Ecclesiastes 2:18 - 3:15


Walking and working in despair or joy.

I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me —and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun?

For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23
Outline Points:
1. What is the perspective that despairs? (2:18-23)
a. I make life valuable by what I create and earn (work/what I do - refer to 2:18ff.)
b. My life is measured by what I own and enjoy (amassing/what I have - refer to 2:21ff.)
c. But my restless days end in death all the same (leaving it/what I lose - refer to 2:22-23)
Talking Points:
  • Why does the Teacher come to "hate" his toil? What is the ultimate end of everything he achieves?
    • What is the ultimate end of everything you achieve? What does this make you feel about what you achieve or produce?
    • What option is there for you other than to "hate" your work or despair at this?
  • The Teacher notices that most working people have frustrations and pains, but also don't find much rest outside of work. We can all guess your frustrations at work, but what creates restlessness in you outside of work? What drives you to need more or to do more?
  • How do you measure the value of your life right now? (And no, no nice cleaned up answers are necessary. Just the honest ones.) 
There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26
Outline Points:
2. What is the perspective that enjoys God and life?
a. God gives wisdom to restore things to their right context
Talking Points:
  • What happens to the Teacher when he accepts the limits and the lot God has given?
  • If you don't expect ultimate significance and satisfaction out of your work or your things, what do you find is true of your work or things?
  • The wisdom to enjoy things in their right perspective comes from God Himself. Spend some time here and now praying about the places you need His perspective and asking Him to share with you wisdom for how to enjoy what's in your life right now.
  • Have you thought about the futility of your sin? Not to heap guilt or condemnation, but to see the futile chase and emptiness that results...what do you want to do about that?
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Outline Points:
2. What is the perspective that enjoys God and life?
b. God gives an appropriate time for everything
Talking Points:
  • This is a famous portion of Ecclesiastes. What stands out to you from these couplets?
  • Which of the times in this list are you least likely to embrace? What is God saying to you about those times or your response to them?
  • Each couplet holds up two "opposing" experiences. If there is a time for each of these experiences, and both come from God, what can change in your response to the circumstances in your life right now?
  • Imagine you are in a time of severe limitation, grief, or pain. What would you be your response to the God who oversees these times?
  • Read Deuteronomy 29:29. How does that passage add to your understanding of the Teacher's point in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11? What does this challenge you to do?
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-15
Outline Points:
2. What is the perspective that enjoys God and life?
c. God gives us all these things for us to enjoy with Him
Talking Points:
  • How do you view enjoying life, eating, or drinking? Is that a Biblical view or does it come from something/somewhere else?
  • What are you afraid of if you embrace the Teacher's view here?
  • What are you learning about God from this passage (or series)? 
  • What is one thing you will find enjoyment in with God as your guide?
  • How will you stand in awe before God this week?
Bottom Line: Stand in awe and accept what God has done and is doing.

Application: Do more than endure this time, enjoy it.
  •  What is one thing you will find enjoyment in with God as your guide?
  • How will you stand in awe before God this week?
  • How would a Band of believers help you not just endure this time but enjoy it?
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