Eccl. 4: 1
As long as man lives, there will always be struggle. In the secular world, in the neighbourhood, within the family, even in the church, struggle is everywhere. Solomon records his observations and conclusions as he looked at life under the sun. This time he writes about oppression, envy, idleness, covetousness, solitariness, leadership and position.
I. Oppression (Eccl. 4:1)
A. To oppress means to load or burden with unreasonable impositions; to treat with
unjust severity, rigor or hardship; as, to oppress a nation with taxes or contributions;
to oppress one by compelling him to perform unreasonable service. (Webster).
B. Oppression is also defined as the unjust or cruel exercise of authority
1. The Israelites were oppressed when they were in Egypt to the extent that they
cried unto the Lord due to the heavy burden they are facing.
2. The rich taking advantage of the poor are everywhere.
3. They show their power and authority over other people who cannot resist them
and are forced to obey them.
C. Solomon praised the dead more than the living (Eccl. 4:2-3)
1. For him it is better not to have been born into the world, than to have seen and
suffered so many miseries.
D. Oppression is prohibited by God as it is written in. Lev. 25:14 and James 5:4.
E. Oppression will never go unpunished. Ps. 103:6; Eccles. 5:8; James 5:4
II. Envy (Eccl. 4:4)
A. Envy is the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has
1. In our text we have men who do the right work for the good of the society.
2. Men who work diligently, honestly, skilfully will be envied by his neighbour.
3. This again is vanity and vexation to the spirit.
4. Envy is forbidden. Pr. 3:31; Rom. 13:13 and is a proof of carnal mindedness. 1
5. Wicked people are full of envy. Rom. 1:29, and they will all be punished.
Illustration: Futility of Riches
“You are to be more envied than anyone I know,” said a young man to a millionaire. “Why so?”
responded the millionaire. “I am not aware of any cause for which I should be envied.” “What, sir!” exclaimed the young man in surprise. “Why, you are a millionaire! Think of the thousands your income brings every month!” “Well, what of that?” replied the millionaire. “All I get out of it is my food and clothes, and I can’t eat more than one man’s allowance and wear more than one suit of clothes at a time. Even you can do as much as I can, can’t you?” “Yes but think of the hundreds of fine houses you own, and the rentals they bring you.” “What good does that do me?” replied the rich man. “I can only live in one house at a time. As for the money I receive for rents, why, I can’t eat orwear it; I can only use it to buy other houses for other people to live in; they are the beneficiaries,
not I.” Then, finally, after a little more discussion, the millionaire turned to the young man and said: “I can tell you that the less you desire in this life, the happier you will be. All my wealth can’t buy a single day more of life, cannot buy back my youth, cannot procure power to keep off the hour of death. Then what will happen? In a few short years at most I must lie down in the grave and leave it all forever. Young man, you have no cause to envy me.
III. Idleness (Eccl. 4:5-6)
A. Idleness means not working, active, or being used, not occupied or having no
employment. Synonymous to sloth which is the quality or state of being lazy
B. The term “folds his hands” is a description of a lazy man who don’t want to work.
C. The term “and eateth his own flesh’, describes a hungry man starving for want of
food, so that his flesh is wasted away; or he is so hungry bitten, that he is ready to
eat his own flesh; or he hereby brings to ruin his family, his wife, and children, which
are his own flesh.
D. It is better to have little with quietness than two hands full of travail.
E. Idleness and sloth is prohibited in the Scriptures. Rom. 12:11; Heb. 6:12
F. Idleness will result in poverty. Prov. 10:4; 20:13, want, Prov. 20:4; 24:34, Hunger,
Prov. 19:15; 24:34, Bondage, Prov. 12:24, Disappointment, Prov. 13:4; 21:25, Ruin.
Illustration: Parable of Dead Church
A person once called a pastor to say he wanted to join the church. But, he went on to explain, he did not want to worship every week, study the Bible, visit the sick, witness to non-Christians, or serve as a leader or teacher.
The pastor commended him for his desire to join but told him the church he sought was located in another section of town. The men took the directions and hung up.
When he arrived at the church, the man came face to face with the logical result of his own
apathetic attitude. There stood an abandoned church building, boarded up and ready for demolition.
Encyclopaedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
IV. Covetousness (Eccl. 4:8)
A. Covetousness is feeling or showing a very strong desire for something that you do
not have and especially for something that belongs to someone else.
B. This verse describes a self centered man; has neither wife, child, nor legal heir; and
yet works hard in getting money as if he had the largest family to provide for. Worse
is he is not even interested in enjoying the fruits of his labour.
C. Covetousness renders one disqualified for leadership (Ex. 18:21). Apostate people
are covetous (Jer. 6:13; 8:10; 22:17; Ezek. 33:31). Covetousness is a product of the
fallen nature (Mk. 7:20-23). It is required of pastors that they not be covetous (1Tim.
3:3). Covetousness is a characteristic of the unsaved (Rom. 1:29; 1Cor. 5:10; 6:10;
Eph. 5:5). Covetousness is a cause for church discipline (1Cor. 5:11). Covetousness
is to be mortified (Col. 3:5). It is a mark of the end times (2Tim. 3:2). It is a
characteristic of false teachers (2Pet. 2:3,14; Jude 1:11).
Illustration: Two Categories of Men
Men fall into two categories:
1. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous” (2 Tim 3:2); or
2. “Men of truth, hating covetousness” (Ex 18:21). With Achan (Joshua 7) coveting began with his eyes (“When I saw”), went deeply into his mind and heart (“then I coveted them”), and ended up in his hands (“took them”). The end result was death.
V. Solitariness or being alone (Eccl. 4:8)
A. Being alone is vanity. You must have someone with you.
B. Better to have friends. (Eccl. 4:9-12)
1. Two are better than one, for they have good reward for their labour
2. If one falls, the other can lift him up
3. Their combined body heat can keep them warm
4. They can withstand one who would seek to overpower them
5. A threefold cord is not quickly broken
VI. Leadership and Position (Eccl. 4:13-16)
A. From our texts we can learn many things about popularity and position like:
1. Nothing is permanent
2. Popular leaders come and go
3. Popularity does not last
4. Even at its highest levels, life is insecure
5. Apart from God’s plan even our highest dreams (to be a king) can turn out to be
6. One cannot depend upon position, we can only depend upon God who gives
these gifts. He will never fail. Christ never fails
Oppression, envy, idleness, covetousness, solitariness, leadership and positions are all
vanity and are sources of man’s struggles. Power, riches, positions, etc., apart from
God’s plan will cause us misery. However, in Christ, you will find peace, security, love,
everlasting life and more beyond what you can think of. Will you come to Christ and be
saved? Now is the time.