What Are People For?

Gregory E. Reynolds

What are people for?

Confusion clouds this question today. Few people have any clue as to why they are here or what they are here for. Instead of thinking much about this, most people just go on with their lives, trying to find some meaning in their jobs, families, friends or recreation. But people cannot escape the feeling of emptiness that haunts them day by day.

Many find their jobs drudgery, and meaningless beyond a paycheck. Retirement will improve things, they believe. But failing health, loneliness and boredom often kill the pleasure they had hoped to find.

Even family and friends disappoint. Spouses die or leave. Children move away. Friends are unfaithful. Often people turn to recreation to find satisfaction. But there, too, the emptiness remains. When the television is shut off, the trip is over or the ballgame ends, emptiness returns. And in the end, the ultimate emptiness awaits us all—death.

With the breakdown of our communities and families people often think that emptiness is a modern problem. But though emptiness is more obvious today, it is really an age-old problem.

Long ago a very wise man wrote a book called Ecclesiastes. He, too, had been hounded by emptiness. He built houses, had great gardens, pools, herds and flocks. He collected huge treasures of gold and silver, musical instruments and every prized possession imaginable. He had many wives and attained great power and honor. He wrote wise sayings, grieved over oppression and saw that death eventually takes everyone. After experiencing everything a person could want, he summed up his feeling with these startling words: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." The word "vanity" literally means wind or emptiness. Nothing under the sun could give this man meaning in his life.

Why? What causes this emptiness? The absence of God in our lives, due to our sin. Ecclesiastes concludes with the only way to fill the emptiness: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Unfortunately, ever since the first man, Adam, chose to find his meaning and purpose without God, every one of us seeks to do the same. But originally we were created to have a living relationship with him. God alone is the source of meaning in life. He alone can fill the emptiness. He alone can bring genuine fulfillment to our work and relationships.

Because of our quest to live and find meaning without God, he had to visit us to turn us from our folly. That is why he sent his only Son Jesus Christ to earth. By dying on the cross and being forsaken by God he experienced the emptiness of life and death without God—in our place. The Bible describes hell as "outer darkness" (Matt. 22:13). This is the emptiness of eternity without God.

As the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ came to give us abundant life by restoring our relationship to God. If you come honestly to him and admit that your emptiness is entirely due to your sinfulness, he promises to fill you with his presence and restore meaning and purpose to your empty life.

What are people for? What are you for? You are for God! You are his creature. You were made to find meaning in every aspect of your life through him.

But the great question you must answer is: "Will I continue to seek meaning in my life without God?" If you answer yes, you will one day enter the unspeakable horror of "outer darkness" and eternal emptiness, because this is your way of life now. If you answer no and turn away from your sin to your Creator through Jesus Christ the God-man, you will have a life full of meaning that will last forever.

What is your answer?

To learn more about Jesus and the eternal life he has purchased for his people, please contact a pastor near you by using our church locator to find a church in your area. The title of this tract comes from Wendell Berry's book by the same title: What Are People For? (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990).

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