Summary: Who am I/ Why am I here? What is my purpose? Solomon addresses these questions in chapter 4 as he experiences the troubles, toils, trials and tears of life "under the sun."

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

The Woe Everyone Knows!

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter— On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.¹ Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive.² Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.³

Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.⁴ The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.⁵ Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.⁶ Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:⁷ There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?” This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.⁸

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.⁹ For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.¹⁰ Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?¹¹ Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.¹²

Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.¹³ For he comes out of prison to be king, although he was born poor in his kingdom.¹⁴ I saw all the living who walk under the sun; They were with the second youth who stands in his place.¹⁵ There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king; yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.¹⁶

Introduction – Weird

This may be a far-fetched illustration, but let's give it a try. According to MSNBC, The British Medical Journal recently reported the case of a 76-year-old woman who visited her doctor complaining of stomach problems. When the scans came back, doctors were amazed to see a long object in her stomach. It was a pen! The woman remembered having put a pen in her mouth 25 years ago. She lost her balance, fell, and swallowed the pen. Her doctor at the time didn't believe it, and the x-ray equipment of that day didn't detect it, so nothing was ever done about it. Now here's the remarkable thing. When surgeons removed the pen, it still worked.

Sometimes we feel like we're being swallowed up in troubles, trials, pressures, and problems. Trials produce testings, but from testings come testimonies. We never lose our message. We never run out of ink. by David Jeremiah

Trouble 1-3

In this world there are…

Injustices - oppression

Inequities – discrimination, bias

Indignities - insults

There is wretchedness in life “under the sun”

Even in the best of societies, there are cruelties inflicted upon people. Why? Look in Genesis 3 where Adam willfully sinned against God!

Illustration – Greed

In November 2003, a sale on DVD players at a Florida Wal-Mart created a rush of shoppers that apparently resulted in one woman being trampled.

Patricia VanLester had her eye on a $29 DVD player, but when the siren blared at 6 a.m. announcing the start to the post-Thanksgiving sale, the 41-year-old was knocked to the ground by the frenzy of shoppers. "She got pushed down, and they walked over her like a herd of elephants," said VanLester's sister. "I told them, 'Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the ground!'"

Paramedics arrived and found the victim on top of a DVD player and surrounded by seemingly indifferent shoppers. VanLester was flown to a medical center for treatment.

Wal-Mart officials called to apologize and offered to put a DVD player on hold for VanLester. Spokesperson Karen Burk commented, "We are very disappointed this happened. We want her to come back as a shopper."

Later it was discovered that the injured woman had a history of similar claims. VanLester had collected thousands of dollars from several previous alleged incidents of injury.

"Woman Knocked Over by Trampling Shoppers," (11-29-03); "Trampled Shopper Is Injury Prone," (12-5-03)

Toil 4-8

In this world there is…

Difficulty – years of practice/work 4a

Futility - Jealousy, Envy, Vanity, Selfishness 4b

Reality – Sloth, Little Contentment, Workaholics 5-8

Illustration–Keeping up with the Joneses today!

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