Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? These questions are asked by most people and the answers have been the livelihood of many clergy and self-help motivational speakers. A few years ago Rick Warren published a very well received book (in Christian circles) titled “The Purpose Driven Life“. At my mother’s insistence, I read it and while I can see how it may inspire some I found the book to be extremely repetitive and for me it didn’t really answer the question. The basic theme that is repeated is:
The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose. The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point— ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like, “What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future?” But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.” – Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
Serving God is literally drilled into the reader for the rest of the book with very little actually being answered aside from that. Ironically there is another answer to this question in the Bible that I find to be significantly more inspiring and far less cryptic:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him. Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 (RSV)
Is there a difference between what Mr. Warren is saying and what the Teacher (commonly believed to be King Solomon) is saying? We work day after day in a manner is which some could argue is no different from a hamster in a spinning wheel. Are our lives really nothing more than a very long run on a treadmill to nowhere? Do people spend entirely too much time hoping for an everlasting bliss-filled after-life instead of just enjoying the one life we actually have? Regardless of what your position on “eternal life” may be, it should not prevent you from enjoying this life. Now, I am not saying to go on a drinking binge and do whatever you want with no regard to consequence. It has often been said its impossible to have fun without getting into a little trouble – which may be true – we all need to find the right balance though. Clearly there needs to be some rules of engagement and to many people those rules are spelled out in the Bible and to some they are just good ‘ole common sense (another opportunity for balance here as well).
Life is a blessing, not a curse. Why treat it as though our very existence is saturated with evil or sin? It really doesn’t have to be that way. Living your life regretting things you have done all the time and begging for forgiveness because you fear an eternal punishment because “no one is born without sin” is far from the intent I believe we were put on this earth for. You may feel otherwise and consider yourself a wretch and worthy of death because of your sin. One way or another our lives are temporary and our souls are a mystery. Wouldn’t it be better to live our lives in a way that would encompass morality and happiness without fear?
Yes, the Bible says to fear God. This is not like the boogie man under the bed fear though. At least I don’t see it that way. I think this is a hyperbolic term. Fear God and keep his commandments = Honor God and follow His rules.
Maybe I am being overly simplistic. Maybe I am wrong. Either way, I don’t believe for a minute that the very Creator who gave us all life, really wanted us to think we are unworthy of His love or deserving of eternal suffering. There is so much emphasis placed on “our sinful nature” in church doctrine. That really annoys me. I don’t view us as being just sinful in nature. I believe we are duplicates of the divine (created in His image). Just like nature has light in the day and darkness at night, we have light with our acts of loving kindness and darkness in our acts of sin. God gave us the gift of reason and free will to make our own choices. What we choose to follow ultimately is up to us.