Take time to introduce yourselves to one another (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to answer this question:
Over the course of the term, we’re exploring the ancient book of Ecclesiastes. Though Ecclesiastes comes from a very different culture and time to ours, it touches on some of the most profound issues of humanity.
Ask for a volunteer to read Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3 to the group, praying a short prayer that, however much they’ve come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
You might want to warn to your group that today’s session concerns themes of oppression and abuse.
You can download this video to watch offline.
Suggested questions to help your discussion.
The Teacher laments that there is wickedness in the place of justice (3:16). Justice is something many people are calling for within our culture – though there are very different ideas of exactly what justice is. So what is justice, biblically speaking?
According to the Bible, God is utterly just. He is our standard of justice. This means that acting justly means relating to God and other people in the way God calls us to relate to them. Indeed, Jesus described acting and relating rightly to both God and others as the whole summary of the Old Testament law (Mark 12:28-34).
Justice is not merely about ensuring freedom, equality of fairness. It also concerns the actions of individuals, communities and systems towards one another. In every relationship we are involved in – as an individual, a community or a system – we should ask: is this relationship a just one? Does it honour and reflect the character of God?
A biblical vision of justice is a whole way of being that honours our Creator and our fellow creatures.
For more on a biblical view of justice, check out this article by UCCF’s Politics Network Staff Worker, Tom Kendall.
Did the Teacher believe in life after death? Some people read verse 21 and conclude he can’t have been sure about what came after death.
It’s certainly true that, from our vantage point in history and with a complete Bible in our hands, we can see more of God's plan for eternity that the Teacher did. We know with confidence that human fate is not ultimately the same as animals. We know there is a resurrection to come. United to Jesus, those who trust him will be raised to eternal life with him in the new creation.
But whilst the Teacher didn’t have the detail we do, he probably had a deeper belief in the afterlife than some imagine. His question, “Who knows?”, probably carries the sense of, “How few people know!” In other words, the Teacher himself knows that there’s an eternal distinction between the fate of humans and animals beyond death – but the majority of people around him are unaware of it. Indeed, this is part of why they think they are secure in treating other unjustly: there is no judgement to come.
Take some time to reflect personally on the Teacher’s words.
Ask someone to pray for your Impact Group in the light of your discussions.
This video made by the American CU movement (2 minutes) tells of how Christian students there have been talking about racial injustice through creating conversations on campus.
Share prayer requests amongst your group. Include time praying for those you know who have been hurt by injustices done to them. Pray that in word and deed you could show that the living God sees their tears.
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