Lesson 5

More Life Under the Sun

(Ecclesiastes 4)
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Introduction: Have you noticed in American politics that everyone - even those who have been at the seat of government power their entire life - like to run for office as if they were an "outsider?" "I promise to bring fresh air and a new perspective to the government!" How many times have you heard that? Well, proving that he is right that nothing is new, we hear that same thing from King Solomon! Let's plunge into our lesson and learn more!

  1. The Nasty Oppressor


    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:1. Solomon looked around and saw a lot of oppression. The government did nothing! Where do you think Solomon was looking since he was the King of all that he surveyed?


      1. Do you see oppression around you? (My job is to litigate against oppression. I fight the employer and union all the time. Often, the employer is the government at some level. However, the most my clients can lose is their job. Jobs are important, but they are not like losing your life! I'm sure some who read this live in a country with real oppression, but I suspect most readers do not face real oppression.)


    2. Read Ecclesiastes 4:2. What is the most severe form of oppression? (We might have a debate between torture and death. But, death is more final.)


      1. What is Solomon's solution to oppression? (Death! His argument makes no logical sense. If oppression brings death, he argues that we should just run right to the end game.)


    3. Read Ecclesiastes 4:3. What is the real solution to living an oppressed life? (Never being born.)


      1. For a fellow who has all the money, women and power he could ever use, Solomon seems like a real fun guy. A guy who squeezes every last drop of enjoyment out of life!


        1. What does this teach us about money, power and women? (You can have all of these and still blather on about how you wish you had never been born.)


        2. What is your opinion of Solomon? (I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but Solomon seems to present depression.)


          1. Why would God put this in the Bible? (To give encouragement to those who suffer from depression. The smartest, richest, most powerful fellow around was not immune to depression.)


      2. Do you agree with what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 4:3? (No! Abortion is the worst sort of oppression. Solomon at least gets to choose, based on his perception of life. Someone who was never born never gets to choose. The most important choice, of course, is for eternal life.)


        1. Read Ecclesiastes 9:4. Does Solomon agree with Solomon on the "benefit" of being dead?


  2. Adam Smith


    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:4. What causes society to prosper? (Solomon says: Envy.)


      1. Do you agree?


      2. Adam Smith, a serious Christian, wrote the economic classic "The Wealth of Nations." His theory, in a nutshell, is that if government leaves people free to build, farm and trade, people will seek to maximize their own wealth. In this free market system, when all can maximize their own wealth without any central government planning, they end up maximizing the wealth of others. An example today is computers and the Internet. Some individuals have become extremely wealthy in a short time by unregulated computer development and the Internet. This enriched all of us through inexpensive computers, software and information on the Internet.)


        1. Would Solomon and Adam Smith agree? (Yes, except that Solomon puts a negative spin on the nature of our incentive for wealth.)


    2. Read Ecclesiastes 4:5-6. What does it mean to "fold your hands?" (Do nothing - or do very little.)


      1. How many approaches to work do you find in these two verses? (Three. There is the "fool" who does nothing or very little. There is the workaholic who has his two hands filled with toil. Then there is the middle of the road guy who works with one hand and creates tranquility with the other.)


        1. Which approach does Solomon endorse? (He says the middle of the road guy has the best life.)


  3. Solitary Man


    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-8. The commentary "Be Satisfied," quotes Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." When this solitary man examines his life, what does he decide about his endless quest for more wealth? (He decides that he is working endlessly for no reason.)


      1. Have you examined your life? Your goals? Where is life taking you?


    2. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. What do these verses suggest about marriage?


      1. What do they suggest about partnerships?


      2. What do they suggest about friendships?


      3. My late uncle was a minister. I asked him what change he saw in the church over his many years of ministry. He said that when he was young the church was the social center of the community. Members would get together with fellow members when they wanted to have something interesting to do. Today, my uncle said television is the social center of the community. People gather around their televisions. What would Solomon say about this change in the church? (We are becoming individuals, and not friends and partners. This weakens us.)


      4. What can you do in your life to become a "cord of three strands?"


  4. Foolish Old King


    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:13. Why would the foolish old king not take warning? (He thought he knew it all. This is a pattern that I have observed in my practice of law. Old, powerful lawyers are not as well prepared in court. I remember once arguing against the former attorney general of a state. The former attorney general was citing a case that had been reversed on appeal. He apparently did not take the time to check whether it had been reversed! Even when I pointed out in oral argument that his case had been reversed, he still continued to argue it! Just recently, I was arguing against a former state supreme court justice. His argument was mostly that it was not his fault that his client violated the law! As I get older, I hope not to fall into the pit of overconfidence and lack of preparation.)


    2. Read Ecclesiastes 4:14-15. What kind of background does the young competitor to the old king possess? (Prison or poverty!)


      1. Why is this good? (Solomon suggests that hardship makes you wise.)


        1. Is that true?


      2. Why did the people follow the youth instead of the old king? (The text is not clear, but it seems Solomon is saying that the young king learned from his past and put those lessons to work in his life. The old king no longer was willing to learn anything or listen to others.)


        1. What is the lesson for your life?


        2. If you are a leader in your church, what is the lesson for your leadership? (Do not become too set in your ways. Listen to the advice of others and take it seriously.)


    3. Read Ecclesiastes 4:16. Who is the "them" in "all the people who came before them?" ("Them" refers to the old king and his young successor.)


      1. What happens to the young king? (This text is a warning. The old king and the new king ruled a large number of people. But a day came when most of the subjects were "new" - young people came on the scene and the old subjects died. The young king also aged and it seems that he had not learned the lesson to continue to take advice and continue to learn. Thus, he, too, was rejected by the new subjects.)


    4. Friend, Solomon tells us to make friends, take advice, and be diligent in our work. It is good advice, will you incorporate it into your life?


  5. Next week: Rich Man, Poor Man.


























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Lessons on Ecclesiastes

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