Ecclesiastes 9:1-12

TALKING POINTS

All this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hate one does not know. Everything that confronts them is vanity, since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice. As are the good, so are the sinners; those who swear are like those who shun an oath. This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone. Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:1-6
Outline Points:
Does a painful disconnect drain the value out of doing good?
  1. You will despair if you need good behavior to benefit you (v.1-3)
  2. At worst, you’ll excuse yourself to live wildly (v.4-6)
Talking Points:
  • Qohelet seems to describe a person who looks at the "unfairness" of life and decides that doing good isn't worth it. What reasons stack up in this person's mind?
  • How do you respond to "unfairness" in life? How much do you respond to others based on "equity" -- only going as far as the treatment you received?
  • How often do you play self-talk that "excuses" something that's less than best? Less than the God-pleasing?
  • Qohelet describes a person who says it's better to be a "living dog than a dead lion." Can you think of how dogs and lions are portrayed in Scripture? Which represents a good life and which represents a wild or reckless life?
    • How much does this kind of thinking enter your mind on a regular basis? 
    • At worst, you could call this licentiousness, but at best, we could call it "pragmatism." How much does pragmatism or simple enjoyment drive your decision making? When does "pragmatism" cross your values and the values of a Jesus-follower?
Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-12
Outline Points:
Qohelet shifts our attention: Do you live to please God, full stop?
  1. Commit to the good regardless of its benefits (v.7-12)
  2. Please God while enjoying God’s good gifts (v.7)
Talking Points:
  • Qohelet does not give up on life or give us a completely bleak outlook. Instead, he gives us plenty to set our mind on. What does he drive us to consider and do?
    • If your life was only full of the things Qohelet mentions here, how well would you live? Would you enjoy that life?
    • If your life was only full of the luxuries that you have now, and it didn't include any of the things Qohelet mentions here, would you enjoy that life?
  • Have you thought there was a conflict between pleasing God and enjoying the things of this earth? Where did this come from and what's wrong with that kind of thinking?
  • What is wrong with obedience that stops when the benefits run out? (or aren't visible)
Outline Points:

Bottomline: The life pleasing to God can live securely in any circumstance.

A Call Beyond Qohelet: If the claims of Christ are true, how much more meaningful is life now?

Application: What leads you most — values or outcomes?
Talking Points:
  • Why is it that "the life pleasing to God can live securely in any circumstance"?
  • A wise person once said, "A righteous man needs no defense, and a wicked man has none." What kind of security and confidence does this create in a person's life? Do you experience this kind of security and confidence in your life?
  • Knowing that we will be raised after death, this life really does matter. Do you live that way? What do your actions reveal about your actual beliefs? What needs to change?
  • The application question is challenging to us all at home, at work, and everwhere in-between. Measure what leads you most in each of these areas: is it the values of a Jesus-centered disciple or do outcomes outweigh your values?
    • Go further: give a tangible example of when outcomes outweigh your Jesus-centered values. Brainstorm together what you'll do next time that you're in that same position or scenario.
    • Test yourself: give a tangible example of when your Jesus-centered values directed you and you knew the outcomes would hurt you. Discuss together what you learned from that experience and where else you can apply those lessons in your life.
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