Take time to introduce yourselves to one another (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members:
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 8:1-13 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 can download this video to watch offline.
Suggested questions to help your discussion.
The oath in verse 2 could refer to an oath of loyalty to the king that the wise person swore before God. Alternatively, it might refer to the oath sworn by God himself to the king, commissioning him to lead his people.
Either way, the Teacher sees obeying the authorities as an important part of worship for God’s people. This understanding is reinforced in the New Testament (see, for example, Romans 13:1-7). Our default priority should be to submit to the authorities – though both Old and New Testaments also explain that submitting to God always comes ahead of submitting to any human authority.
The Teacher says that wise people serve wherever they can, obey the authorities whenever they must, and always stand apart from injustice. Tension emerges when it’s not possible to do all three, especially when the authorities are making wrong or foolish decisions. This tension is evident throughout these verses!
At the one extreme, wise people shouldn’t ‘be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence’ (verse 2) – i.e. to simply retreat from involvement. However, there are times when wise people should distance themselves from a government’s bad decisions (verse 3). In these situations, the Teacher seems to commend quiet withdrawal from the king’s court.
Why? The Teacher reasons that, at times like these:
Sometimes reversing the decisions of a government simply isn’t possible – at least for the time being (verses 5-6).
As those living in a democracy, we have more influence on our government than in the days of absolute monarchy that the Teacher describes. But we do need to recognise the limits of our influence. We may not be able to do as much as we would like or hope. Furthermore, changing a culture or society takes time. We must be patient, knowing that at the ‘proper time’ (verses 5-6) things will be put right – even if that time is ultimately when Jesus returns (see verse 13).
We’re not called to be defeatists, but to be wise – picking our battles carefully, using our limited influence to bring about whatever good we can.
Watch the short video that MP Tim Farron recorded for UCCF’s Politics Network last year (3 minutes).
(If anyone in your Impact Group have a passion for politics – whether they’re studying PPE, they’re a member of a political party, or their guilty pleasure is BBC Question Time – be sure to point them towards UCCF’s Politics Network).
Take time to pray together. Alongside personal prayer points, you might like to pray for your SU sabbatical officers, local MPs and other politicians you know. Pray that the way you approach politics would mark you out as those who’ve been impacted by Jesus.
By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies.