Which One is Better?
Introduction: From his observations about life Solomon compares some extremes in life and makes some statements about which one is better. Understand that he is not saying that they are the best or ever satisfying, he is just saying that from a totally humanistic standpoint that one is better. In the end, not of them bring joy and this simply adds to his frustration.
1. Live a difficult life or never be born? VV.1-3
a. What really bothered Solomon? Seeing the oppression of people.
b. Who are the oppressed generally speaking? The poor.
c. How do we explain there being an appointed time for these seasons, oppression, and a loving God?
d. Under the sun, what was the conclusion made by Solomon? (Seeing evil normally means to experience it first hand)
e. Many have felt that way and have taken their own lives. Living life merely under the sun brings people to the terrible conclusion of suicide!
2. Work for a little or work harder for a lot? VV.4-8
a. In verse 4, what is seen as the driving force behind work?
b. How have you observed this to be true?
c. According to verse 7 and 8, what should a person ask themselves?
d. Is it right to leave fortune to those who have not earned it?
e. What is the purpose of wealth?
f. In Verse 5 we have the opposite approach. It is also popular today. What does the fool do?
g. In verse 6 a conclusion is reached about work. What is it. How does that apply?
3. One or Two or better yet Three VV. 9-12
a. There are four advantages listed as to why companionship is to be preferred to being alone. What are they?
i. They can get more accomplished
ii. They can assist each other when one is down
iii. They make more warmth together than they do individually
iv. They are less likely to be defeated or even attacked when there is two and even better when there is three.
b. Companionship although better than loneliness is still not going to fill the place that God has put in man’s heart for Him!
4. A poor wise boy or a rich foolish king VV.13-16
a. Why has the king become foolish?
b. Where did the king come from?
c. What is the cycle that is taking place?
d. Why did that frustrate Solomon?
e. How do we see that in our culture today?
f. Why do people so strive for popularity since it is so fleeting?
Conclusion: In chapter 5 Solomon will inject some of his conclusions that are geared towards a positive response.
Ecclesiastes 4 (NCV)
1 Again I saw all the people who were mistreated here on earth. I saw their tears and that they had no one to comfort them. Cruel people had all the power, and there was no one to comfort those they hurt.
2 I decided that the dead are better off than the living.
3 But those who have never been born are better off still; they have not seen the evil that is done here on earth.
4 I realized the reason people work hard and try to succeed: They are jealous of each other. This, too, is useless, like chasing the wind.
5 Some say it is foolish to fold your hands and do nothing, because you will starve to death.
6 Maybe so, but I say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind.
7 Again I saw something here on earth that was useless:
8 I saw a man who had no family, no son or brother. He always worked hard but was never satisfied with what he had. He never asked himself, “For whom am I working so hard? Why don’t I let myself enjoy life?” This also is very sad and useless.
9 Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together.
10 If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.
11 If two lie down together, they will be warm, but a person alone will not be warm.
12 An enemy might defeat one person, but two people together can defend themselves; a rope that is woven of three strings is hard to break.
13 A poor but wise boy is better than a foolish but old king who doesn’t listen to advice.
14 A boy became king. He had been born poor in the kingdom and had even gone to prison before becoming king.
15 I watched all the people who live on earth follow him and make him their king.
16 Many followed him at first, but later, they did not like him, either. So fame and power are useless, like chasing the wind.