What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1646, 47
How do we glorify God?
The Children’s catechism gives a pointed and uncomplicated answer: We glorify God by loving him and doing what he commands. Mark Jones, in his book Faith. Hope. Love. The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace opens that up a little, first by defining love as “a virtue that seeks union, satisfaction, and goodwill.” And, as the Church has always taught, Jones goes on to remind us that God has given us a guide to loving him (and also our neighbor) in the Ten Commandments. So in a nutshell, we glorify God by loving him—seeking union, goodwill and our satisfaction in him, and we love him by keeping his commandments.
How do we enjoy God?
It’s easy to misunderstand what it means to enjoy God. We say that we enjoy good food, or a day at the beach, or the company of friends. But that is not what we mean when we say that the chief end of man is to enjoy God.
Enjoyment of God is inseparably intertwined with love for God. We saw in the discussion above that part of what it means to love God is to find satisfaction in him. That’s at the heart of what it means to enjoy God: to find your highest and greatest satisfaction in God himself, to delight in him above all other delights.
Consider Asaph in Psalm 73, miserable (Psalm 73:2-3) because those who have turned their back on God seem so happy, so successful. They have so many apparently desirable things, while Asaph doesn’t (Psalm 73:12).
But then, Asaph goes into the temple. In all his envy and bitterness, Asaph drags himself to church, and there, he sees the truth (Psalm 73:16-17). Despite the way things look now, it will not end well for those who turn their backs on God. Those who, for now, are not in trouble as others are, who are not stricken like the rest of mankind (Psalm 73:5), they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! The Lord despises them as phantoms (Psalm 73:19, 20).
And as for Asaph, who has been moping about his apparent failure in the world? He understands that his present and future reality is quite different:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you… God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:23-26).
That’s what it means to enjoy God.