‘What is the purpose of life?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What is the meaning to it all?’ These are the kinds of questions that mankind has asked since the beginning of time. Many have tragically pursued meaning in life only to find that the things of this earth cannot satisfy. Many have pursued riches, pleasure, industry, human wisdom only to find in them emptiness and futility. Many have mistakenly come to the false conclusion that there is no ultimate purpose in life which has led many to despair. So where can we go to find the answers? Where can we find meaning in life? Thankfully, God has given us the answers we need in the Word of God.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, “the Preacher” (i.e., Solomon) reviews man’s life “under the sun” (apart from God) and concludes that “all is vanity”. Solomon was able to look back upon his life and see the futility of life apart from God. Solomon showed that the alternative to a life of faith was an empty, meaningless “striving after wind”. A life apart from God is a life full of frustration and confusion. It is a life that has stamped upon it “vanity of vanities”. And although man will strive after earthly things to fill the emptiness within, it will only lead to greater emptiness and despair. One famous playwright summed the futility of life “under the sun” very well: “Life is rather like a can of sardines, we’re all of us looking for the key” (Alan Bennett)
When life is lived apart from God, it will never satisfy. Futility, despair, and “striving after wind” will be the result of a life apart from God. As Solomon nears the end of Ecclesiastes and has made a thorough review of all the works of man that are done “under the sun” (apart from God), he finally reaches a conclusion to his long investigation. He says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil” (12:13-14). All is vanity apart from God, but when God becomes central to the reason we exist, life takes on the meaning that it was intended to. When God is central in the course of our life, life takes on a fullness, a meaning, a satisfaction.
When God is left out of the picture, life is futile. Yet when God becomes our motivation for living, life becomes full. We were made by God and for God. When we learn to fear God and keep His commandments, we cease living in futility and begin living in fullness. When we realize that there will be a day when we stand before God and give an account for our life, it brings meaning and importance to everything we do. And this is the conclusion of the matter!