A HELPING HAND
Lord, be with those who are suffering. Grant them your peace.
Read Ecclesiastes 4:1–12
Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
4 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.
2 And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
5 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 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!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectSpend some time identifying those who are ‘oppressed’, either those known to you or in the news.
Surely there is a better response to oppression than to say that it is better not to have been born! Verses 1 to 3 are bleak. The Teacher sees no hope for the oppressed.
He then returns to his theme of the meaninglessness of work (4–8). He suggests that we are motivated to work by rivalry. The motivation might be to prove that we are better than someone else, or it might be striving to have the latest and best phone, car, TV or whatever. We want others to be impressed.
Rather than competing with one another, we are better off working together. Verses 9 to 12 show the meaninglessness and difficulty of doing things alone. From the very start God said that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are not designed to thrive or to work well on our own. We achieve so much more when we work together (9) and we can help each other out in difficult times (10,12). I’m sure you can think of many examples from your own life. Perhaps this holds the key to resolving the hopelessness of verse 1. The oppressed need not be alone. They need someone to comfort them, someone to work with them, someone to speak up for them.
Is there someone who needs your help today? Or do you currently need to accept or ask for help from others? What steps can you take?
Thank You, God, that You bring freedom even in the most difficult circumstances.