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We are greatly influenced by those things in and around us, much more than we think. It is easy to be living out of balance without even knowing it. Our lives are much like a leaf dropped into a raging river. We are driven by the confluence of our passions and major trends of society.
In the following verses Solomon leads us down a path pointing out on the left and right some major snares people fall into through their lives. A fulfilling life is only attained when we step away from these pitfalls and observe certain key biblical principles. Here are four: A) Balance between work and rest, B) Making time for others, C) Content with your place in life, and D) Humility in the presence of God.
Icebreaker: Describe a leaf falling into a raging river and being driven away. Share how each of us are influenced by different factors in our lives. Ask them to share how a certain desire, social trend, political decision, fear, philosophical thought, etc. influenced their lives for the good or bad.
Many a person run through life so quickly that they never stop and enjoy it. Others think a life without work is best. Notice Solomon's balanced advice.
4:4 And I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. 4:5 The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. 4:6 One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6, NASB).
With the surge of interpersonal relationship problems, people want to go it alone. But we were not made to be or live alone. Solomon's arguments for synergy will help you better value others.
4:7 Then I looked again at vanity under the sun. 4:8 There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, "And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?" This too is vanity and it is a grievous task. 4:9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 4:10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 4:11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 4:12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart..
Do not live for ambition or fame. Instead always seek to learn, grow and make wise choices. Trust God for your position.
4:13 A poor, yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. 4:14 For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 4:15 I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. 4:16 There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind.
People in a modern society are too busy to think much about God unless He can help them further their purposes. Most are agnostics but it is better to be humble and fear God than to carelessly say things before God. After all, God might be listening in!
5:1 Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 5:2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.
5:3 For the dream comes through much effort, and the voice of a fool through many words. 5:4 When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! 5:5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 5:6 Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 5:7 For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.
Solomon given us clear advice on how to avoid the extremes of life. Here are four questions focused on applying them to your life..