Philosopher Hugh Moorhead wrote to 250 of the world’s best-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals and asked them the question, what is the meaning of life? Some offered their best guesses. Others admitted they just made up a purpose for life. Others were honest enough to say they were clueless. And many of them wrote back and asked Moorhead if he had discovered the meaning of life.
I think we all wonder what life is about. We wonder, Why am I here on this earth? This question is especially important to think about when you are young, because it has been said, “If you aim at nothing, you are bound to hit it.” You have to know where you are going. Otherwise, you will throw your life away. And a lot of people have.
We wonder what the answer is. How will I fill this hole in my heart? Maybe I can do it with drugs. Maybe I can do it with sex. Maybe I can do it with just the right relationship. Maybe I can do it with the ultimate car … or the best house. And so we go on this search, because we all have a sense of emptiness.
Actor Matt Dillon said, “A lot of people are just relationship junkies. You roll from relationship to relationship because you are afraid of being alone. When I was lonely, I’d get into relationships just to alleviate the loneliness. … You need something to fill the emptiness.”
There is an emptiness that we all have. I know that I had it as a kid. I was raised in a pretty strange home. My mom was an alcoholic. A very attractive woman, she never had any difficulty finding men. She was married and divorced seven different times. I lived all around the United States. And at a very early age, I had to learn how to fend for myself. So I began to ask the big questions in life like, “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of my life?” As I got into high school, I started getting into the party scene and getting drunk with my friends. But I found that wasn’t filling the void in my life. Then the whole drug culture was coming around. People told me, “If you take drugs, you will become more aware.” And they were right. I became more aware of how empty I was.
So I knew where the answer wasn’t. It wasn’t in partying. It wasn’t in drinking. It wasn’t in having a lot of friends. It wasn’t in drugs. But I still didn’t know where it was. It wasn’t until I listened in on a meeting of Christians on my high-school campus that I found the answer. I made the decision to put my faith in Jesus Christ. That day, my life changed, and I couldn’t deny it.
Jesus told the story about another young man who was looking for answers. He decided to leave home in search of everything this world had to offer. We don’t know what circumstances led to his departure. It seemed like it was a home with affection by the way the father treated the son when he came back again. It seemed like an affluent home, because there were servants in it. But there was something about this home the boy did not like. Maybe he didn’t like the standards that his father had laid down. Whatever it was, the bright lights of the big city were calling.
He probably thought to himself, What does Dad know about anything? He is so old school. He is so lame. He is so out of it. I want to go out and experience life for myself. So he asked for his portion of the inheritance, and his father gave it to him.
Off the boy went, and when he hit town, he was a popular guy. He wasted all his money on wild living. And as soon as the money ran out, his friends ran out with it. He hit bottom, and eventually he was hanging around with a bunch of pigs. He was so hungry, he was even thinking about eating the food the pigs ate.
Then one day he thought, “This is insane. What am I doing? Why am I living this way?” This young boy was coming to his senses. He was realizing how empty life was. That’s sin – it looks so alluring and so cool. It promises freedom, but it brings bondage. It promises success, but it brings failure. It promises pleasure, but it ultimately brings misery.
I would be the first to admit that sin can be fun for a while. The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin for a moment (see Hebrews 11:25). We can have a momentary rush, a momentary pleasure, but then there are the repercussions of it. And if we were brutally honest, we would have to admit that even our greatest pleasures have been short-lived, if that. Most of the time, it is just emptiness.
He said, “I am going to go home and tell my father, ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Just make me like one of your hired servants.’” It dawned on him that it wasn’t his father who was wrong; it was him. And when the father saw his son, still off in the distance, he ran and threw his arms around him.
Do you know how the father felt while the son was gone? Sad. And that is how God feels when he looks at generation after generation marching in step to the strains of popular culture that tells us what is cool. But the world will never satisfy the deepest need of our lives. Only God will.
This story is a picture of us trying to run from God. God says, “I love you so much, but you are free to go.” God will not force salvation in our lives. If we don’t want to believe in Jesus, we don’t have to. If we don’t want purpose and meaning in our lives, then we don’t have to have it. It is our choice. God has given us this free will. And he says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV). We have the choice before us.