Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.
A. 1. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession begins with this question, “what is the chief and highest end of man?” At its heart is the existential question we all must ask and answer: “What is the meaning of life?”
How you answer this question will shape and define you.
If you believe that your chief and highest end is financial and worldly success, then you will be driven by the ambition to rise in power and wealth using any means necessary. You may be guided by a set of ethics and mores, but every decision will challenge and tempt you to bend those rules for the sake of your ultimate goal.
Perhaps your chief and highest end isn’t so demanding. Maybe you feel that the greatest life you can live is that of a quiet, fulfilled and happy life, where you do the best you can and let everyone else live their own lives. You’re not driven for worldly accumulations, but just want to enjoy each day, live your best life now, and hope that tomorrow is just a little better.
The sad reality is, both of these world-views are essentially the same thing; they are self-centered and hopelessly doomed to misery. They both seek personal glory and inward joy. Whether driven by the almighty dollar, or just wanting to eke out your own peaceful pleasures, any purpose in life that is not ultimately rooted in what God says about us, or how God defines us, will always come up short.
One of the primary truths of the Christian Faith is that our God created all things “for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness” (Westminster Confession of Faith IV.1). God is the creator of all things, and as creator, all things exist “from him and through him and to him… To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).
As God’s creation, the purpose of life, the chief and highest end we may know, is to give God glory. But what does that even mean?
John Piper once said, glorifying God means “feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.”
We could say, then, that our greatest purpose in life is to live in such a way as to make much of God, to show his goodness, wisdom, power, justice, and love in everything we do; to be satisfied or delight ourselves in who God is and what God has done for us. This is to glorify God.
But notice, the confession also gives a secondary purpose: to enjoy Him forever. We were created not just for His glory, but to find joy in His glory. That is, as we glorify God, as we live in the light of His goodness, wisdom, and grace, we will find our greatest expression of joy. Our primary purpose is to live for God’s glory, and in doing so we will know true joy.
So we come back to our first question, why are we here? If your greatest end is your own glory, if you ever find it it will be fading, and will not produce lasting joy. Live then as you were created, for God’s glory, and know the lasting joy that only God can offer.