaning. He concluded that apart from God, man’s efforts are meaningless.
I personally don’t have the opportunity to try all the expenditures that Solomon did. But, I don’t need to. I know that there is a greater purpose to this life, a divine Creator, and an eternal life (either in His presence or eternally separated).
Therefore, I conclude that man has purpose only in God. Apart from God, man has no purpose.
It’s either all for Him, or all for nothing.
* To get the extended edition of this article, read the book of Ecclesiastes (it’s only 12 chapters).