Study Guide

Ecclesiastes Suffering

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Life, says Ecclesiastes, is "an unhappy business," a "sore travail" that God has given to human beings to keep them occupied until they die. It's full of oppression—the wrong people keep getting into power, and keeping lording it over everyone else at their expense. Old age is full of suffering, as the body shuts down in preparation for death. People who weep, because they're injured or sick or have been wronged in some way, can't find anyone to wipe away their tears. So, the poor have it really bad—but the rich have it bad too, because their riches keep demanding their attention. They don't get any rest. Like the Notorious B.I.G. once said, "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems."

Questions About Suffering

  1. How does Ecclesiastes's argument that life is a "sore travail" line up with the rest of the Bible?
  2. Is Ecclesiastes in agreement with Job on the problem of suffering? Does Job give more of a reason for why suffering happens?
  3. Is there any sure way to avoid suffering? Can wisdom help you avoid it—even if it's said to increase sorrow and grief?
  4. Ecclesiastes thinks that the tendency of people to try to "one up" each other causes a lot of suffering. How does he think we should live instead of "one upping" each other?

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