What is the Meaning of Life
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 115 The Nature of Man by Ernest O’Neill
We’ve been talking about the meaning of life, why we’re all here, why you’re here, why we exist at all, what the purpose of this whole universe is and why this earth is spinning madly around in space at thousands of miles an hour. We’ve been discussing why all that has taken place and, particularly, we’ve been discussing some of the bewildering phenomena in our own personal lives. Particularly the phenomenon that we refer to as the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome.
You may remember Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Mr. Hyde was Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego, I suppose. Dr. Jekyll was a very generous, philanthropic doctor in a certain area of London. He was used to helping the poor and needy, even giving them medical service without any cost to them. He developed, of course, inside himself a character which was the exact opposite of what people knew him to be.
There developed inside him a character that was violent and filled with greed and selfishness and anger, a character that always wanted its own way, whatever agony or pain it cost other people. Eventually, of course, this Mr. Hyde burst out with the help of some drugs that Dr. Jekyll invented, and began to roam the streets of London doing all sorts of violent deeds. Robert Louis Stevenson, of course, was pointing out that most of us have the same experience in our own personal lives.
Jesus was the only religious leader that was able to overcome death. Mohamed or Zoroaster, or Confucius, or Buddha never did that. So it is reasonable to believe that He was indeed the Son of the Creator of the world and that the things He talked about as being His Father’s attitude to us are probably true. When He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your food, what you shall eat, nor about your clothing, what you shall put on. Look at the birds of the air. They toil not; neither do they reap. And yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.”
“Look at the lilies of the field. They do not sow, nor reap, or gather into barns, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now, if God so clothes the grass, which today is alive and tomorrow is cast into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30) Jesus implied that if we did the things which we were meant to do, when we were put here on earth — if you fulfill the function that God created you here to fulfill, and you did the job you have been given talents to do, and did it faithfully — then He would make sure that your needs were met.
Sometimes by your salary, sometimes by your wages, sometimes by the way your cash flow worked, sometimes by mysterious means. Jesus told us that the Creator would do that. Most of us feel, “Yes, there is possibly a Creator like that. He probably will take care of us.” We do try to believe that and we try to trust Him for that. But when the bank account goes into overdraft, we try not to allow the churning of our stomach to dominate our worry and our anxiety.
We try to put our trust in God, and we try to say, “Yes, now, His son said that He would provide all that we needed. We’ve been in this kind of situation before and it’s come out all right, so it will probably come out all right again.” We try to do that, but there’s something in us, there’s a nature that has developed down through the years of our own lives and down through the centuries of our forebears’ lives, that is used to depending on itself and on the things that we can get from this world of material possessions that will give us that safety and security that we were really meant to trust our Creator for.
So, there is inside us a dreadful battle that goes on, a terrible conflict between this Mr. Hyde within us, this monster within us, this old self. Jesus and the Bible, that old book we so rarely read today, they called it the old nature, or the old self. Sometimes they actually called it the sinful nature. You and I have a whole wrong idea of sin. We tie sin to immorality and to crime. No. Immorality and crime are human concepts. Sin itself is primarily living as if there is no God.
It is living depending on the world of people and things and circumstances for your security, your sense of significance and happiness, instead of living on dependence on God for your security and your significance and your happiness. That’s all that sin is. It’s just an independence of God. So, most of us find that there is within us a nature that is full of sin, that is full of independence from God, full of dependence on people.
That’s why we have such “men fear”. That’s why we sweat when the boss doesn’t approve of us. That’s why we get all worried when our teacher doesn’t think well of us. That’s why we are so anxious to be little “Uriah Heaps” [character from a Charles Dickens novel] that try to please everybody. There is a nature inside of us that has got used to living in dependence on people’s opinions, and people’s praise, and people’s approval, rather than our Creator’s.
So we are afraid of people and afraid of their approval and afraid of their disapproval, and afraid of what they think and what they criticize us as being. Instead of being dependent on our Father for His opinion, and not caring what anybody else thinks, our nature has turned the other way. So, we find within us a sinful nature, a nature that is full of sin, and full of a desire to depend on people and things and circumstances for our security and our happiness and our sense of significance.
Of course, it is doomed to continual futility and frustration, because nobody thinks as much of us as our dear Father who made us. Nobody thinks as much of us as our dear Creator, who gave himself for us. Nobody will provide for us the resources we need throughout this life as He will do. Finally, the greatest banker in the world can’t provide for us the moment after we die. Finally the kindest father in the world can’t clothe us when we catch an incurable disease.
So our sinful nature, or our old nature, our old self, is a hideous thing, because it makes us want to depend on the world of things and circumstances and people. Yet, it is never satisfied with those things. It can never get enough satisfaction from those things, because we were made not to get our supply of significance and happiness and security from those, but from God himself.
So the evil, old self-nature inside us has bent us so towards the world of things, and circumstances and people, that we cannot live any other way. Yet it can never get enough satisfaction through those intermediates as will satisfy us; satisfy the good nature, the real nature that the Creator implanted in us at the beginning. Of course, that nature still draws us towards truth and reality.
There is a part of you that is delighted to trust to the wind. There is a part of you that is delighted to just risk it, and to have the delight that you had as little children, and trust that things will come out okay. There is part of you that kicks over the traces and says it doesn’t matter what they think of me. It doesn’t matter if they criticize me to death. That doesn’t matter. There’s Somebody Else who thinks there’s something about me.
There is a part of us that rises to truth and rises to reality. Yet, there is this miserable evil nature within us that seems at times, as in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, to grow and grow and dominate the good nature within us until almost all the good nature seems utterly suppressed, and only the evil, old,
self-nature seems to live. It seems as we go on living, that it just becomes more and more subtle within us.
We try all kinds of ways to get rid of it. How can you get rid of it? Well, there is a way. Let’s talk about it tomorrow.