First Larne Presbyterian Church

First Larne Presbyterian Church

Purpose, Meaning... and all that jazz....

PURPOSE, MEANING and all that Jazz



Why are you here? What makes you who you are? What makes your life worth living?


Weighty questions for a sub-two-hour children’s film, but that doesn’t deter Pixar. Already adept at turning abstract concepts into cartoon creatures, their latest offering, Soul, asks: how do you find your spark?


Joe Gardner already knows what his spark is. Jazz music. ‘I was born to play,’ he declares. ‘It’s my reason for living.’ When he is offered the chance to accompany a famous musician, he hopes it will give his life meaning and significance. An unfortunate day, then, to die.


Soul follows Joe as he desperately tries to escape death and get back to Earth to play the gig. Through the convoluted comic caper that ensues, Joe realises that in fact he has misunderstood the concept of a person’s spark altogether. It is not a single, all-consuming passion, but a sort of general joie-de-vivre: an ability to look up from the daily grind and revel in the taste of pizza, the sight of autumn leaves, the feel of warm air on your skin.


If the film has a message, it is this. Slowing down, enjoying simple pleasures, helping others: these things truly make life worth living. Soul ends with Joe resolving to appreciate every moment of his second-chance life.


This exposure of the futility of a life motivated by selfish ambition is certainly worth celebrating. However, in its place the Bible offers an even more glorious message than Soul, in which mindfulness and meaning are not opposed, but united.


In fact, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’ Properly-directed enjoyment is bound up with our God-ordained purpose. That’s the crucial truth: the object of our lives is not our own glory, but God’s. ‘Whatever you do,’ 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us – whether eating a slice of pizza or playing piano in a jazz band – ‘do it all for the glory of God.’


If we acknowledge that pizza, piano, and ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’ (James 1:17), then every moment of pleasure in God and his creation becomes an opportunity for worship. Our ability to appreciate life’s pleasures can therefore be a part of our purpose – but only if we refuse hedonism and choose thanksgiving instead. For it is God, not us, who gives our lives meaning. He is the true home of our souls, the reason for our jazzing, and the source of our spark.


Rachel Smith

Rachel is a part-time writer and a full-time mum. She attends King’s Church Durham.