Achievement and Wealth
Comments for Study 4
Memory Verse: 12
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I. Oppression Under the Sun (4:1-3)
>1. How are the oppressed and the oppressors the same?
* Ecclesiastes 4:1 "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter."
* "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun"
* "I saw the tears of the oppressed"
* "they have no comforter... and they have no comforter."
* "power was on the side of their oppressors"
>From where does comfort come?
* Life under the sun is full of hard toil that really does not amount to much in the end. Meaningless is the conclusion of life under heaven; life between birth and death for the person who does not love nor fear God.
Life under the sun also includes oppression, lots of oppression (1). Some ask, "Why does God allow suffering and oppression?"
"Humans," begins an answer, "are more inclined to oppress their neighbor than comfort them. Why do we inflict oppression? And why do we allow suffering and oppression? Why does a crowd watch a bully oppress another rather than help the oppressed?"
Everyone is subject to oppression. Everyone oppresses another sometime in their life. We excuse ourselves by saying we were justified. Yet, the truth remains.
Death often is more appealing than life under the sun (2). The unborn who have not seen the evil is better than life under the sun (3).
Better than these is to accept Jesus into the heart. He promises hope, peace, and love while living under the sun.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39).
* A skeleton (= Death) leads an abbess away. The abbess holds a rosary in her hands and a crosier underneath her arm. In the bottom left-hand corner is an hourglass representing human mortality. The 54 images of Hans Holbein's "The Dance of Death" (Lyon, 1538) were cut by Hans Luetzelburger and here appear in the 1547 Latin edition of the work. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>2. How is verse 2 true?
* Ecclesiastes 4:2 "And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive."
* "And I declared that the dead, who had already died"
* "the living, who are still alive."
>And verse 3?
* Ecclesiastes 4:3 "But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun."
* "But better than both is he who has not yet been"
>Why are the dead happier than the living?
* "who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun."
* They have not experience the evil in this world.
II. The Advantage of Numbers (4:4-12)
>3. What happens to people when they are without God according to verse 4?
* Ecclesiastes 4:4 "And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
* "And I saw that all labor and all achievement"
* " spring from man's envy of his neighbor"
>In the end what is gained?
* "Necessity is the mother of invention," is an old saying. Invention is the twin sibling of achievement. Verse 4 reveals the father of necessity and achievement. "All labor and all achievement spring from envy (jealousy) of his neighbor." Covet is a half-sibling of envy.
What then are jealousy and envy? Jealousy is an emotion and a mood; apparently, a powerful one to result is so much chasing after the wind.
Two main definitions of jealousy are "resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself," and "mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims."
The conscience battlefield finds want and needs standing off against each other. Do I want that? Or do I need that? Do I envy my neighbor or rival? Or do I celebrate success with a friend and colleague?
A mantra of advertising is, "Create a need so that desire gives birth to profit." Another mantra is, "Awake envy so that a fashion statement gives birth to more profit."
So a need requires money and envy requires even more money. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind (4). Doing nothing is the failure of many fools (5). And toiling hard just to impress a rival is just as destructive and meaningless (6). In the end both never satisfy, bring peace and contentment, and both are just as destructive.
Jesus declared, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).
>4. Why is not working for a living foolish? (5)
* Ecclesiastes 4:5 "The fool folds his hands and ruins himself."
* "folds his hands"
* The sketch to the right quoting verse 6 was found in books is now in public domain.
>Why is over working also foolish? (6)
* Ecclesiastes 4:6 "Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind."
* "Better one handful with tranquillity"
* "two handfuls with toil"
>5. What is the sad life of the man in verses 7-8?
* Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 "Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless-- a miserable business!"
* "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother."
* "There was no end to his toil"
* "yet his eyes were not content with his wealth."
* Outside of Christ, the loaner has a meaningless and difficult life (7,8). He toils to build wealth, forgoing enjoyment, and has forsaken a legacy to pass it onto. He does not make the effort to find friends nor take the risk to find a companion of the opposite sex to love and be loved.
Even a believer if alone has no one to support and heal them (9-12). Some chose to be monks in a community. This loner is not them. These verses are talking about the individual that chooses to remain alone. They forgo the gift of having a friend to help them up when down (10) or work together with someone to make a better life (11).
Jesus brought this one step further by making it a command. He said, "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9) Wealth here is not just money. The great commission includes friendship-making (Matthew 28:19).
>What is one of the duties of a parent according to 2 Cor. 12:14-15?
* 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 "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. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?"
>6. What is the wisdom to having a partner found in verse 9?
* Ecclesiastes 4:9 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:"
* "a good return for their work:"
>And verse 10?
* Ecclesiastes 4:10 "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
* "If one falls down"
* "help him up."
>How did Jesus display this in his ministry? (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1)
* Mark 6:7 "Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits."
* Luke 10:1 "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go."
>7. What is a benefit to marriage according to verse 11?
* Ecclesiastes 4:11 "Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?"
* "if two lie down together"
* "they will keep warm"
>How is three fighting the good fight better than two?
* Ecclesiastes 4:12 "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
* "Though one may be overpowered"
* "two can defend themselves"
* "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."<
III. Achievement is Meaningless (4:13-16)
* The drawing to the right titled "Greed" is in the book titled "Emblemes" by Quarles, Francis (1592-1644). A worker of the Devil holds an orb signifying the world in its arms while an angel looks on. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>8. How is a person bettered when they remain teachable? (11)
* Ecclesiastes 4:13 "Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning."
* "Better a poor but wise youth"
* "an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning."
>Who is a good person to learn from? (Proverbs 1:7, 12; and 1 Corinthians 13:11)
* Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."
* Proverbs 1:22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?"
* 1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
>9. What does verse 14 imply?
* Ecclesiastes 4:14 "The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom."
* "The youth may have come from prison to the kingship"
* "he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom."
* Here is a story of a young lad who was wise but poor (13). His beginning is a bit of a mystery. Some believe he was in prison. Others believe he was born in poverty. Still, others believed both (14). The wise young man's beginning was not important to his few followers. Yet this wise young lad was shunned because of his poverty. His wealth of knowledge was untapped by the masses.
The king reigning in the young man's kingdom was old, foolish, and either no longer cared to take counsel and warnings, or he became too complacent and lacked concern for those in his kingdom to heed to advice (14). No matter what those who were living under his rule suffered and they knew it was the king to blame.
The king has a son, also a young lad. He was like his father, his grandfather, and the long line of his ancestors who reigned before him. The horde of people in the kingdom lived without fear or love of God. They lived under the sun like their aged king. They followed the king's son who would be his successor (15,16). The lad's generation will not rejoice in the successor's rule.
The moral of the story of the wise young lad is that a kingdom whose people live without God is chasing after the wind. They live in prejudice and same old, same old. They do not follow God. They do not seek his will and counsel. They live meaningless lives in misery and toil.
Solomon, who was old and turned to foreign idols when he wrote this must have seen that his son who would be king, Rehoboam was a fool who would not follow wise advice. He was following the Godless lifestyle of his aged father. Instead, of seeking the Lord, Rehoboam tried to rule the Israelites cruelly and in the process destroyed Israel. From his own life and rule, Solomon saw that living under the sun was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
>Why is it that the young are thought to be wiser than the previous generation? (15)
* Ecclesiastes 4:15 "I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's successor."
* "I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun"
* "followed the youth, the king's successor."
>10. Why is it that often the young do not learn from the mistakes and failures of their parents? (16)
* Ecclesiastes 4:16 "There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
* "There was no end to all the people who were before them"
* "those who came later were not pleased with the successor"