The Evils of Oppression
Verses 1-3 The Power of Wealthy People
We may be rich and powerful, so powerful that we can force other people to obey our commands. It may be that many people are under our charge and work for our own pleasures. But we must never forget that the day is coming when we will lose that power. We will lose it in a twinkling of the eye and it could happen in any moment.
The wealth and power we may have belongs only in this world. Either we go to heaven or hell alike, there the strong will not control the weak. (Job 3:18-19) In both heaven and hell the people there will recognize the power of God and His authority. (Philippians 2:10)
On that day when we lose our wealth and power is the day that God will judge us. We will not be able to pay Him to be kind to us, as His judgments are in righteousness and they are proper. (3:17)
Solomon states that death is better than life in verse 4. After death we will be judged by God and His judgments are right. Far better than the judgments that are placed upon us here in this world. Often the judgments of this world are done in wickedness. (3:16)
In verse three Solomon says that it is better to never have lived. This is Solomon’s way of saying to emphasize the cruelty of this world and its people. The Scriptures speak to this fact. (Isaiah 1:21-26; Micah 3:8-12; James 5:1-6)
Verses 4-6 Jealous and Lazy Attitudes
At first we see no the connection between cruelty, (Verse 1) jealous attitudes, (Verse 4) and lazy behavior. (Verse 5) But as we look in the book of James we can see a connection.
One of the concerns of James is that Christians care too much about money. (James 2:1-7) Great plans were being made to obtain wealth. (James 4:13-16) There quest for wealth was driven by their jealousness of other people. (James 4:1-4)
James saw through them that they were seeking the comfortable life in order to imitate the rich who were lazy and cruel. A lazy person can have an easy life if he is rich and it can be comfortable by the means of cruelty. God will punish anyone who believes like that. (James 5:1-6)
One could say that these people bring about their own punishment. (4:5; James 5:5) “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” Their attitudes of jealousy have taken control of their lives and are so lazy that they will not lift a hand to work. “The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.”
Near the end of an animal’s life the farmer will feed it well. He wants the animal to be very fat when he butchers them. A cruel person can imagine that his life is being lived well but he is only fattening himself for his own punishment. (Ecclesiastes 4:5; James 5:5) These kinds of attitudes can ruin a person’s life by their plans to do cruel and evil things. It is better for one to be poor than to live a life of bad behavior. (4:6)
Verses 7-8 Work that Never Satisfies
In Solomon’s study of the world around him he saw a particular man who had extraordinary behavior. In truth his behavior was no different than that of most people. From this man we can learn a useful lesson about human weakness.
The man thought that he could find satisfaction through his own efforts. So he labored himself constantly. Yet, in all of his work the man never found contentment. This man himself knew that his work was not serving a real purpose. He had no need of money and had no family to support. Still he labored on and was unable to relax.
The problem of this man was that all of his work belonged to this world. Nothing in this world that we can work for can truly satisfy us. This man’s efforts were as weak as all man’s efforts. All men will die and all men’s’ efforts will not satisfy them completely. They may find temporary satisfaction but it will not endure. We can only find satisfaction in God. (John 7:37; Psalm 62:1-2)
The man knew that he would never find satisfaction and he knew that he did not need wealth as he had no family. The man knew that he was using all his time foolishly. A lot of people are like this man. They continue to do the things they know will not bring satisfaction. They continue on thinking that somewhere in this world they will find satisfaction and because of this they will not trust God.
Verses 9-12 Advantages of Love and Friendship
Solomon saw all the evil in the world but found relief in that love still remained. Love over comes all. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7) We have not seen the perfect love of 1 Corinthians 13 and this is the love that the world needs. What Solomon saw was a weaker love, a love that people show towards each other. Worldly love is I’ll help you if you help me or I will love you because of the benefit I will receive.
It is a world where people want to get love more than they want to give love. But even this weaker love can achieve good things. If a man who has companionship falls, then there is one to lift him back up. If a man sleeps with his wife, then they are able to keep each other warm. (1 Kings 1:1-4)
The more cords that are wrapped together the stronger they are. In the same way the relationships of people make them stronger. This is a true fact in relationships, marriages, and business associations.
There is a weight that is too much for the cords and they will break. In the same way too much strain on a relationship will break it and people will disappoint. We can only find perfect love in God and only God will never disappoint us.
Verses 13-16 The Weakness of People’s Support
Solomon has spoken of the goodness of relationships and now he finds the weakness of those relationships. He speaks of a powerful king who ruled for many years but became foolish in his later reign. The king ruled sternly and his advisors warned him but he would not listen. Because he did not recognize his error he became unpopular. As a result the old king lost the support of the people.
There was a young lad from a poor family who had become popular in his kingdom. The people turned and wanted the young lad to rule over them and took him out of the prison. It is easy for us to imagine that a young popular man of wisdom would always have the support of the people who had set him free. In a few years’ time the people became unhappy with their new king. He may have even become as unpopular as the king that he had replaced.
We see that at first the young king was loved by the people but in time their weak love faded and he too was unpopular. The worldly love is a weak love and over time and trial will not last. David was a popular king and he did not depend on his popularity as his support. David declared that God was his support and God alone would sustain him. God would keep David safe. (Psalm 62:1-2)
Nobody could have had more people to support him than that young man had. That support seemed extremely strong. People were willing to fight and even die for him. But really, that support was very weak. It did not last. And perhaps there was no proper reason why the young ruler lost the people’s support.
David was a popular king. But he did not imagine that his rule depended on the support of his people. He declared that God alone kept him safe (Psalm 62:1-2).