For What Are You Living?

Death brings an end to our lives. Generations come and go. History books are updated. Our trophies end up in the trash. Our diplomas turn to dust. Our publications go out of print. We must not live for things that have no eternal value. Instead, we must put God at the center of our story, and live for Him, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).      

If someone observed your life for a week, for what would they conclude you are living? Would they observe that you oppress others for power? Would they witness you being envious, foolish, a workaholic, or greedy? Would they say you pursue rugged individualism, or isolate yourself to gain power, position or prestige? The Preacher of Ecclesiastes observes these things in the people around him, and brings them to our attention in order to reveal for what we should be living (Ecc. 4:1-16).

When the Preacher saw “the tears of the oppressed” with “no one to comfort them” he concluded that it would be better for them to be dead than alive, and even better to have never been born (Ecc. 4:1-3). In a broken world oppression is a sad but true reality for many people. But the Lord sees the affliction of His people, hears their cry, and knows their sufferings. He demonstrated this when He delivered the oppressed Israelites out of the land of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). But He most fully demonstrated this when He sent His Son into the world “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). Ironically, our liberty came at the cost of His oppression. But it was through the cross that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). Thankfully, there is coming a day when oppression will be no more. In the new Jerusalem, “God himself will be with [His people] as their God” and “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:3-4). In the meantime, we live in the midst of a fallen world where we will witness oppression. Therefore, the church needs to do everything she can to comfort and help the victims in the name of Jesus Christ.

If power drives the oppressor, then envy drives the workaholic (Ecc. 4:4). But gaining in toil and skill motivated by envy of one’s neighbor gets one nowhere in the end. “Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” and leads to “disorder and every vile practice” (Jas. 3:14-16).

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