What is the Chief end of Man?

The above question is the first of 107 contained, with their answers, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, completed in 1647 by the Westminster Assembly and which continues to serve as part of the doctrinal standards of many Presbyterian churches. The question of man’s chief end, or purpose in this life, is rightly placed as Number One. For many, if not most of us, it is the question that stands above all others – the overarching question around which our adult endeavors revolve. Many ,not familiar with the catechisms of any sort, know the Catechism’s question and answer:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. 

Just for a moment, contrast the above with the statement made by perhaps the most ‘popular’ Pastor in America today:

“People ask me, What is the purpose of life?
And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity.”

He adds: ” We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.”

These two questions, though phrased differently, both ask “What is the main reason we are here?” You won’t find either question asked and answered so specifically in scripture, but does one answer have more scriptural support than the other? Are both answers equally valid? Why, or why not?

How we answer that question will ‘color’ most of what we do, say, and think for all of our Christian lives.

What’s your answer?

10 responses to “What is the Chief end of Man?

  1. “What is the chief end of man?”


    “What is the purpose of life?”

    At first glance these questions may appear the same but they are not.

    The latter, which has Warren’s stench all over it, is much more specific and not nearly as nuanced as the former. It has the ‘me’ centered odor of modern trendy Christianity that seems to be plaguing popular culture. Warren as usual answers it with a self-centered platitude. This question might as well have been phrased “What is the purpose of MY life?” Because the answer Mr. Warren gives has nothing to do with the God he claims to serve and everything to do with how get his own go to heaven for free card. Preparation for eternity…. as in MY preparation…ME!!!

    I like the former question much more. It is loaded with nuance. Allow me to explain.

    The question posed can’t be adequately answered without settling some other questions first. The word ‘chief’ implies that there are other decidedly lesser ‘ends’. The question also seems to presuppose that we all KNOW what these ends are but ONE of them is most important and should be held of paramount importance. What’s more is the question is not at all framed in the self-serving way much as the latter clearly is.

    This IS a very important question and I will not presume to be any better at answering it than anyone else. That said, I think how each of chooses to answer it goes a long way to show the respective contents of our character.

    I don’t believe in a personal God. That’s the atheistic part of my character. So in that view if God does exist, whether or not I ‘glorify’ God is of little importance to God. Such glorification or lack thereof, does NOTHING to add or subtract from God. An already perfect being would have no requirement nor any use of my supplications or groveling.

    What I can do, which I feel is much positive and efficacious, is live my life in such a way that I am a blessing to my fellow man for living and in the end having lived. To see further and clearer than those who came before me and to act in such a way as to leave the world a little better.

    Some may argue that this is in itself is indeed glorifying God. If that is so I am fine with it but it is only satisfying to those who think God has some sort of need that is filled by the act. I’m not one of them.



    • Pretty good evaluation of the two statements, Robert, and for a professed atheist, at that!

      I’m going to wait to see what other sorts of answer we find before commenting further. What I will say for right now, is that scripture communicates to us that God is VERY interested in His own glory and the honor of His Name. In fact, the subject of God’s glory runs from Genesis to Revelation. Not in the ‘needful sort of way’. Indeed our giving or not giving God the honor due His Name detracts not one bit from His character, as you have said.


  2. Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

    Colossians 1:16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

    None of us were an accident. We were planned for and wanted before the beginning of time.

    Psalm 139 is a good one for that.


  3. Sorry, after re-reading I realized there is much more to your question. The statement “preparation for eternity” gives us the power. Gives us the destiny. It implies that our sole purpose is to spend our lives preparing ourselves to meet our maker. Gaining points, and subtracting depending on our actions as we go. It really has nothing to do with the true reason why we were created to begin with, to glorify Him. It is the difference between being here for self, and controlling our own destiny vs. being here for His plan, His purpose, His glory, doing so His way…

    Ok, I’m done….I think….


  4. I probably wouldn’t do all that well with this question if I hadn’t read the excellent responses already given. I agree the second question is shallower than the first. I believe that the chief end of man is to love God and be loved by Him. In that process, we will certainly glorify Him.

    I have a little different take on “glory,” based on my questions as to what the concept of “glory” actually means. I’m not a linguist, but I sometimes play one on the internet. 😉 Actually, I just have some good reference works. My understanding of them may be incomplete, but here’s my go:

    Glory was the true story of who a person was. In God’s case, always good. God wants us to know who He is. Don’t you want your loved ones to know you? Wouldn’t it hurt you for them to have a false (especially a false unfavorable) idea of who you are? God doesn’t need us to know Him, but we very much need to know Him. He is gracious enough to care whether we come to Him that we might be healed and accepted into His family.


    • You bring up some good points, Cindy. What does it mean to glorify God? that is espeially important when it becomes clear to us from scripture that God is actually concerned more about His own glory than us mortals. Yes, we are created for His purposes, and He loves us with a love greater than our words can express. Paramount is all that He does though is the honor of His Name.

      A good little study is find out how many times God said “Then they shall know that I AM GOD and under what circumstances He spoke those words through the prophets.

      That “…we NEED to know Him” reminds me of John 17:3 :).


  5. Deb said:

    “None of us were an accident. We were planned for and wanted before the beginning of time.”

    Robert retorts:

    Well if that’s true, I can rest easy on the philosophy of that one-eyed sailor/sage:

    I am what I am!



  6. Since I did not provide the scriptural basis for the important question asked by two diffrent men, here is the questin and answer srtaight from the Westminister Confession:

    A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

    [a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11

    [b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

    I have not found the second answer in scripture.


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