Conservative or Liberal?

I find myself defending my liberal stance among conservatives in North America, and I also find myself defending my conservative stance with liberals.  The truth is that I try hard not to be conservative or liberal – firstly I try to be biblical and truthful.  I find that this does not put me squarely on either side of the political fence.  Iain Provan puts it well when he writes in his commentary on Ecclesiastes 4:1-16:

there is a truly depressing tendency, especially when matters like these [Matters of Ecclesiastes 4] are discussed among Christians in North America, to allow easy dichotomies to arise between allegedly leftist and allegedly rightist points of view on such issues as economic responsibility.  this is only slightly less depressing than a more general tendency for Christians to identify themselves as conservatives or liberals, as if the label Christian were a secondary religious tag hung around the neck of what is essentially a political animal.  christians should have no other primary commitments than to love God and their neighbours and to look after God’s world.

That task of love is far more complex than can ever be captured in a political ideology.  the first question to be asked is not whether an idea is conservative or liberal (so what?) but whether it is orthadox and biblical.  the Bible constantly strikes balances in order to catch the whole truth; political ideologies characteristically simplify and thus distort.  Thus, for example, Qoholet both urges the virtue of hard work (in common with other parts of the Bible, e.g. Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11) and yet draws our attention to the misery of the world and advocates community.  Ideologues on the right have been known to use the first kind of text to justify inactivity in respect of the poor and oppressed, and ideologues on the left have been known to use the second kind of text to urge social reform that does not take individual sinfulness sufficiently seriously.  the Bible presses a more complex world upon us and urges a more sensitive response.  truly loving one’s neighbour (rather than simply being kind and polite) is always a challenge, yet it is the challenge set before us as we pursue life of contentment-in-community, in which we do not “eat, drink, and enjoy” selfishly, but openheartedly.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

   I saw the tears of the oppressed—
   and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
   and they have no comforter.
2 And I declared that the dead,
   who had already died,
are happier than the living,
   who are still alive.
3 But better than both
   is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
   that is done under the sun.

 4And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

 5 Fools fold their hands
   and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
   than two handfuls with toil
   and chasing after the wind.

 7Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

 8 There was a man all alone;
   he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
   yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
   “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
   a miserable business!

 9 Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
   But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
   two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Advancement Is Meaningless

 13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Questions

  1. How is oppression linked with gain?
  2. How is envy associated with gain?
  3. How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?
  4. How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?
  5. Which companies and government agencies oppress people?  How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?

Going Deeper

Watch this video with oppression in mind.  How do you react?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g

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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.
This entry was posted in Daily Devotions. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Conservative or Liberal?

  1. Sandra Tindle says:

    1, Oppression is linked with gain because, while both oppressors and people being oppressed were trying to gain for themselves, they both gained nothing.
    2. Envy is associated with gain because people who are focused on gaining will quickly become envious of people who have what they are trying to gain.
    3. The passage covers both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum by telling that no matter what people do and how they live, we all have the same fate, and all of our work in the end is “meaningless”.
    4. Christians could encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations by explaining to them that they should work hard because that is their lot in life, and that they should be less corrupt, because in the end everyone has the same fate, and they are no better off than the people who gained less by not being so corrupt.
    5. Companies that take advantage of poor people in other countries oppress them because they make them work too much for too little pay, while the companies benefit from the toils of the poor people. I am not sure how companies like Gap and Nike have changed their ways, it seems like they haven’t really done anything to change.
    Video: I agree that charity and good deeds on their own will not solve the bigger issues of poverty and oppression, but at the same time, the only way that these things will ever fully be solved is with the return of Christ and His reign as king. Therefore, in the meantime, it is up to us to do what we can to help the people that we come into contact with, or that we help from a distance. Additionally, doing good things is not our ultimate purpose in life, we are to live and preach the gospel of Christ to everyone. When we do this, we will also be helping people in their suffering and oppression.

  2. Grace Yoo says:

    1. I think that oppression is linked with gain in that both sides of oppression gain nothing. The oppressors have power but they do not gain any real happiness or satisfaction. The ones being oppressed are being oppressed and hurt and therefore do not gain anything as well.

    2. Envy is linked with gain in the way that being an envious person makes you want to gain everything you want.

    3. This passage covers both the liberal and conservative sides of the political spectrum because it says that everything is still meaningless no matter what your beliefs are. Each verse talks about opposites and verse 4 is the main verse that says it does not matter because it is all meaningless.

    4. Christians could encourage the populace to work hard by saying that life is only meaningless without God. Christians should act and imitate Jesus in their lives. There is much about life that God has blessed us with and we will miss out on a lot of the blessings if we do not work hard. Also, we must work hard so that at the end, eternal life will be looked forward to even more.

    5. There are many companies and government agencies that oppress people. I know that most clothing companies have their clothing and products made from sweatshops usually located in China, Thailand, or other Asian countries. There are workers in the sweatshops that work all day but only get paid less than a dollar an hour, which is barely enough for them to survive.

  3. Amy Kringle says:

    1. Both the oppressed and the oppressor are trying to always gain more.
    2. Whatever you are trying to gain, you have envy of the other people who already have that. They try to gain what they have envy of but there is no satisfaction; it is a cycle of gain and envy.
    3. I see the liberal side because it says that 2 will lie down and stay warm, and though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves. It seems to have more of a liberal bent because we are all sharing what we have. I see the conservative side because a man who works for himself still sees in the end that it is meaningless.
    4. I think it is important that people see the effect of when there’s corruption within the companies so that they can know who they

    are hurting and that there actions never are without consequences for themselves or others.
    5. Some companies severely underpay their employees in order to make a greater profit off of the products that they sell. Nike used to have poor working conditions, were paid under minimum wage, adn had some employee abuse. Human rights groups now require that they meet inspection standards so that people are getting a fair wage and good working conditions. From what I read online though, it still sounds like there are battles being fought for fair wages and in some places they still have to work 7 hours a week.

  4. Sokloon Dy (Lizzy) says:

    1. In order to get what you want, you have to step on people . For example,
    the poor stay poor because the rich are constantly taking from them. There is not enough resources for everyone to have everything. So, people are going to suffer when others take to gain.
    2. When one person sees that another has more than himself, his jealousy will drive him to become equal without thinking of the means.
    3. the conservative side believes that you deserve what you work for no matter how much or how little. the liberal side thinks that your work will result in nothing and your gain will be of no true value.
    4. by seeing that they are serving God with their hard work will leave them to an understanding that all that they have does not belong to them, it belongs to God.
    5. companies that take advantage of foreign workers through low pay are very corrupt. companies like gap and nike have began to give to charities and increase their minimum wage for their workers.

  5. spiritandtruth1128 says:

    1. How is oppression linked with gain? One party is always seeking to gain something from the other.
    2. How is envy associated with gain? Envy makes people desire what others have, they will want to gain what the other person has.
    3.How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum? It gives both point of views and it even makes a connection about them working together to become stronger.
    4.How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations? I think that we could encourage people to do the best they can while they work but to remember that if someone is being hurt or if they even question a method used in their work area because it might be leading to corruption then maybe they should take a while to think of the people who might end up being hurt. We could encourage them to try to make a positive change in their work place.
    5.Which companies and government agencies oppress people? How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?There are oil companies that oppress people by taking their land away without giving them any compensation. Something that most people probably don’t think about is the oppression that undocumented people face every day, even if they don’t work for large companies. They have to work extremely hard doing the jobs that nobody else wants to do and they end up making very little money.

  6. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. Oppression is linked with gain because the oppressors are trying to gain by stepping on those under them.
    2. Envy is linked with gain in that when you are envious of someone, you would like to gain something that they have.
    3. It covers both sides because it talks about working hard for yourself and also sharing with others. In the end, though, both are meaningless and lead to the same thing.
    4. They could show them that work is not meaningless if it is done for the glory of God. If we were all working to glorify God, there would be no corruption because we would all have the same purpose and goals.
    5. companies who take advantage of the immigrants coming in and pay them less than minimum wage because they are foreigners or illegals. Gap and Nike have changed by paying their employees more.

  7. 1. both are always lacking something– the oppressed need something, and gaining needs more of something.
    2. similarly, envy is lacking fulfillment… and gaining needs more of something.
    3. it shows that both sides are fair, but in the end, it’s meaningless to side so strongly. God is in control.
    4. that’s a good question– and i think we are all trying to find the answer. we have to learn not to be selfish, and Christians struggle with it as well. if we can set a good example to those who are in large corporations, showing them that it is important to work together as one body, there would be less corruption.
    5. i think there are places all around the world, that can’t be stopped, that oppress people through work. the oppressed in other countries can’t find work that pays more, so they take these jobs where they could get hurt– and only make cents a day doing it. at least certain places (like Nike and Gap) are being more humane.

  8. Jessica Gentry says:

    1.) Oppression is linked with gain as the oppressor is trying to seek gain by means of the oppressed. On the other hand the oppressed are trying to gain more, as in more freedom, more rights, and more respect.
    2.) Envy is associated with gain as it we see other people have gain and we desire it and we desire to be in their position and therefore we envy them.
    3.) The passage covers both liberal and conservative perspectives as it says that either way life is meaningless, whether you work hard, or whether you don’t, in the end all your work will be in vain as we will all share the same fate.
    4.) Chrisitans could encourage hard-working, as it is Scriptural as in Colossians 3:23 when it says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”. At the same time we need to encourage people to be good stewards of even the jobs they have been blessed with and therefore not turning them into a place for corruption or abuse of power.
    5.) Companies and agencies oppress people as they outsource to other 3rd world countries and pay less than they should, and put their workers through poor labor conditions. Places like Nike and the Gap have improved their ways as they have increased pay and now have to meet certain working requirements to make labor less horrific.

  9. trishaindonesia says:

    1. Oppressed and gain are linked together because it yearns for something yet neither earn anything.
    2. When envy gets in the picture you gain a negative attitude and that would keep building and you would keep wanting more.
    3. It covers both sides because if you are on both extremes, your purpose for your hard work is meaningless.
    4. If our purpose for working hard is for the glory of God, it wouldn’t be meaningless and it would be worth our hard effort.
    5. People who do hard labor are taken advantage of and aren’t paid much. A lot of this happen in the Philippines with clothing and food manufacturing companies. Some companies are now starting to be more openminded by making an increase in the pay of their employees.

  10. aaron wright says:

    1. Oppression is linked gain because sometimes we want to gain possessions in the world, but because all the possessions are are meaningless they eventually just oppress us.
    2. When we gain worldly possessions, our human nature wants to have more than those around us. That is when envy sets in because we can’t always have the most.
    3. It covers both sides because it states that no matter what, all is meaningless in light of eternity.
    4. Well, if we have an biblical perspective, we can encourage them to work hard because that is what we would do if we are working to the best of our ability. Also, we can explain that if all is meaningless in the end, we might as well just work hard and not corrupt the system.
    5. Clothing companies get their clothing from sweat shops in other factories that abuse their workers. I’m not really sure what nike and gap have done, but I’d assume they have gone to other lengths to obtain their goods instead of sweat shops?

  11. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1) Opression and gain are linked in the fact that both those who are living their lives to gain all that they can and those who are being oppressed are suffering and unsatisfied in life.
    2) Often envy is what drives us to desire to gain as much as we can.
    3) I think it deals with the conservative view on money when it refers to fools being lazy and “folding their hands” instead of working, but it also says that those who labor diligently at their work – thier toil ends up being meaningless as well.
    4) We could help make improvements in this area by stressing the importance and necessity of all people, reminding others that money is not the most important pursuit in life.
    5) I think companies like Walmart and other stores that have so much of there products made in other countries like China are oppressing to the factory workers overseas as well as to small companies in America. I think companies like Nike and Gap are beginning to have more of there products made in the USA as well as they are treating their employees with more respect.

  12. Kerri Klingsmith says:

    1. How is oppression linked with gain?
    People are being oppressed for someone else’s gain.
    2. How is envy associated with gain?
    People what to gain whatever they are envying. For example, if someone envies a nice car, then they wish to gain it themselves.
    3. How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?
    It advocates both giving to those that do not have it themselves (liberal) and working hard for your own gain (conservative.). It asks the question, if I am working for someone else’s gain, why am I working (conservative).
    4. How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?
    We are told constantly throughout Proverbs to work hard and to beware of being a sloth or a sluggard. Working hard does not mean giving into corruption or oppression. Combating corruption would include standing up for what is right and not being a part of something that puts another person down or harms them.
    5. Which companies and government agencies oppress people? How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?
    There are a lot of companies that oppress people. Hershey’s is one of the largest chocolate producers in the US and as a result, one of the largest contributors to child slavery. In many strict Muslim countries, it is illegal for a Muslim man to visit a brothel but there is a constant supply of illegally trafficked woman flowing into those nations. Gap and Nike became aware of sweat shops they were using and the real conditions that existed and made policy changes within their company to no longer support child or slave labor or the exploitation of their workers.

  13. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    1.How is oppression linked with gain?
    – I think the more power people get, the more they oppress others.

    2.How is envy associated with gain?
    – People envy those who have more than they have.Whether it is power, money, position, people try to gain more and more in order to possess more than others.

    3.How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?
    – For liberal side of the political spectrum, it is obviously written in verse one. it is saying that there are no comforter for the poor, therefore, it speaks for the poor, the oppressed. On the other hands, in verse 8, a man who toils says ‘who am i working for?’ So this man represents those who already have power and money and do not want to give away what they have gained by their own efforts.

    4.How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?
    – We can encourage them by making them realize the importance of working and using time wisely. And we can persuade others by hammering the meaninglessness of worldly values home.

    5.Which companies and government agencies oppress people?
    – I don’t know………. this is not written in chapter 4… I don’t have any American political background sorry….

  14. rebecca Langer says:

    1. Oppression is linked with gain because the oppressed gain by dishonest means. Also, many are oppressed because of the ill gain of others.
    2. Envy and gain are connected because those who envy others will not truly gain joy. If they spend their whole lives searching after possessions, they will not succeed at life.
    3.This passage gives many different perspectives. It speaks from the opppressed and might seem to cater towards health reform, then it also says that fools will ruin themselves.
    4. We can show mercy and emphathize with people and still challenge them to increase in character. We do not have to condone bad organizations. Also, we should recognize taht not all poverty was caused by the person’s own doing.
    5. I am not aware of the direct companies which oppress people right now.

  15. Kristen Patush says:

    1.How is oppression linked with gain?

    The gains of others will effect the oppressed, rather, cause those opressed to sink deeper into oppression.

    2.How is envy associated with gain?

    In one sense, envy can cause a person to strive for gain. Also, envy can bring light to the fact that there is no gain.

    3.How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?

    The passage advocates charity to the oppressed and also working to gain.

    4.How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?

    Continue to lead by example, taking personal responsiblilty to combat these larger oganizations as the Body of Christ.

    5.Which companies and government agencies oppress people? How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?

    Compaines that do not support fair trade opress people. Companies that make chartible donations of insignificant amounts, but still profit from it, this sets up a hypocritical method of charity.

  16. Moon [ED 2203;Mon 6:00pm class] says:

    1.How is oppression linked with gain?
    surviving in the big oppression in the world results gain.

    2. How is envy associated with gain?
    envy effects challenge and challenge effects gain. however gain with envy results envy again, because discontent cannot be solved by discontent.

    3.How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?
    this passage covers both conservative and liberal sides as to urge to labor and also to be aware of misery of the worldly gain

    4.How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?
    encourage the populace to work hard for glorify God’s name. also let their light shine in the midst of corruption in large corporation as working and showing a Christian life.
    5.Which companies and government agencies oppress people? How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?
    many Chinese government agencies still oppress populace to product maximum production in minimum space.
    But nowadays companies change their ways from mass production to hight quality production.

  17. Cassie Clark says:

    1. Those who oppress are only seeking more for themselves: more wealth, more power, etc.
    2. Solomon observes that humans are always fighting one another out of envy for more. They are never satisfied and always seek to be on top of others.
    3. All life is meaningless. However, life lived together holds more value than life lived alone. Political sides tend to divide us.
    4. The Christians within those corporations may possibly have a say in changing how things are run. However, we cannot look just for outcomes. God is more interested in our faitihfulness to what His Word tells us and being examples to those around us.
    5. I don’t know much about Gap and Nike, except that they are working to improve conditions for their workers. Have they truly changed things? Or have they merely covered up the atrocities? I don’t know.

  18. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.How is oppression linked with gain?
    – Oppression makes things work to obtain one’s desirable gain by manipulation and force. furthemore, when the oppression get stonger, it appears to achieve more gains but at some point that the oppression cannot generate gains any longer.
    2.How is envy associated with gain?
    – Gain often stimulates man to have unrighteous desire or emotion and sometimes when it gets worse, it destories man.
    3.How does the passage cover both conservative and liberal sides of the political spectrum?
    – Thesedays, preeminent political idea is competition and being ruthless for one’s success but this passage speaks of the beauty of cooperation unlike the world out there.
    4.How could Christians encourage the populace to work hard and also combat corruption in large corporations?
    – Show them that cooperation brings about peace and gain while combats vanish gains into space.
    5.Which companies and government agencies oppress people? How have companies like Gap and Nike changed their ways?
    – North Korean government. The mega-corporations like Gap and Nike have dominated our lives in consumption. and they are getting more desirable to control people lives to see their successful business.

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