Ecclesiastes 4:1-3: Meaning in Life

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes adds to his remarks in Chapter 3 in Chapter 4. He had remarked that he saw no meaning in the fact that in justice and judgment there was evil, and that there was no difference between the righteous and unrighteous in death. The preacher continues on this theme, thinking that power is in the hands of oppressors and that there is no advocate for the oppressed. He reckons it is better to be dead than alive, and even better yet is the one who had never been born – that is the one who has never seen the evil in the world, even where there should be justice and judgment. The words are a harsh sentiment, but the Preacher is not necessarily speaking of things in light of the fully revealed Christ. The Preacher when he made these remarks apparently had not concluded the fact that it was best for man to fear the Lord.

The relationship between life and death is more realized in the New Testament in light of resurrection. The hope offered by resurrection gave Paul a completely different attitude towards life and death. He says first that to live is Christ and to dies is gain (Philippians 1:21). In saying this, Paul says that there is joy in serving the Lord even though he faces suffering, and to die is gain because one gets to do the second thing: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what is hoped for and confident of things not seen – that is being certain of some future promised that has not yet been received. Knowing that Jesus died and rose from the dead conquers death is the basis of the hope for the Christian and that even though one day, he or she may still yet live.

Christians therefore need not be pessimistic in life or in death as the Preacher was. Saying that it is better to be dead than alive or better to have never been born because of evil is not the mark of a Christian, rather saying it is best to be a child of God because of the hope  offered by God to all those that believe. The job of the Christian is not to mope over the apparent injustice in life, rather the job of the Christian to proclaim the life that is offered in Jesus and how sin is judgment are reconciled in the Cross. The heart of the Christian can know and believe in the hope, knowing that to live is Christ having his joy and to die is to be with the Lord.

Lord, you are what gives meaning to life!

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