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 coming 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 volunteers to read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 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.
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Suggested questions to help your discussion.
Verses 1-2 are a little confusing on first reading (like much of Ecclesiastes!). It sounds like the Teacher is warning us to be wary about approaching God. This would seem to contrast with Jesus’ warm invitation to approach God with all our needs (e.g. Matthew 5:3-6, 11:28-30).
The Teacher is not trying to put off the humble or needy. Instead, the target of his challenge is the kind of person who comes regularly to the temple to worship – but who doesn’t really think they need to learn anything. They already think they have the answers. The Teacher’s instruction ‘go near to listen’ carries the force of both paying attention and obeying (see 1 Samuel 15:22).
Jesus too is equally clear about the evil (and the dangers) of being ‘casual’ with God – see Matthew 7:21, 24-27; 23:16-22.
There were instructions on vows in the Jewish law (see Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 23:21-23). Vows were not commanded, but they were permitted – with the basic principle that, if you made a vow, you should keep it.
Jesus’ teaching confirms this – but adds that they should not really be necessary at all. Vows only exist in the first place because we all have the capacity to be untruthful. If we are truthful in our speech and have the integrity of keeping our word, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ should suffice (see Matthew 5:34-37).
We don’t often make vows today, but the principle remains: let your speech be in line with your actions (and vice versa), or they’ll land you in trouble – none more so than when we lack integrity before God in heaven, who sees all (verse 6).
Ask a group member to read Psalm 19:7-14, which describes an Old Testament believers love for God’s written word.
Ask someone to pray in the light of your discussions for the group.
Students today quickly voice their opinions online.
Pray in groups along these lines. Pray too for any other specific prayer requests that group members have, as well as for those you live amongst.
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