Better Off Dead

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 4:1–6 (ESV)
1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.
3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in a world where the powerful oppress the weak. The powerful exploit and take advantage of everyone they can. This results in pain and sorrow for the oppressed. It leads to tears, but there is no one to comfort those who grieve. Things are so bad for the oppressed, death would be better. In fact, it would be better still if they had never been born at all.

This passage is especially dark. We must remember that Solomon is making his remarks based on a naturalistic view of life. He is saying that if what we observe is all there is, it would be better to have never been born at all. Without something more, without God, there is no fulfilling purpose to life. Nothing lasts and there is great injustice, pain, and suffering in life. For life to have meaning there must be something greater. Jesus assures us that there is. He came into the world preaching about the kingdom of God and then rose from the grave to prove that he was who he said he was. Turn to Jesus and he will be the one who comforts you.

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