The Primary Purpose of Man


Question 1Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is man’s primary purpose?”

The answer is, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

“The unexamined life is not worth living” is a famous saying of Socrates at his trial for impiety. Yet sadly, we often go through our days without really thinking about what is really worthwhile and why we are here in the first place. Our culture does not encourage us to pursue such examination. We have a seemingly infinite supply of inanity to distract us (social media, television and talk radio come to mind). If I want to avoid serious contemplation, a distraction is readily available.

We even have those that argue that there is nothing to examine. It is perhaps an over simplification, but when I read some popular authors (Richard Dawkins comes to mind), I find them telling me that life has no ultimate meaning and I should just get over it. That tidbit is intended to get me to squeeze whatever meaning I can get out life and be satisfied with it.

But that does not bring satisfaction. The universe is too orderly for there to be no meaning. Too many people (perhaps all of us) want there to be an ultimate meaning and purpose. The ways we seek that meaning are varied, but the drive to find it seems universal.

I find that my primary purpose cannot be to achieve happiness or comfort or wealth. All these things can be taken from me at any time. There are many things that happen in life that are beyond our control. I cannot base my purpose on pursuit of things that I cannot possibly attain or things that can be taken from me.

The Bible does provide an answer. In the opening chapters of Genesis, we find the key to finding an ultimate purpose. We were created to be in fellowship with God and find our satisfaction in him. But we broke that fellowship when we sinned in Adam. The breaking with God in the Garden causes us to seek purpose in all the wrong places.

That is the bad news. But the good news is that Jesus came to restore the relationship. And with the restoration of the relationship comes renewed purpose in life. For those who are in Christ, their primary purpose (even though we often forget it) is to bring glory to God, which was man’s purpose in the first place.

As an added bonus, when we begin bringing glory to God, we find that we enjoy him and will be able to do so forever.