Does Life Have a Purpose?
by Chris Plekenpol
As a child, we all had days where we hated school. We would ask a series of questions to adults that inevitably would leave them speechless. It started like this.
“Why do I have to go to school?”
“So that you can get an education”,
“Why do I need an education?”
“So you can get a job.”
“Why do I need a job?”
“So you can provide for yourself to eat.”
Ultimately, what life came down to was not dying…right away.
Sometimes the conversation would take on a slight twist involving providing for family or to make my family happy or for even altruist reasoning of providing for others, but still the answer that I would get for doing anything beneficial was simply to sustain life.
Why am I here? I think we have all come across this question after we have lost a job, relationship, or a family member. Doubts creep in and for a moment we start to question the purpose of anything. Unless we are philosophically inclined, we are too busy with work, kids, dating, car payments, mortgages and rent to worry about thinking about why we are here.
Just living. That can’t be it, can it?
King Solomon one of the richest kings ever to live and arguably one of the wisest wrote a treatise on life about 935 BC. The entire thing can be summarized by its opening line.
“Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”
He then wrote 12 chapters on how he has experienced every aspect of life and found that nothing mattered. This guy learned all he could and became an incredible philosopher, he partied all he could, built buildings, planted vineyards, gave lots of people jobs so they could continue living. He had hundreds of wives, concubines, and entertainers. He worked in biology, botany, and chemistry. Yet all that he could find was that a man lived and then a man died. It’s pretty depressing stuff actually.
But what King Solomon, a fairly devout monotheist revealed was that life, in and of itself had no purpose.
Throughout history people have been coming up with the same thought. They try to put different twists on it to show how they have arrived at a new truth. But what they say is merely subjective. Their meaning of life was to be happy. Well that doesn’t help a person who is abused, born in to a sex trade, born with aids. But perhaps happiness can be achieved if we help enough other people live a little longer.
See that is the inherent problem. We have all said things like, LeBron James was made to play basketball. General George Patton was made for war. Michael Jackson was made to entertain. We have in our lives said, “I was made for this.”
If that is true, who made you? Who made these people and why?
I can hear the skeptic say, “It’s just a figure of speech.”
But in that moment when you are most satisfied in life, when it feels like you are no longer the square being jammed into the circle hole, but rather the square fitting into the square hole you breathe a sigh of relief and utter, “I was made for this.”
You see it is that thought that I want to focus on. You were made for something. Random chance plus time is not why you know you were made for something, but can’t quite put your finger on it. In all of us, is that desire to be the LeBron James of something.
All of life in and of itself is meaningless if there isn’t more to it. If there is no immortality, if there is no eternity, then what hope is there?
Famed atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins in his book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life agrees
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Life in and of itself has no purpose without a creator.
King Solomon came to a conclusion in his work. He wrapped up the final chapter of his treatise on the meaning of life by saying, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; (Ecc 12:1 ESV) 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.”
(Ecc 12:13-14 ESV)
God created us and gave us purpose. He made us and knows what satisfies us. Investigating who He is might be the only way to find an eternal purpose in a temporary life. In fact, God made us to be satisfied in glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. We already do this with temporary things. When we cheer for our favorite sports team we glorify that team. We wear the t-shirts, we sit in uncomfortable chairs with several thousand of our best friends and make fools of ourselves in order to glorify the object of our affection.
In Austin, we love our Longhorns. Here are some of the lyrics from Texas Fight!
Texas Fight! Texas Fight!
For it’s Texas that we love best.
Hail, Hail, the gang’s all here,
And it’s goodbye to all the rest!…
Texans aren’t the only ones who love their football team best. Take a look at Georgia’s lyrics. Here the words are more tied to this idea of glory.
Glory, glory to old Georgia!
Glory, glory to old Georgia!
Glory, glory to old Georgia!
Hail to Georgia down in Dixie!…
To glorify something is to lift that one thing above all other things. And if you are an alumni of Texas or Georgia something inside you stirs deeply and resonates when the words are read, yelled, shouted, screamed. For avid college football fans, after the touchdown is scored and the extra point goes through the uprights there is a moment of sheer bliss. Worries slip away as shouts of adulation rise to the sky. For the football fan, there could be nothing more enjoyable.
Here is what is strange about that. The winning of that game will not change the financial status of the fan. It will not change his relationship. It will not change the terrible boss. But for a moment those things become strangely dim in the light of the glory of his team.
We all were meant to worship something. The problem for most of us is we are worshipping a man made icon of excellence. Eventually Texas will lose. Eventually the coach will change. Perhaps the institution of the University of Texas might shut down. The reason is it isn’t eternal.
We are designed to worship. We long for our worship to be satisfied. In that worship we find our purpose for doing even the most mundane task. Life becomes less about staying alive, and more about enjoying the eternity we are created for. I think C.S. Lewis said it best, If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.