We humans are born in this world without knowing exactly who we are (identity), where we come from (origin), why we are here (meaning), what to live for and how we should live (purpose), and where we are going (destiny).
The question about the meaning of life has been raised in every generation and investigated throughout history. There have been different views on this matter from different people and cultures. Our understanding on the meaning of life is important because it shapes our way of life.
Secular and Christian Views on the Meaning of Life
So, what is life all about? Love. Wealth. Happiness. Self-development. Wisdom. Influence. Service. Those are some popular answers we might have heard, and although some views are biblically relevant, could life have deeper meaning?
Suppose life is about all the above-mentioned, would someone then be truly fulfilled after achieving all those good things (Matthew 16:26)? How about people who, unfortunately, could not do likewise? For instance, war victims, natural disaster casualties, stillborn babies, etc. – was it fair to conclude their lives were simply meaningless? Of course not. Just because someone has had (or done) more good things in life does not necessarily mean their life is more meaningful than those who do not. More fortune does not simply represent more meaning.
The author believes before we examine the meaning of life, we need to first embrace the miracle of life. Science has shown evidence for the existence of the Creator. The vastness of the universe, the wonders of the nature, the complexity of living organisms all testify there must be a supremely intelligent Designer, who set everything precisely in order.
In the light of this, life cannot be without meaning – and it must revolve around the Maker of all things (John 1:3). The real meaning of life must therefore be viewed from the lens of, and be found in, the Life Giver.
Meaning of Life in the Bible: What Solomon, Job, Jesus, and Paul Said about the Purpose of Life
King Solomon: Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Solomon, the son of David and King of Israel, is described as the wealthiest and wisest man of his time (1 Kings 3:12-13). Yet, despite all the power and pleasures he had, he felt an emptiness, and everything seemed meaningless. He confessed there is something beyond earthly life that God has put in the human heart and that God the Creator is always in control, even though no one can perfectly understand His work (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
He also implied that life could mean enjoying the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13), and after all what matters in life is our reverence and obedience to God because His judgment is sure (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Job: Trust in God, No Matter What
Job was among the most prosperous men in the Bible, known for his life example of a blameless, sincere man who suffered. He is perhaps the man who has gone through the highest “highs” and the lowest “lows” in life by enjoying, then losing his family, health, and wealth. Amid his suffering, Job desperately cursed his birth (Job 3), but he still had faith in the redeeming power of God (Job 19:25).
After all his painful experience, Job’s eyes were opened to know God more personally. His relationship with God was renewed (Job 42:5), and “the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
Through Job’s life, we can learn about God’s sovereignty over the suffering of His saints. Life for Job could mean a journey of knowing God and trusting Him in every moment, especially the darkest ones.
Jesus Christ: Seek and Save the Lost
Jesus Christ came to this world with a clear mission: to seek and save sinners (Luke 19:10). Jesus is God himself who lived on earth in a human body (Colossians 2:9-10), and he is the only mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). He identified himself as the way [to the heavenly Father], the truth, and the life; and clearly indicated that knowing him is equal to knowing God Himself (John 14:6).
Although his life was relatively brief (about 34 years), his impact is tremendously incomparable because he dedicated his life to doing the will of God by finishing the work of redemption on the cross (John 4:34, 19:30).
Jesus is the Son of Man who came to serve and offer his life for the salvation of mankind (Mark 10:45). The purpose of his life is to give us abundant life in him (John 10:10).
Paul: Know Jesus Christ
Paul, formerly known as Saul, is the real example of a man whose life was radically transformed after an encounter with Christ. He used to persecute Christians but after his conversion, he became the apostle of Christ. He is the author of 13 books in the New Testament (possibly 14 if we include Hebrews), which lay out important foundations of Christian faith we believe today.
Life for Paul means Christ – he fully committed his life by faith in Jesus, to bear fruit for the kingdom of God (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21-22). His ultimate goal is to know Jesus and experience the power of his resurrection through his suffering and death (Philippians 3:10-11). Life is like a running race as he aimed for the prize: an imperishable crown from the Lord on the judgment day (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
7 Aspects to the Meaning (Goal) of Life According to the Bible
1. To display the glory of God.
Among all the creation, only humans were created in the Creator’s image. The first of God’s blessing to humanity is fruitfulness, to multiply and fill the earth and govern it (Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8). Notice that work is a blessing from God, not a curse. Our work is supposed to be a display of God’s greatness, and therefore in everything we do, we are to do it with the right motive: for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
2. To seek the kingdom of God.
Our first and foremost priority in life is to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, to do what He wants us to do (Matthew 6:33). We pray according to God’s will when we ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom of God is about living in truth, peace, and joy through the work of His Spirit in our hearts (Romans 14:17).
3. To proclaim the works of God.
Before knowing Christ, humans live an empty, sinful life. But once we trust in Christ, through his work on the cross, God sets us free from the slavery to sin, saves us from eternal death, and we are given new identity to declare the wonderful things He has done (1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:9). We are uniquely created by God and equipped with natural talents and abilities to accomplish good works which God has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
4. To grow in the knowledge of God.
The ultimate goal of human’s pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is to understand God, the greatest of all (Proverbs 9:10). Since we believe in Christ, we are born again and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our desire is renewed: to always honor and please God, bear good fruit, and know Him better(Colossians 1:10). The knowledge of God leads us to worship and love Him more.
5. To believe in the Word of God.
Knowing that Jesus is the perfect representation of God, the best thing we can do in life is to believe in him. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God (Revelation 1:8). We not only need to know him, but also to believe in him because faith helps us when we cannot understand. Jesus himself said that believing in him is the only work God wants from us(John 6:29). As we abide in him, the source of grace and truth (John 1:14), we continue to live by faith in the power of God (Romans 1:16-17). Believing in Christ means we have everything we need.
6. To share the love of God.
The Bible tells us to live with eternal values: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13), which can only be found in Christ. As we have been fulfilled with God’s love, we must also share it with others, through bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20). Naturally, we were born with self-centeredness, however by His love, we are supernaturally transformed into a new person with a Spirit-driven ability to love God and others (Luke 10:27). God’s love (agape) is unconditional and throughout this life, we learn to love like He has loved us (1 John 4:8).
7. To imitate the Son of God.
It is the culmination of all the goals we have in life. Here, the sinful desires of humanity to be like God (Genesis 3:5) are replaced with the divine invitation to imitate His Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:48). We are reflection of God’s glory, created in His image, and being converted by the Spirit into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). Life is a process of becoming more and more like Christ in which we exercise our endurance by fixing our eyes on him, the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Summary: The meaning of life, according to Christian faith, is ultimately found in Jesus Christ. In him, the questions about identity, origin, meaning, purpose, and destiny are answered with a profound hope. We are the beloved children of God, created by our heavenly Father to reflect His glory, walk in His love, and do His will in our lives. Life on earth is a journey of our transformation to become more like Jesus, who has delivered us from evil, sin, and death, until the glorious day when we spend eternity with him.
Philip Wijaya is presently a graduate research student at the University of British Columbia living in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Sandra. His interest in science and faith in God has encouraged him to write in a blog (philipwijaya.com), with a hope of better understanding the truths in the Bible in relation to scientific views and discoveries. Besides research and study, he also enjoys sports, music, and traveling.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Shivam Singh