What Is the Meaning of Life?

What is the meaning of life?

The question kind of betrays itself, doesn’t it?

Betty Nudler (CC)

The query implies there is meaning to be had in the first place. And inherit in that assumption is the affirmation that life has value. Because without value, there is no meaning. Therefore the question stems from our belief that life is precious.

But is it really?

Every worldview must answer the question of meaning. Godless outlooks are content to offer up the non-answer: there is no meaning. And such is the only logical response to an existence founded upon a random arrangement of atoms.

But the very fact that one can intelligibly reason such a response serves more to prove there is meaning than disprove it. Don’t you think?

In attempting to do away with meaning, the naturalist must use intelligible language to convey his meaning. In other words: Everything is meaningless except for this statement. And when discussing meaning I can't help but recall a quotation attributed to biologist Edwin Conklin:

The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing factory.

No one would assume a dictionary came about by accident. So why do we do the same with life? But if life is not a grand coincidence, there must be some sort of purpose, right?

The Problem of Pleasure

King Solomon struggled with life’s significance. He was sure there had to be meaning, but he couldn’t pin it down. So he began a quest to derive the answer, in hope of distilling it down to a neat little aphorism that might be printed on coffee mugs and tweeted into oblivion. (I'm pretty sure they had Twitter back then.)

He did arrive at a rather succinct conclusion, but before we look at the answer, we need to examine the impetus for the question. Why was Solomon obsessed with meaning? The catalyst wasn't some great pain or misfortune in his life, but rather the failure of pleasure to satisfy. As the richest man on earth, he could and did experience the pinnacle of pleasure on earth, but sensuality left more to be desired.

Just like Solomon, the West has experienced untold prosperity. And while wealth with the proper foundation is a blessing, without that slab of concrete prosperity destroys. Unfortunately many have cast aside the proper foundation and focused solely on the house. As we see with Solomon, pleasure is actually a big problem, possibly worse than pain.

While one in pain asks, Why? One in pleasure asks, Why not? Why doesn’t pleasure suffice? Why doesn’t pleasure satisfy? Why does hedonism feel so shallow? Thus we have the same response as Solomon:

All is vanity!

You see what has happened? We slowly but surely replaced God with ourselves. Just like Eve saw the fruit was pleasing to the eye, we began to assume that the pinnacle of humanity was pleasure.

So we became deceived and started worshiping pleasure and things that made us feel good. For Solomon it was endless sex, drunkenness, and bigger and better houses. Sound familiar?

Christians and unbelievers alike have bought into the lie that pleasure will satisfy. Take it from Solomon:

It won’t. 

But What Does the Bible Say about Life’s Meaning?

Yes, life does have meaning, but that meaning lies without ourselves. The godless can’t believe in meaning because they don’t believe in He who grants us meaning. How can an accident have a transcendent purpose?

No, you were created for a purpose; you are no accident. Let me give it to you straight: your purpose is to glorify your Creator. Sounds neat and tidy, right? But before you simply accept my word, I'll show you how I arrived there.

Let’s return to Solomon. Fortunately he didn’t stop at inebriated orgies. When he derived no meaning from such self-indulgent acts he continued his pursuit, exploring wisdom, work, wealth, honor, morality, justice. In the end the king reached his conclusion:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Solomon realized no matter how wise or rich he was, he was a finite creature with a birth and a death—a stark contrast to the uncreated, infinite God. Because of these qualities, God is worthy of reverence and awe, or, as he calls it: fear.

But I think this answer is only partially correct. The flaw in Solomon’s conclusion lies in that four letter word: duty. Truly we owe our lives to God. He created us and sustains us. But God wants much more than dutiful servants. He wants a deep relationship with you. He wants your love.

In such a vein we get the rest of the story as it were in the answer to life’s meaning. In fact Jesus called it the greatest commandment: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5).

Combining love and fear paves the way for a natural progression to obedience. In this dedicated, subservient relationship we find ourselves in the center of God's will thereby giving Him glory. And as Adam and Eve discovered prior to their fall, that's not a bad place to be.

And as this blog progresses, I find myself writing more and more about purpose, meaning and calling. In fact, once a month, I send out a private article like this one by email. If you think you can handle being in such an exclusive club you might consider signing up here. If it's too intense, you can always opt out later. :) Click here for more details.

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