What Is the Point of Life?
“I SAW all the works that were done under the sun, and, look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Eccl. 1:14) These are not the words of a cynic. They come from an inspired Bible writer who realistically appraised life under imperfect conditions. An examination of what this writer, wise King Solomon, took under survey is helpful in determining what can keep our lives from being “vanity.”
There are people whose whole life centers around gaining knowledge. But is acquiring knowledge merely for the sake of knowledge what makes life meaningful? No, for often such knowledge is attended by the painful realization that there is so much wrong in this imperfect system that it cannot humanly be corrected. As King Solomon put it: “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot possibly be counted.” (Eccl. 1:15) Then, too, circumstances may be against a person’s using his knowledge to the best advantage.
Further, one’s trying to enjoy life through the pursuit of material pleasures, as many do, is not the key to purposeful living. As to his efforts in this regard, Solomon wrote: “I built houses for myself; I planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself, and I planted in them fruit trees of all sorts. I made pools of water for myself, to irrigate with them the forest, springing up with trees. . . . I accumulated also silver and gold for myself, and property peculiar to kings and the jurisdictional districts. I made male singers and female singers for myself and the exquisite delights of the sons of mankind, a lady, even ladies. . . . And anything that my eyes asked for I did not keep away from them.”—Eccl. 2:4-10.
Throughout the course of human history, few among mankind have had the resources that were available to King Solomon. However, though he seemingly had everything that he could possibly want, he found his pursuits frustrating, not satisfying. Why? For one thing, Solomon knew that his life could not be sustained indefinitely. Everything would be lost to him at death. “I, even I,” said Solomon, “hated all my hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard.”—Eccl. 2:18, 19.
Similarly, one’s endeavoring to gain a position of prominence in the world can lead to bitter disappointment. All too often very capable people are the victims of circumstances that rob them of the opportunity to make good use of their ability. King Solomon found that: “Foolishness has been put in many high positions . . . I have seen servants on horses but princes walking on the earth just like servants.” (Eccl. 10:6, 7) “The swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Eccl. 9:11.
Among imperfect humans, ability is not necessarily the determining factor in one’s getting a particular position. It has been said, ‘What counts is not what a person knows but whom he knows.’ So often this is why very capable men who may be of noble disposition find themselves having to put up with the foolishness of incapable persons who have administrative control. These princely men may not be granted any dignity but may even be represented as fools to others by those managing affairs.
Solomon was not exaggerating things when he labeled the works done in an imperfect system as “vanity.” The pursuit of material goals—position and possessions and the like—simply is not satisfying but is accompanied by a multitude of frustrations.
What, then, is the point of life? Is there not something that can bring satisfaction? Yes, it is the pursuit of that which can lead to one’s having a permanent and secure future. King Solomon showed just what that was after completing his survey of vain pursuits. He wrote: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Eccl. 12:13.
Yes, the key to a satisfying life is recognition of one’s spiritual need. One greater than Solomon, Jesus Christ, pointed this out in resisting Satan the Devil. He quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures and said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4) When a person has a wholesome regard for the Creator and heeds his commands, he is spared the frustrations that come from making mundane knowledge, position or material possessions the chief goal. Instead of setting his heart on something that is transitory, he is building a relationship with God that can last for all eternity. That relationship is not based on what a person has but on what he really is as a person. As the Bible says: “Man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Sam. 16:7.
Not even death can destroy what fearers of the true God have gained. Why not? Because nothing can separate them from God’s love. “I am convinced,” wrote the Christian apostle Paul, “that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 39) Jehovah’s servants, even though physically dead, live from his standpoint, as he has made provision for them to be restored to life. For this reason, the inspired psalmist could say: “If I should spread out my couch in Sheol [gravedom], look! you would be there.”—Ps. 139:8.
Surely, then, wise are those who recognize that life as an approved servant of God is what really makes life worth living. The whole point in life is to bring honor to the Life-Giver, Jehovah, by fearing him and keeping his commandments. Is this what you are striving to do?