What is the Meaning of Life?

28 Jun 2011

So Many Views!

If we turn to philosophy or religion, we find there are so many different views on the Meaning of Life. From the vast array of opinions, how do we know which one is right? Here are some examples:

Frankyl: Hoping in an ultimate meaning

Tillich: Being yourself

Islam: Earthly life is merely a test, determining one's afterlife

Aristotle: Living virtuously

Christianity: we're all going to heaven?

Humanism: Personal Fulfilment

Maslow: Using our creative powers

Hinduism: Through egoism and desire one creates the causes for future becoming

Fromm: Living productively

Zoroastrianism: doing good keeps chaos at bay

May: Being able to love

Buddha: Achieving inner peace

Kant: Acting in line with universal laws

Freud: Loving and working

Sikhism: Spiritual union with God results in Salvation

Heschel: Living in wonder

Boiling down all these views to a few words each is a little unfair but we're just trying to show the range of views that exist.

Most religions, including mainstream Christianity: “This life is a stopping off point for the next, better life” - leaves us feeling there is a disconnect between religion and life here and now.

And of course there is the view that there is actually no meaning to life – we are born, live and die, to no purpose. A sad view that when all has been said and done, our lives amount to very little.

However, turning away from the philosophers and theologians and speaking to friends and neighbours, we find that peoples personal views on the meaning of life centre around the following themes:

  • Education: achieving the very best education for themselves, or perhaps even more so for their children.

  • Wealth: having the very biggest house, the fastest car, the widest selection of exotic holidays ensures they get the most out of life.

  • Partners: fulfilling natural desires is at the top of the list.

  • Career & Hobbies: For some their job is everything, whilst others find life’s meaning in their hobbies and recreation.

  • Drinking: Many people think that the best thing to do in life is to drink a lot and “have a good laugh”

So is the meaning of life to be found in loving and working, getting rich, education, drinking & having fun?

If the finest human minds in applying philosophy, science and theology have reached so many different conclusions we saw earlier, how on earth are we supposed to find the answer?

The Bible View

So even if there was some common theme running through man’s thinking, it would be man’s conclusion – and is man capable of figuring out the answer?

God transforms the debate. If there is a Creator who has a plan and purpose for His creation, and if He has revealed the meaning of life, then there is the possibility that we may get to know it. Christadelphians believe that it is only through the Bible, the inspired word of God that we can get to know His plan and purpose, and find real meaning in life. Other talks and articles in the Life's Big Questions series show that it the only true God is the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.

Solomon, a king of Israel, just under 1000 years before Christ, was not listed among the views we considered earlier. His wisdom and insight was different, it was unique, because Solomon’s wisdom was given to him by God.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” And Solomon said.... “Give to your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil."

The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself….. I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:5-13 NKJV)

Solomon wrote the biblical book of Ecclesiastes when he was an old man, showing how he had tried all the routes to the meaning of life that we listed above:

So Solomon tried all these things, and came to 4 conclusions:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:13-17 - Wisdom and knowledge is ultimately futile
  2. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 - Life is oppressive
  3. Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 - Only death is certain
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) - Life without God is pointless

The Bible makes it clear that although Solomon was uniquely wise, there is one greater than Solomon…..

One greater than Solomon

....Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Jesus uses analogy of the shepherd (Jesus) and his sheep (followers) to explain the meaning of life:

“I am the door (of the sheepfold). If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.... I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:9-11)

Jesus is talking to his followers about salvation, without him there is no meaning to life (he says “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”), and Jesus came that we might have an abundance of life (eternal life) because he, the shepherd, has given his life for us.

Just before his death by crucifixion, Jesus explained a little more to his followers about that more abundant life he offered:

"Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son, that your son also may glorify You, as You have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as You have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:1-3)

So Jesus said that eternal life is a gift from God. The Bible message is that it will be given to all true followers of Jesus. Jesus said the meaning to life is to get to know God and him - to have a relationship with them. To understand their love, their character and bring them into our lives.

So if we have no relationship with God and Jesus then there is something missing in our lives - there is no meaning!

Ultimately, the Bible claims that whether life has meaning for you and I depends upon the choice we make now in our lives.  Jesus described that choice as being between two roads.  One is a broad comfortable motorway which speeds to death, a road favoured by the majority.  The other is a small, narrow, and difficult road, favoured by comparatively few, that leads to life (see Matthew 7:13-14)

So let's see what the Bible says about the meaning of Life by turning to the Bible for answers to the following questions:

  • Where did we come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where are we going?

Where did we come from?

We were put here by a power greater than ourselves.  Bible says many times that God created our world and keeps it going, and that God created the world for a purpose:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, ...He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)

"For thus says the LORD,
      Who created the heavens,
      Who is God,
      Who formed the earth and made it,
      Who has established it,
      Who did not create it in vain,
      Who formed it to be inhabited:
I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18)

Why am I here?

Have you ever asked why am I here?  The Bible has answers for this too:

And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27)

We are here to find God, and God cares for us!  Our Creator’s care for us is seen all through the Bible, for example He assures us that the natural cycles which support our lives will continue (see Genesis 8:22).  And so God wants us to reflect that care – to show care for others in the same why He shows care for us:

"And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:21)

God has a plan to offer us life after death.  The plan involves the work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  These are probably the most famous words in the Bible which sums up God’s love and his care for each of us:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life."  (John 3:16)

We have seen that our Creator cares about us and has arranged a plan to enable us to have life after death.  This gives us a real hope for the future, despite the present problems we each face.  So what is God’s plan?

Where are we going?

The Bible is very clear about this it describes resurrection to everlasting life. here is one quote from Daniel:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)

This is a promise from Jesus:

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40)

So it is only those who believe in Jesus who will be resurrected from the dead and be given endless life.

So when will all this take place? The Bible is quite clear that the resurrection hasn’t happened yet but will happen at the return of Jesus.  This is what the Apostle Paul told the believers at Thessalonica:

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

So when the Lord Jesus comes down from heaven the dead who believed in him will be raised.

The Bible says that Jesus is not simply going to raise the dead but will also establish a worldwide peaceful kingdom.  Many Bible verses talk of a future world order very different from today’s, for example:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.... They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4)

God’s plan is to fill the earth with people who respect Him:

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

We can have the wonderful hope of being involved in this peaceful, worldwide kingdom on earth.

And once we have made a commitment in our lives – to live as disciples of Christ, we have peace of mind because we can trust in God's guidance no matter what happens in our lives, and because we have a wonderful hope for the future!

We each have the opportunity to put true meaning into our lives now – through Jesus!