2. Why Am I Here?

       We come now to the second of our questions: "Why am I here?" Am I simply a consumer? A channel for various manufactured goods? Something to whom money will be given in exchange for my labor?
       In an average lifespan of seventy years, an average American will spend about twenty years sleeping, eleven years working, six years eating, and eight years watching television. He or she will own six cars, one house, and perhaps a hundred pairs of shoes. Is that all my life will mean when it's over? Is my only purpose in life to contribute to a healthy American economy? When I die, will the most notable thing that can be said about my life be that I watched TV for eight years and saw every episode of "Leave it to Beaver"? "Ah yes, he got up every morning, went to work, came home, and watched TV. Now he's dead."
        Is the bumper sticker the best that can be said about life: "Life is rough. Then you die."? Solomon had depressing things to say about life:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecc. 2:10-11)

This too is a grievous evil:
As a man comes, so he departs,
and what does he gain,
since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction, and anger. (Ecc. 5:16-17)

       One of the points of Ecclesiastes is that life apart from God is truly meaningless, with no more value than a beer commercial. However, the account of creation in the book of Genesis tells us something about the why of life. The whole creation of the universe is described as if everything were designed for the use and benefit of humanity; human beings are the centerpiece of God's creation (Gen. 1:28-30). God loves human beings. He expresses his love in the blessings of procreativity, land, and food. Some might question that love is a part of the creation account, but look at Deut. 7:13-15, where the blessings inherent in the creation, as found in the Garden of Eden, are promised to Israel because of God's love.

       He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land - your grain, new wine and oil - the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. Yahweh will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.

       Or look at Isaiah 51:3, where God states that Israel will be like the Garden of Eden. The context of the Genesis account must be kept in mind. It was written by an Israelite to Israelites, who would see in the creation account and the description of the Garden of Eden the echo of the promised blessings of the Mosaic covenant - or rather, they would realize that the blessings of the covenant were faint echoes of an earlier age.
        That God loves human beings is something Adam and Eve forgot. Eve was tempted in several ways by the serpent: she was tempted by pride - "to be like God"; but more importantly, Adam and Eve somehow developed a warped view of who God is, a view which persists to this day. In a recent best seller, Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert A. Heinlein wrote:

       "But notice carefully what I did say. I did not say that the world was created twenty-three billion years ago; I said that was its age. It was created old. Created with fossils in the ground and craters on the moon, all speaking of great age. Created that way by Yahweh, because it amused Him to do so. One of those scientists said, 'God does not roll dice with the universe.' Unfortunately not true. Yahweh rolls loaded dice with His universe...to deceive his creatures."
       "Why would He do that?"
       "Lucifer says that it is because He is a poor Artist, the sort who is always changing his mind and scraping the canvas. And a practical joker. But I'm really not entitled to an opinion; I'm not at that level. And Lucifer is prejudiced where His Brother is concerned..."

       Heinlein repeats one of the oldest lies in the universe: "God is not good. He is trying to withhold something pleasant from you." Like any Big Lie, it finds an audience ready to believe it, and Adam and Eve were just such an audience. They believed the lie that God wasn't good, and so they chose to disobey him - to find out this good thing that God was trying to keep from them. They wanted to see what they were missing. How many Christians today are living with this same misconception? Consider a couple of amusing, if sad, stories:

       The bride wore black!
       The attractive girl coming down the aisle was accompanied by her bridesmaids, all in black, and in the front pews of the church, the relatives of the bride and groom all wore dark clothes as well. The dress for the occasion carried a special message.
       This black-clad bride and groom were deeply committed people and meant serious business. In that year, 1839, they were about to depart on a six-and-a- half month trip across America to Oregon, where she and her preacher-physician husband, Dr. Marcus Whitman, would begin mission work. Narcissa, by wearing black on her wedding day, was indicating that her Christianity was no laughing matter. She was through with fun and frivolity.

       In that day, the proclaimers of the Christian message were expected, above everything else, to be serious.

       The committee of three men was waiting at the airport for the guest minister who was to preach in their church on the following day. They scrutinized each arriving passenger, for none of them had ever seen their visitor previously, and they were apprehensive lest they miss him. A tall gentleman dressed in a dark suit came walking up the jetway, and the spokesman of the group approached him.
       "Are you our guest minister?"
       The new arrival responded, "No, I'm not. It's my ulcer that makes me look like this."

       Do you really think that the God who invented sex wants you to be miserable?
       So why are you here? What is your purpose in living? Look at Genesis 1:26-30:

       Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the Earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

       God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
       Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole Earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the Earth and all the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

       What are some conclusions that can be drawn from this passage in Genesis? One, we see that human beings were created social beings. Genesis 2:18 makes explicit the thought that it is not good for a man to be alone. That means it is not God's will for you to be a hermit.
        When I was in junior high I used to amuse myself by constructing plans for a log cabin. I read several books on how to build a log cabin, and I decided what I wanted most in life was to go off into the woods far from civilization, build a cabin, and live off the land. I would spend all my time reading and not bother anyone and no one would bother me.
       God had other ideas.
       In tenth grade I decided to sign up for classes I believed would be useful to me in the life I had picked for myself: metal shop, wood working, and auto repair. I'd had enough of these ridiculous classes in English and History. Who needed them? When the time came to sign up for classes, though, not a one of the classes I had wanted was open. In fact, I had no choice at all. The only classes left were Advanced English, World History, Biology, and Algebra - every last one of them college prep courses.
        I wisely decided that God was trying to tell me something: his plans for my life were considerably different than my own.
       God never intended for humans to be alone - not even me.
       A second conclusion that may be drawn from Genesis is that God has given the human species the job of conquering the natural world. He expected us to learn and understand it, and to bring it from its wild, natural state to a state of control. It's interesting to contrast this with the views of the nations surrounding Israel at the time Moses was writing Genesis. In Genesis, we see that the universe was created for the use of the human race (Gen. 1:26-30), not the human race for the use of the universe or God. But contrast the Babylonian creation story of Enuma Elish:

When Marduk hears the words of the gods,
his heart prompts [him] to fashion artful works.
Opening his mouth, he addresses Ea
to impart the plan he had conceived in his heart:
"Blood I will mass and cause bones to be.
I will establish a savage; 'man' shall be his name.
Truly, savage-man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
that they might be at ease!"
(Tablet VI, lines 1-8)

       In subduing the Earth, we must be careful not to think that it is the same as abusing the Earth. In the early history of the ecological movement, Christianity was occasionally condemned as being anti-ecological, often based on a misreading of the command to "subdue" the Earth (a misreading perpetuated by some reactionary fundamentalists).
        Practically, how do you "subdue the Earth?" When the time comes that you need to go out and mow the grass, rejoice! You will then be helping fulfill this command. When your church has a work day to pull weeds, or they decide to have some landscaping done, rejoice! Occasionally someone may frown, and ask, "Why are you spending money on landscaping, cutting grass, planting flowers? You could spend all that money on missionaries!" Of course that is correct, but missionary work is not the only thing God wants us to do! Subdue the Earth! Understand it. Put it to good use. Be a good steward!
       Why else am I here? The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks "What is the chief aim in life?" And the answer is "The chief aim in life is to Glorify God and Enjoy him forever." This is not bad at all, and matches biblical teaching.
        What else does the Bible have to say about the question, "What is God's will for my life?"

1. Love God. Deuteronomy 6:5:

        Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

2. Love your neighbor. Leviticus 19:18:

       Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.

       Loving God and neighbor is the sum of the Law and the prophets according to Jesus' words in Matthew 22:36-40. Love involves at least three things:

1) obedience. See John 14:23-24:

        Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come in to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."

       See also 15:9-13; and Deuteronomy 6:5-9.

2) service. See Micah 6:8:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

       See also Exodus 23:4-5; James 1:27; 2:14-17; Proverbs 25:21- 22; Matthew 5:43-48; and 28:19-20.

3) righteousness. See 1 Peter 1:15-16:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

       See also Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; and James 4:7-10, 17.

Is Barefoot and Pregnant the Proper Role?

       To hear most fundamentalists talk, God has established certain roles for the woman in the marriage relationship, and these roles are to be understood practically as:

1) Slave

       Any housework that is to be done is to be done by the woman. It is not the man's place to wash the dishes, mop the floors, clean the toilets, do the laundry, change the diapers or any of the other tasks that need to be done to keep a household functioning.

2) Child raiser

        Caring for the children is exclusively the role of the mother, except that fathers are supposed to take the boys to ball games and teach them sports, along with other masculine activities like wood working, auto repairing, belching, and the like.

3) Homebody

       The wife must sit at home while the husband makes all the money; perhaps, if the children are grown, the wife might get a part time job, so long as her income is less than her husband's, and so long as it is less prestigious as well.
        While this may be the popular view among conservative Christians, a view endowed with a status of divinely blessed appropriateness, the reader of the Bible would be hard pressed to discern that this is the ordained scriptural picture of things. In fact, one might even suggest that fundamental Christianity has raised cultural tradition to the status of the divinely inspired, and then searched scripture after the fact to "prove" the already assumed position.
       Consider:

       There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

       One of the most remarkable things about this verse is the reaction to it by those who insist that women are to have a subservient role. Look at the reaction of the author of a pamphlet on the role of women, typical of the conservative position:

       Equality of being before God does not require the elimination of all role distinctions in society.
       Equality of being does not rule out authority and submission in relationships. We could point to many examples of relationships in which there is equality and yet a difference in roles involving authority and submission - the Trinity; the President and U.S. citizens; parents and children; employers and employees; elders and church members. (p. 14, The Role of Women, Grace Community Church, 1985)

       Ignoring the problems with some of their examples (especially with the Trinity and their understanding of American democracy), consider the import of the statement: that theology really has no practical significance - in this case. Or more specifically, it has no significance on the male/female relationship. The elimination of slavery and the elimination of the racial superiority inherent in early Jewish-Christian relationships with gentiles is laudable and appropriate, but when it comes to women - it doesn't really mean they're equal.
       The thoughtful reader might be wanting to object at this point: "Isn't the wife supposed to be subject to her husband? I seem to recall a passage of scripture..."
        Perhaps a look at the passage in question would be helpful.

       Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
       Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
       Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church - for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:21-30)

       It is instructive, in this light, to notice two other passages which have profound impact on the subject, though they are rarely considered:

       The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)

       Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

       Also notice two other instructive passages:

       Jesus called them together and said "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45)

       Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

       Interesting picture considering husband and wife should relate to each other as Christ does to the Church. Leadership in the Christian setting, the concept of the husband being the head of the wife, must be understood in the light of what Jesus said about the nature of leadership. The one who leads is servant of all, and what is entailed by that is illustrated well by the incident where Jesus washed the disciple's feet. Love does not mean that you make others do stuff for you; love means that you do stuff for them - and without expecting anything back in return!
       Regarding the conservative idea of how bad it is if women work outside the house, since they're supposed to take care of the children - consider common statements like this, illustrating the position:

       The biblical pattern for raising and instructing children in God's truths was established in Deuteronomy 6 where children are to be taught by parents "when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." Parents are responsible for the spiritual education of their children, and mothers who work full-time outside their homes usually lack the quality time to instruct their children adequately. Nor can the responsibility for this instruction simply be transferred to someone else.(The Role of Women, p. 10)

       An interesting switch here from "parents" to "mothers". And the whole premise is wrong besides. Biblically there is very little said about the role of mothers in the raising of children - though a lot is said on mothers bearing them. But the raising of children was the work of fathers. The passage in Deuteronomy just quoted above, Deuteronomy 6:6, is written to men - not women. In Hebrew there are four forms of the pronoun "you" available: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, feminine plural. Guess which is used in Deuteronomy 6:6? Masculine singular. Women aren't even being addressed.
       Moreover, if the reader were to look in a concordance under the words "father" and its related forms and the word "mother" and its related form, he or she would discover the following (from a computer search):

       1612 occurrences of the word "father", "father's" or "fathers".
       Only 338 occurrences of the word "mother", "mother's" or "mothers".

       Fathers seem to be discussed more frequently. Moreover, one will discover, in looking at the word "mother" that in most contexts the mother is either bearing or nursing the children; little is said of a mother's role beyond that.
       Look at Ephesians 6:4 as an example:

       Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

       It is mothers and fathers both who are to be obeyed (Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:1-3), not one more than the other.
       It was David who was criticized for how he raised Adonijah, not Adonijah's mother:

       (His father had never interfered with him by: asking, "Why do you behave as you do?" He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.) (1 Kings 1:6)

       In a similar vein see 1 Sam. 3:13 (Eli), 1 Sam. 8:3 (Samuel), Luke 15:12-13 (the prodigal son).
       Notice that it is the men raising children in Prov. 13:24,19:18, 23:13, 22:6, 1 Tim. 3:4.
       Regarding women working outside the house, notice 2 Cor. 12:14:

       Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

       Notice "parents" are saving for their children, not just the father.
       Perhaps most disturbing of all for the male chauvinists would be finding out how the ministry of Jesus and his disciples was financed:

       After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:1-3)

       Consider all the women of the Bible working outside the home:

1. The mighty woman of Proverbs 31 (she has children!)
2. Ruth gleaning grain (Ruth 2)
3. Deborah, judge of Israel (Judges 4:4, 5:7)
4. Lydia, seller of purple (Acts 16:14-15)
5. Priscilla, a tent maker (Acts 18:1-3)
6. Wisdom, personified as a woman, is active in the creation of the world (Prov. 8:27-31)

       Regarding the odd statement quoted above, "Nor can the responsibility for this instruction [of children] simply be transferred to someone else [other than the mother]," perhaps the authors of the pamphlet chose to ignore the work of nurses and servants as mentioned in both New and Old Testaments? (cf. Gen. 24:59, 35:8, Ex. 2:7-9, Num. 11:12, 2 Sam. 4:4, 2 Kings 11:2-3, 2 Chron. 22:11). We perhaps shouldn't even mention Samuel being raised in the temple by the priests (1 Samuel 1-2)...
       Of course there are those who might argue that the only reason women want to work outside the home, get careers and the like, is because the feminist movement has filled them with wrong-headed dreams and aspirations. Those darn feminists are the ones who've made women unhappy and dissatisfied with their "proper, God-given roles" in the home.
       Uh huh.
       Like the slave holders of a different era, who complained that "If it weren't for those durn abolitionists filling the niggers with wool-headed ideas they wouldn't be near the trouble; getting them all riled up about liberty and equality and who knows what other gosh durn foolishness!"
       The reason a woman might like a career and be dissatisfied fulfilling the role of a slave is because she is a human being, created in the image of God, with the same common ideals and aspirations, hopes and fears, that fill the male half of humanity, since woman, too, is as much a part of humanity as man.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)