The Meaning of Life.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
I have no doubt that everyone has had that moment when they have asked themselves, “Why do I bother?”
Sometimes it’s in a semi-humorous situation, like asking not to be transferred for the 12th time, while trying to get the right Internet tech on the phone, only to find yourself disconnected or listening to the automated message you started with. Other times it can be more serious, like when we try to salvage our marriage or convince our kids that they are flirting with disaster. In any case, there are times when it genuinely feels like all we are doing is spinning our wheels.
The author of Ecclesiastes struggles with this at a very deep level. “Everything is meaningless,” he writes; as if there is no purpose for anything that we do. He continues in verses 3 and 4:
What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
These are some pretty depressing words. They insinuate that no matter how much effort man puts in, everything we do is in vain—nothing really changes. The more we seek peace, the more we seem to divide. The more we try to end violence, the deadlier the weapons we create. The more we try to bring order into the world, the more chaos we find. From one level to the next, it can be very easy to conclude that everything is meaningless.
How sad to come to the conclusion that there is no real purpose for life. As I write this, I am at a teen summer camp and my heart is broken by so many young men and women who have already concluded that very thing—that everything is meaningless. To be fair, when we consider the works of mankind throughout history, it’s not an unreasonable assumption. However, there may be something that we are not considering when we feel like our lives are meaningless.
Ecclesiastes ends with these two last verses:
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV)
It is the presence of God that gives meaning to our lives and purpose to our works. Meaningless is anything that is done without God or against God’s will. But when we fear God and obey Him, we will find that we are suddenly living with meaning and purpose.
The apostle Paul writes:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
Paul reminds us that not only do our lives have meaning and purpose, but that it is a “good” meaning and purpose. While the works of mankind—without obedience to God—have been in vain, those whose lives are in Jesus Christ can make a positive difference. Throughout my week here at teen camp, I have watched teenagers wrestle with the lie that they do not have a real purpose in this world. And I have watched God begin to heal them and work in them so that they can see what is really there: a child of God created to do good in this world.
Do you sometimes feel as if your life has no real meaning? If you do, you are wrong. You are not here by chance. You are the intentional creation of a loving God who has created you with a great purpose and given your life great meaning. If you seek the meaning of life, you will only find it in Jesus Christ.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!