It seems to me the biggest thing anyone is looking for is purpose. People will strive and while away their lives just searching for some kind of reason to make the inescapable suffering of life worth it.
I was part of a group a few weeks ago where we acted out ‘sharing our testimonies’ and ‘witnessing’ to each other. The common thing I heard from people about ‘their lives before’ was that they felt like they had no reason to live; that they were trying to fill a hole in their hearts.
Don’t worry. I’m going to bring this full circle.
The Glory of God
Throughout the Bible there are countless stories and events which work to show either God’s glory, or the glory of God’s works. The first book of the Bible even begins with two fantastical creation accounts which, in whatever order, show a majestic hierarchy proving God’s reign above all (although I would argue Job shows this much better in the poem from the storm).
When engaging with the texts, we as readers can see that God is always moving in the background and anything he interacts with will turn to good for those who he follows. The Hebrew Bible shows Him as a grandfather among the universe aglow who sets things in motion on the world turning down below, and the ‘New Testament’ shows Him as a loving, caring and good man that sacrifices himself to save humanity. Glory almost seems too weak a word to describe God, and yet I struggle to think of any grander.
The purpose of man
In the first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul suggests Believers to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 Verse 31, ESV). A lot of other verses say stuff to the same effect, leading believers to act with the intention of bringing glory to God in all that they do.
There’s a great idea that Thomas Merton articulates; he writes “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. The more a tree is it like itself, the more it is like Him. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory” (New Seeds of Contemplation).
The glory of creation
I LOVE this idea! What Merton suggests here is that we don’t strive to be something else (not even like God) to glorify him, but we strive to be the most pure and whole version of the us that He created us to be. Our purpose is to be what He made us to be, not to try and twist and conform ourselves into something we’re not.
Not that I’m saying we should all be gluttonous, slothful dregs, I’m saying that through God we purify ourselves into the glorious creation He envisions for us (please see my previous articles ‘Made to Love’ and ‘The Nature of Good and Evil’ for more words on the idea of purifying our nature) .
When I was younger, I assumed that the purpose God made us for was to sort of do our own thing until we read just the right passage in the Bible that inspired us to a particular aspect of some sort of ministerial role. What I think Merton so clearly gets at is that God is glorified (and indeed, even preached) through our being what God made us to be.
That leaves us with the question “What did God make me to be?”. The answer doesn’t seem obvious to me from the Bible outside of ‘bringing glory to God’ and ‘presenting ourselves as living sacrifices’. It doesn’t actually say what we do day-to-day, it’s more a collection of wisdom to use in our navigation of life.
A wise idea as to our role in society then, I will paraphrase from famed psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson; ‘Do something you’re good at, and you enjoy, and that is beneficial to society’.
I hope you get what I’m saying; we’re likely not meant to be trying to change ourselves into some completely different goal because it seems more superficially “biblical” (such as preaching) to bring glory to God, but we bring glory to God through being what he made us to be. The tree brings glory to God by being a tree, because it is being exactly what he made it to be.
Josiah Gray lives in Logan City, Australia. He is currently studying teaching at Christian Heritage College and is committed to telling the story of Jesus to the next generation. Josiah’s previous articles may be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/josiah-gray.html