Why did God make me? What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? These are important questions that most people ask at some point in their lives. The Shorter Catechism dives in at the deep end by tackling this fundamental issue in the very first question. “What is man’s chief end?” is basically asking, “What is the point of our existence?”
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Many people think that we have no special purpose in life. They think everyone can choose their own goals in life, because there is no more to life than enjoying ourselves and getting the most out of our time here. What a poor, selfish attitude that is! Jesus told us about a man who said to himself, “Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Because that was his sole purpose in life, God called him a fool. The Catechism tells us that we do have a purpose, or an “end,” a goal or aim in life.
Many people also think that there are many special purposes for living. They include to work and look after our families, education, science and development, and of course recreation. While all these are important in their own place, none of them is our chief end. We have one “chief” purpose, one special, supreme aim. Glorifying God is not
just the whole point of our existence it is the over-ruling purpose for everything that exists.
Our chief end has two aspects. The first aspect is “to glorify God.” Does this mean that we have to try and make God more glorious than He already is? No. We cannot add to God’s glory. It is already perfect. It can neither be increased nor reduced.
However, there can be variation in how God’s creatures display His glory. Think of the sun. We cannot make the sun shine brighter, but clouds sometimes hide or block the sun’s brightness. We cannot make God any more glorious than He is. But our sins are like clouds, which hide or overshadow God’s glory. Our sins make the world a darker place and obscure God’s honour.
To “glorify God” is not to add to His glory but to live in such a way as honours Him and declares His gloriousness to all who see and hear us. It is to live a life of obedience to God, not hiding His glory behinds clouds of disobedience.
Our duty is to do everything to the glory of God. Our lives are not divided into parts, one part about spiritual matters and the other part worldly concerns. It is not a case of having one part of our lives obeying God and another driven by a desire to please and glorify ourselves. Whether at home or work, study or leisure, our whole lives are to be focused on glorifying God.
The other aspect of our chief end is “to enjoy God for ever.” Enjoying God means being pleased and delighted with who God is, finding Him to be the one source of our deepest satisfaction and pleasure. This enjoyment is a consequence of glorifying God, although it should not be our main motivation for glorifying God. We should glorify God because God is so glorious, not because of the pleasure we may consequently experience.
When we think of how we enjoy God, we can think both of enjoying Him in this world and of enjoying Him in the world to come.
The Christian enjoys the presence of God. This is because God has restored a friendly relationship between Him and them. Instead of being afraid of God and antagonistic towards Him, the Christian finds pleasure and satisfaction in the presence of God.
The Christian enjoys pleasing God. Instead of making it their priority to please themselves, or keep other people happy, the Christian enjoys thinking about God and how
they can serve Him and glorify Him best with their lives and talents.
The Christian enjoys activities in which they meet with God. Instead of being most happy when God is pushed to the back of their minds and feels very far away, the Christian enjoys every opportunity to spend time with God. These opportunities include reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping church services on the Lord’s day.
The Christian’s enjoyment will last “for ever” because God is everlasting. The enjoyment of God which the believer has in this world is only a little foretaste of what they will enjoy in eternity. In heaven, they will be able to completely and continually glorify and enjoy God.
Our chief end is something that should absorb our attention and energy. It should never be far from our thoughts that the main reason for our existence is to glorify and enjoy God. When we are more concerned about our own glory, and find our pleasures in other things, we show that we are not fit for our main purpose and our priorities are all wrong. We should take Paul’s advice, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
• What does it mean to glorify God, since it is impossible for us to make God any more glorious than He is?
• Life is pointless without an ultimate purpose. Some people find the Bible negative because it tells them about their sin but isn’t their idea of a meaningless world governed by chance the most negative?
If you were write a list of ‘Things I Enjoy,’ would you include God? If not, what needs to change?
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Catechising has always been one of the ways used by the Church to teach the Bible. It is hard to think of a better way to ensure that the truth is in our children’s minds and on the tip of their tongue.
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