Summary: What is our purpose in life? What kind of worldview ought we to have?
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Ecclesiastes 3.1-13 (NRSV)
A person would have to be living on the moon to have not heard the expression, there’s a time for everything. One writer characterized the “seven seasons” of life this way:
Spills of Infancy – Everything goes to the floor as you play the game of “I drop; you pick up”.
Drills of childhood – Spelling drills, multiplication drills, bible drills - The lessons drilled into your head by your parents and teachers.
Thrills of the Teen Years - The feeling of immortality, roller coaster rides, dating, acne.
Bills of Adult living – Work, bills, Marriage, bills, buying a house bills; car, bills, raising children bills, bills and lots of bills. I asked a friend who had just become a father for the third time how it feels to be a father of three; he replied, EXPENSIVE!
Ills of the Hills - When the excitement of the mid life crisis lands you in the hospital.
The Pills of Over the Hill - One for arthritis; one for high blood pressure; one for this and two for that.
Wills of Old Age – I will get up, I will get up, No, I will not get up.- Uhmm, can I get some help to get up!
Everyone can identify with those ills, pills and wills. We laugh, but only because they are our common experience. There is as much frustration with being in one stage, knowing that the next is coming. In fact, we know that is the case, as verse 11 tells us [God]…hath set [eternity] in their heart.…
We are different from the plants, insects and animals in that we sense the existence of eternity, and the abstractness of God. Animals and plant life simply respond to the moment and its environs. If there is food they eat it and enjoy it; if there are competitors for the food, they fight for it. They exist and reproduce without regard to antiquity or posterity. They are the true existentialists, living in the moment.
Man is different; man asks the question, why? Man can focus on eternity and we want to know the meaning of life. We want to know why we are here. We search for that meaning, and when we cannot know it, we manufacture it.
Recent history provided the French revolution, and the accompanying philosophy of humanism which dominates America today. We scoff at French reluctance to enter the Iraq war with us, but we little realize how they are already possessors of our most precious American territory – our minds. Humanistic existentialism, which began in the Renaissance, is taught in our schools and by a predominance of media programming. We still have our American slogan: “In God We Trust”. Unfortunately we only say it; our real trust is fully leaning on our ingenuity, imagination and technology. That’s where the real stuff of our living takes place.
The trouble with that is we don’t really know where that living will take us. We may call all the shots of our lives – live in charge, but for what? In the end, we have been born, lived fifty, seventy or a hundred years, and then, like a blip on the radar screen we disappear. To what end, says the philosopher? Why am I here? Am I just another piece of vegetation to populate planet earth?