What Makes Life Really Meaningful?


What makes life really meaningful? Another house? Maybe three or more houses? Perhaps a mansion or two? What about a new relationship, another man or woman? How about more money, even being rich? What about more pleasure, such as a better sex-life? Maybe that is it! How about possessing more things, such as cars, clothing, furniture and jewelry? Maybe having more possessions than others? What about being famous, highly esteemed by the masses?

All the pursuits I have mentioned have already been tried and found wanting by countless men and women, since the beginning of human civilization. For example, thousands of years ago, a rich person, a king of Israel (probably not King Solomon) wrote the following about his experience to find meaning to life:

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem a as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 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 2:4-11, NIV).

In other words, after all of the king’s achievements, his successful undertakings, after he had everything he could possibly want, he asked himself, in effect,

“Is that it? Is that all there is to life? Is there not more to life than that?”

All his pursuits to find meaning to life were not what he thought they would be. They left him feeling dissatisfied, even disappointed. For the king, then, the meaning of life is not found in material things, as nice as they may be, as comfortable as they may make a person’s life. Rather, meaning is found in the human and spiritual values of faith, hope and love; it is discovered in serving others and, especially, in the realm of religion. As the king concludes,

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV).