Why Am I Here?

“Why am I here?” Am I simply a consumer? A channel for various manufactured goods? Something to whom money will be given in exchange for my labor?

In an average lifespan of seventy years, an average American will spend about twenty years sleeping, eleven years working, six years eating, and eight years watching television. He or she will own six cars, one house, and perhaps a hundred pairs of shoes. Is that all my life will mean when it’s over? Is my only purpose in life to contribute to a healthy American economy? When I die, will the most notable thing that can be said about my life be that I watched TV for eight years and saw every episode of Star Trek?

“Ah yes, he got up every morning, went to work, came home, and watched TV. Now he’s dead.”

Is the bumper sticker the best that can be said about life: “Life is rough. Then you die.”? Solomon had depressing things to say about life:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed
all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless,
a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

This too is a grievous evil:
As a man comes, so he departs,
and what does he gain,
since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction, and anger.
(Ecclesiastes 5:16-17)

One of the points of Ecclesiastes is that life apart from God is truly meaningless, with no more value than a beer commercial. However, the account of creation in the book of Genesis tells us something about the why of life. The whole creation of the universe is described as if everything were designed for the use and benefit of humanity. Human beings are the centerpiece of God’s creation, the whole reason for the world existing is as a place for people to live (Genesis 1:28-30). God loves human beings. He expresses his love in the blessings of procreativity, land, and food. Some might question that love is a part of the creation account, but look at Deuteronomy 7:13-15, where the blessings inherent in the creation, as found in the Garden of Eden, are promised to Israel because of God’s love.

He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. Yahweh will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.

Or look at Isaiah 51:3, where God states that Israel will be like the Garden of Eden. The context of the Genesis account must be kept in mind: it was written by an Israelite to Israelites, who would see in the creation account and the description of the Garden of Eden the echo of the promised blessings of the Mosaic covenant—or rather, they would realize that the blessings of the covenant were faint echoes of an earlier age.

That God loves human beings is something Adam and Eve forgot. Eve was tempted in several ways by the serpent: she was tempted by pride—“to be like God”; but more importantly, Adam and Eve somehow developed a warped view of who God is, a view which persists to this day. In the best selling novel, Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert A. Heinlein wrote:

“But notice carefully what I did say. I did not say that the world was created twenty-three billion years ago; I said that was its age. It was created old. Created with fossils in the ground and craters on the moon, all speaking of great age. Created that way by Yahweh, because it amused Him to do so. One of those scientists said, ‘God does not roll dice with the universe.’ Unfortunately not true. Yahweh rolls loaded dice with His universe…to deceive his creatures.”

“Why would He do that?”

“Lucifer says that it is because He is a poor Artist, the sort who is always changing his mind and scraping the canvas. And a practical joker. But I’m really not entitled to an opinion; I’m not at that level. And Lucifer is prejudiced where His Brother is concerned…”

Heinlein repeats one of the oldest lies in the universe: “God is not good. He is trying to withhold something pleasant from you.” Like any Big Lie, it finds an audience ready to believe it, and Adam and Eve were just such an audience. They believed the lie that God wasn’t good, and so they chose to disobey him—to acquire this good thing that God was trying to keep from them. They wanted to see what they were missing. How many Christians today are living with this same misconception? Consider a couple of amusing, if sad, stories from the book Humor in Preaching, by John W. Drakford:

The bride wore black!

The attractive girl coming down the aisle was accompanied by her bridesmaids, all in black, and in the front pews of the church, the relatives of the bride and groom all wore dark clothes as well. The dress for the occasion carried a special message.

This black-clad bride and groom were deeply committed people and meant serious business. In that year, 1839, they were about to depart on a six-and-a-half month trip across America to Oregon, where she and her preacher-physician husband, Dr. Marcus Whitman, would begin mission work. Narcissa, by wearing black on her wedding day, was indicating that her Christianity was no laughing matter. She was through with fun and frivolity.

In that day, the proclaimers of the Christian message were expected, above everything else, to be serious.

The committee of three men was waiting at the airport for the guest minister who was to preach in their church on the following day. They scrutinized each arriving passenger, for none of them had ever seen their visitor previously, and they were apprehensive lest they miss him. A tall gentleman dressed in a dark suit came walking up the jetway, and the spokesman of the group approached him.

“Are you our guest minister?”

The new arrival responded, “No, I’m not. It’s my ulcer that makes me look like this.”

Why is it that so many people believe that a close walk with God requires an absence of pleasure and happiness? Because so many Christians believe that and feel guilty if they are enjoying themselves. But do you really think that the God who invented sex wants you to be miserable? Or that Jesus’ first miracle, providing booze for a wedding party that had run out of it (see John 2:1-11), indicates that having a good time violates God’s will for your life? How does the idea that being miserable draws you closer to God ever gain followers? Or that so many people believe that our purpose is to “suffer for Jesus.” Does such an idea even begin to make sense given what the Bible actually says?

So why am I here? The entire Bible, according to Jesus, can be summarized by two commandments: love God, love people. (see Matthew 22:36-40). So that’s why I’m here–why we’re all here. That’s what it’s all about. To love and be loved. Are you fulfilling your reason for being?

Send to Kindle

About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
This entry was posted in Bible, Religion, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *