Ecclesiastes 4: 1-16

Ecclesiastes 4: 1-16

  1. What is the writer’s first topic in this chapter?
  2. What is the root of all labour and achievement?
  3. How is loneliness addressed by the author?
  4. Why would a political ruler (king) be a great example of one who oppresses to get ahead, strives to have more than others, and ends up alone?
  5. What examples have you seen of people competing against others to build their careers, ultimately alienating the people around them?

The newspapers tell us ‘successful’ people oppress others, never have enough, and are alone.  So often our success depends on crushing the competition – that is oppression.  We destroy the tranquility of having enough by craving more – that is envy.  We end up alone like Scrouge in A Christmas Carol – that is miserable.  Is your success at someone else’s expence?  Loving your neighbour means that you must put that right.  The tranquil life that God wants for you is one where you work in community and share the fruit of your labour.  Do you have that tranquil life?

Going Deeper


  • What is better than being an oppressor or being oppressed (v.3)?
  • What springs from man’s envy and achievement?
  • How many hands bring tranquility (0,1,2)?
  • What does the person who is over-committed to his work ask himself (v. 8)?
  • How is the strength of community contrasted with the weakness of solitary existence (v. 12)?


  • Why is it better not to have lived than to have been involved in oppression?
  • How do you picture someone working with no hands, one hand or both hands?  What is the author trying to say?
  • Leviticus 19: 13, 18 reinforce which ideas in the passage?
  • Read Luke 12: 15-21.  How does it relate?
  • What is a biblical perspective of loving your neighbour according to today’s study?


  • How do people in your home town steal, retain lost property that has been found, defraud?
  • How is power abused, financial and otherwise?
  • Why is it dangerous for people to identify themselves as liberal or conservative, politically left or right when coming to a passage like this?
  • How do politically conservative Christians justify making a profit and consuming goods that have been produced by the oppressed?  How is becoming politically liberal not an answer?
  • How could you use your labour and salary for the benefit of the community?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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