May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.
What is the Meaning of Life?
What Is the Purpose and Meaning of Life?
Two different looks at these Questions one from Psychology Today and one from Christian Bible Reference.
What Is the Purpose and Meaning of Life?
Why are We Here?
Everyone looks for meaning in his or her life. It is not at all satisfying to think our lives have no more meaning than just being born, living a short while, then dying. There is nothing in the Bible that says, "The meaning of life is ...," but the Bible does tell God's purposes for us, and it is in fulfilling those purposes that we can find meaning and satisfaction in our lives.
God created mankind as a special species, above the other animals, and having at least some of the qualities of God, Himself. God appointed us as stewards of all His creation.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, " Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (NAS, Genesis 1:26-28)
Related verses: Genesis 1:1, 2:7, 5:1-2, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalms 8:3-6, 100:1-5, 115:16, Isaiah 42:5-6, 64:8, Matthew 21:33-41, 25:14-30, Luke 16:1-13, Romans 1:20-22, 1 Peter 4:10.
God has not left us on our own. He has given us commandments to help us carry out our stewardship duties wisely. As civilization moved forward, the prophets updated and refined the people's understanding of God's commandments. The Bible urges us to put our trust in God and obey His commandments.
Related verses: The Ten Commandments, Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 11:1, Psalms 9:9-10, 25:10, 32:10, 40:4, 84:12, 119:1-2, Proverbs 3:5, 3:27-35, Jeremiah 17:7-8, Nahum 1:7, Matthew 5:19, 6:24, 12:50, Luke 6:46-48, 17:10, John 14:1-2, 14:15, 14:21, Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 2:22-25, 1 John 2:3-6, 3:24, 5:1-3.
The Greatest Commandment
When Jesus came, He gave people a new understanding of God's purposes and commandments. He said all of God's commandments follow from two great principles: Love for God and love for other people. He said we should diligently apply these principles in our lives rather than just obey a set of rules:
... An expert in religious law, tried to trap [Jesus] with this question: "Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" Jesus replied, " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." (NLT, Matthew 22:35-40)
The English word "love" has many shades of meaning, but the "love" that Jesus spoke of is a translation of the Greek word agape. It means affection, benevolence, good-will, high esteem and concern for the welfare of the one loved. It is deliberate, purposeful, unselfish love rather than emotional, impulsive or self-serving love.
People of Jesus' time had adopted a fairly narrow idea of who should be considered a "neighbor," but in His Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus explained that we should extend our love to all people of the world and consider them to be our neighbors.
Related verses: Leviticus 19:18, 19:34, Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 10:19, 11:1, Proverbs 17:17, Matthew 5:38-47, 7:12-14, 25:31-46, Luke 6:27-36, John 13:34-35, 15:12-14, Romans 8:28, 12:9-21, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Galatians 5:13-14, 5:22, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, James 2:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 3:14-17, 4:7-8, 4:16-21.
Finding True Meaning
People who learn to put their trust in God, instead of in worldly things, find a deep sense of peace and serenity that overshadows the evils, anxieties and disappointments of life and the fear of death. We live in the world but we must put our hopes and trust in God.
Praise the Lord! For all who fear God and trust in him are blessed beyond expression. Yes, happy is the man who delights in doing his commands. (TLB, Psalms 112:1)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV, Matthew 6:25-33)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NIV, Romans 15:13)
People who manage to break out of selfishness and focus on caring for the needs of others find a sense of purpose and fulfillment far beyond any possible worldly gratification. The only way to find true happiness is to make other people happy. Life's meaning is not found in getting more, but in giving more!
"Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. (TLB, Isaiah 58:10-11)
For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give -- large or small -- will be used to measure what is given back to you." (TLB, Luke 6:38)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (NAS, Philippians 2:3-4)
Each of us has something to give. Some have wealth, some have talents, some have time, some have compassion, some have wisdom. Whatever gifts we have been given, large or small, we should share generously. When we do, we fulfill God's purposes and find true meaning and satisfaction in our own lives.
Related verses: Psalms 1:1-2, 5:11-12, 16:7-9, 37:4-6, 41:1-2, 63:1-8, 84:11-12, 112:1-9, 119:1-2, Proverbs 14:21, 19:17, 21:17, 22:9, 28:27, Isaiah 56:1-2, 58:6-9, Jeremiah 17:7-8, Matthew 5:3-11, 11:28-30, 13:44, 19:16-21, Mark 10:17-21, Luke 6:20-23, 12:16-21, 18:18-22, 19:8, 21:1-4, John 4:13-14, 12:25, 14:27, 15:10-11, 18:36-37, Acts 20:35, Romans 5:1-2, 12:2-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3-5, 5:22-26, Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, James 1:12, 1:27, 1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 John 2:15-17.
Where Do We Look for Meaning?
Most people miss out because they never discover the simple truth: we can find peace and fulfillment only in trusting God and serving others. Ironically, we cannot find personal fulfillment by trying to please ourselves. Self-centered pursuits leave us unsatisfied and craving even more wealth, power, pleasure, beauty, status, etc. in a vain attempt to find security and fulfillment.
Many of us seek security and fulfillment in one or more of the worldly enticements in the list below. We live in the world, and many worldly activities are worthwhile, necessary and good in their proper place. However, they are not the things that give peace, satisfaction and meaning to our lives.
Wealth. Getting rich, having a luxury car, expensive house, fine clothes and other possessions (Psalms 37:16, Proverbs 11:4, 11:28, 15:16-17, 23:4-5, Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 12:15-21, 18:24-25, 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Power. Having power over people by authority, manipulation or coercion. (Psalms 138:6, Proverbs 11:2, 18:12, 29:23, Matthew 20:25-27, 23:12, Luke 22:24-26, Romans 12:16, Galatians 5:26, Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 5:3).
Vanity. Fame, beauty, popularity (Proverbs 19:6, 27:2, 31:30, Matthew 5:29-30, 6:25, Luke 6:26, Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4-7, 1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Pleasure. Sports, dining, shopping, entertainment, sensuality (Proverbs 21:17, 23:20-21, Luke 8:11-15, 1 Timothy 5:6, 2 Timothy 2:22, 3:1-4, Titus 3:3).
Career. Getting ahead, promotions, recognition and respect (Genesis 11:4-9, Exodus 23:12, Numbers 12:2-10, Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 10:35-38, Luke 9:46-48, 11:43-44).
Elitism. Nationalism, patriotism; pride in social status, race, gender, ethnic origin or religious affiliation (Exodus 12:49, Psalms 33:13-15, Proverbs 22:2, Malachi 2:10, Matthew 20:25-26, 23:11-12, Luke 10:25-37, Acts 10:34-35, Romans 2:8-11, 12:16, 14:10-12, 1 Corinthians 1:10-15, Galatians 2:6, 3:28-29, 1 Peter 1:17-18).
Knowledge. Education, science, philosophy, research (Proverbs 3:7, 16:25, 21:30, Isaiah 5:21, 47:10-11, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Matthew 7:24, 11:25, 1 Corinthians 3:18-20, Colossians 2:8, 1 Timothy 6:20-21).
Sin. Alcohol and drug abuse, crime, sexual immorality, gossip, slander, greed, arrogance, abuse of others. (Exodus 20:1-17, Proverbs 11:13, 20:1, 20:19, Matthew 15:17-19, Mark 7:21-23, Romans 1:28-32, 13:13-14, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:31, 5:5, Colossians 3:5).
What is the Meaning of Life?
The question of the meaning of life is perhaps one that we would rather not ask, for fear of the answer or lack thereof.
Historically and still today, many people believe that humankind is the creation of a supernatural entity called God, that God had an intelligent purpose in creating us, and that this intelligent purpose is the ‘meaning of life’. I do not propose to go through the various arguments for and against the existence of God. But even if God exists, and even if He had an intelligent purpose in creating us, no one really knows what this purpose might be, or that it is especially meaningful. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system such as the universe increases up to the point at which equilibrium is reached, and God’s purpose in creating us, and, indeed, all of nature, might have been no more lofty or uplifting than to catalyse this process in the same way that soil organisms catalyse the decomposition of organic matter.
If our God-given purpose is to act as super-efficient heat dissipators, then having no purpose at all is better than having this sort of purpose because it frees us to be the authors of our own purpose or purposes and so to lead truly dignified and meaningful lives. In fact, having no purpose at all is better than having any kind of pre-determined purpose, even more traditional ones such as to please or serve God or improve our karma. In short, even if God exists, and even if He had an intelligent purpose in creating us (and why should He have had?), we do not know what this purpose might be, and, whatever it might be, we would rather be able to do without it, or at least to ignore or discount it. For unless we can be free to become the authors of our own purpose or purposes, our lives may have, at worst, no purpose at all, and, at best, only some unfathomable and potentially trivial purpose that is not of our own choosing.
Some might object that not to have a pre-determined purpose is, really, not to have any purpose at all. But this is to believe that for something to have a purpose, it must have been created with a purpose in mind, and, moreover, must still be serving that original purpose. Some years ago, I visited the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the South of France. One evening, I picked up a beautiful rounded stone called a galet which I later took back to Oxford and put to good use as a book-end. In the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, these stones serve to capture the heat of the sun and release it back into the cool of the night, helping the grapes to ripen. Of course, these stones were not created with this or any other purpose in mind. Even if they had been created for a purpose, it would almost certainly not have been to make great wine, serve as book-ends, or seem beautiful to passing human beings. That same evening over supper, I got my friends to blind taste a bottle of Bordeaux. To disguise the bottle, I slipped it into one of a pair of socks. Unlike the galet, the sock had been created with a clear purpose in mind, albeit one very different from (although not strictly incompatible with) the one that it had assumed on that joyful evening.
Some might yet object that talk about the meaning of life is neither here nor there because life is merely a prelude to some form of eternal afterlife and this, if you will, is its purpose. (Usually, the idea of an eternal afterlife is closely allied with that of God, but this need not necessarily be the case.) One can marshal up at least four arguments against this position:
It is not at all clear that there is or even can be some form of eternal afterlife that entails the survival of the personal ego.
Even if there were such an afterlife, living for ever is not in itself a purpose, and so the question arises, what is the actual purpose of the eternal afterlife? If the eternal afterlife has a pre-determined purpose, again, we do not know what this purpose might be, and, whatever it might be, we would rather be able to do without it.
Reliance on an eternal afterlife not only postpones the question of life’s purpose, but also dissuades or at least discourages us from determining purposes for what may be the only life that we do have.
If it is the brevity or the finiteness of human life that gives it shape and purpose (not something that I personally believe), then an eternal afterlife cannot, in and by itself, have any purpose.
So whether or not God exists, whether or not He gave us a purpose, and whether or not there is an eternal afterlife, we should strive to create our own purpose or purposes. To put it in Sartrean terms, whereas for the galet it is true only that existence precedes essence, for the sock it is true both that essence precedes existence (when the sock is used on a human foot) and that existence precedes essence (when the sock is used for an unintended purpose, for example, as a bottle sleeve). In that much, we are either like the rock or the sock, but whichever we are, we are better off creating our own purpose or purposes.
Plato once defined man as an animal, biped, featherless, and with broad nails; but another, much better, definition that he gave was simply this: ‘A being in search of meaning.’
Human life may not have been created with any pre-determined purpose, but this need not mean that it cannot have a purpose, nor that this purpose cannot be just as good as, if not much better than, any pre-determined one.
And so the meaning of life, of our life, is that which we choose to give it.