Yesterday evening, we continued our series through Ecclesiastes. I preached from the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes. In chapter four, Solomon provides an overview of three evil traps that we should all seek to avoid. At least in one section, Solomon’s advice was dark and pessimistic rather than hopeful and rooted in God. In fact, in this chapter we don’t see the name of God mentioned, but we must find our hope and confidence in the sovereign God who rules over the entire world – including these three evils.
The Evil of Oppression
In verses 1-3, Solomon is concerned as he looks at the landscape of humanity and sees the oppressed being abused. Those who possess power often do so on the backs of the weak and through their power – they oppress the weak in order to be made stronger. As we examine this passage, we see words such as evil, oppressed, oppressors, and oppressions. Solomon was a man who possessed great power, but he also had a heart that was committed to the LORD. Therefore, such abuse of power was something that Solomon did not enjoy seeing and it was extremely troublesome to him.
Unfortunately, Solomon’s solution was logical rather than spiritual. It seems that Solomon took his eyes off of God for a brief moment resulting in a pragmatic solution. Certainly we we know that Solomon knew better and even preached better by the words in the previous chapter (see Ecclesiastes 3:17). We may not fall into the trap of oppression, but we may fall into the trap of depression if we fail to see the proper solution. We must learn to have hope as the Psalmist declares in Psalm 146:5-10:
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,  who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;  who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;  the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.  The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.  The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
The Evil of Envy
In verses 4-6, Solomon put the spotlight on the evil trap of envy. Growing up with the privileges that he enjoyed as the son of a king and then becoming the king himself, Solomon knew something about material wealth and possessions. He understood the broken road of envy and where it leads in the end and wanted to sound a warning.
Envy is an ugly and empty idol. It can never be satisfied. Solomon could see the problems with people who were consumed with envy. The idea of working oneself to death for treasure is nothing but vanity! Working hard to get what belongs to his neighbor or to impress his neighbor is a wasted life, and that’s what Solomon could see from his perspective in life. Philip Ryken writes, “Rather than being satisfied with what we have, we always crave something else. Instead of being content, we covet.”  There is nothing wrong with appreciating another man’s good possession, but there is something really evil about craving it for yourself.
The Evil of Self-Dependency
In verses 7-16, Solomon exposes the evil trap of self-dependency. As Solomon could truthfully warn, he exposed two specific areas of self-dependency. One is related to money and the other is related to power, but both are fleeting and temporary.
Being self-dependent in the area of money is a tragedy. Solomon described a man who got up and went to work day after day and never had time for family, friends, or himself. The individual described in this section is so career oriented that he put all of his focus on his money, while neglecting everything and everyone else. Derek Kidner calls this a picture of “the compulsive money-maker.” 
The final example given by Solomon is a self-dependent king. Although he was once young and poor, he was raised up to the highest seat of power in his kingdom. He once understood how to take advice, but as he became an old aged monarch, he forgot how to take advice. He became a lone ruler, a lonely ruler, and a ruler that was no longer needed by the people. Eventually, he was replaced by another youthful king, but he too would one day come to the end of his reign.
The point Solomon was teaching was that we need one another, and not only for advice, but for life in general. A three-fold cord is not easily broken, but how tragic it is when people set out on the journey of life alone. It never ends well.
As we look through the lens of the New Testament, we see that we need the church. We can’t be arrogant and self-dependent. The tragic end of families who think they can do life and mission on their own has littered the landscape along the journey of life with tragedy after tragedy. As we look at life through the hope of Christ, we see a King that will never be forgotten and a sovereign King who will one day return to execute proper justice upon the oppressors and judge those who worship the multiplicity of false gods in this life.
Turn to Christ – He is our sure and certain hope!
- Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 666.
- Derek Kidner, The Message of Ecclesiastes: A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, 1976), 46.