Oppression, Vanity & Community 01 AUGUST 2021 | PRAYER & PRAISE SERVICES | REV GLADWIN LEE

Oppression, Vanity & Community


Rev Gladwin Lee

Scripture Passage: Ecclesiastes 4:1-12 (NIV)



Summary | In Ecclesiastes 4:1-8, the Teacher observes a miserable community comprising of oppressors and oppressed victims, successful workaholics and slackers alike, who have no comforter (v1), for whom nothing is worthwhile (v8) so that it seems better if they were not born. His reflection reveals a wretched community of people without Sabbath-Rest – depressed because their pointless striving gives neither true satisfaction nor comfort.

What causes such misery?
  1. When power is misused. Power can either be used for good or bad. When power is misused, power becomes oppressive. Through poor management, wicked injustice and corruption, power that fails to steward responsibly for the people in its care, results in a frustrated population that suffers from lack of necessary essentials. To the extent that words and actions are used wisely and responsibly, individuals too have power to affect the livelihood and wellbeing of their neighbours.
  2. When a prevailing work culture is self-centred. Work pursued for self-gain never truly satisfies even if they are challenging and well-paying. Self-inflicted toil, unlike pleasurable hard dribbling in a soccer match that ends exactly 90 min after it starts, is costly to the ambition-hungry who unrelentingly plan and strive endlessly until forced retirement or when the body fails. Though it may seem like worldly success to the onlooker, such lonesome toiling is ultimately “chasing after the wind” for the one with whom there is no one to enjoy wealth with. (v4,6,8) Like the self-inflicted toiler, a self-slacker also suffers loss when the lazy folding of his hands, despite the call to meaningful work, leads him to ruin (v5).
What’s the solution to miserable meaninglessness?

Seeing how every misery-afflicted person described here is without a friend, we can infer from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that our God-given church community is actually an important resource for REST, REFLECT AND RENEW - necessary Sabbath-Rest ingredients for purposeful living. Oftentimes we regard community as behind-the-scene (BTS). A Wesley small group is not an ordinary club but a place of opportunity for us as a church to live up to God’s ideals to care well for each other, and look to God in our suffering. In our highly competitive society, what potential does the church have in the community?

Qualities God Wants His Church to Grow
  1. Bring the Best Out of Each Other (v9) – In a community that WORKS WITH YOU, friendship bonds develop to grow dividends as members believe in each other and serve the LORD God as their greatest purpose. Progress is multiplied when members work in tandem with their individual gifts and talents. It is amplified when they purposefully give their best to God their Master. Let us learn to see each other as Jesus graciously does -- ordinary disciples building His church to overcome injustice and promote social holiness. Believe the best in each other to do better, speak honestly, lovingly urge one another to pull our weight and succeed, God’s way.
  2. Treasured Friendship (v10-11) - Like nomads warming each other to survive cold desert nights, a community that WALKS WITH YOU in your struggles can together uplift and listen, offer one another emotional support and comfort against the coldness of this world. For example, parents who bond and rally together to pray for their children’s safety, mental health, and exam preparations, hold each other accountable and offer life-giving friendships.
  3. Sacrificial protection (v 12) – A community that STANDS BESIDE YOU is like a chord of three strands, not easily broken. They can together speak up for the oppressed at work or in school, pray against social injustice, foster love, or speak the truth in toxic conversations. Jesus demonstrated John 15:13 for His church as a community, when on the cross He laid down His life for His friends.

Jesus commands His disciples, “Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no greater purpose in life than being in community to selflessly care for one another.

Who do you have in your life who is lifting you up? Who helps you grow and make your dreams a reality? Who makes you a better disciple of the LORD Jesus? We need not be left outside in the cold, nor fear anymore the likelihood of straying away when walking alone. By joining a small group at smallgroup@wesleymc.org we will intentionally connect with someone in a church family, encourage and be encouraged to be a BTS buddy that sticks and trains together to overcome life’s giants. There are still two-third of our Wesley members who are not yet in a small group, and hence need to be “strangely warmed” in our small groups. As God’s chosen community, let’s offer genuine friendship to one another, live purposefully as God’s people who bring the best out of each other, offer treasured friendship, and protect sacrificially.

(Sermon Notes by Marjorie Tan)


1. Recall scriptures and sayings that have guided you personally on how power can/should be stewarded.

2. Does oppression still exist today? Share examples of modern-day oppression, if any.

3. Recall scriptures and sayings that have guided you personally about work.

4. According to the sermon, how does a good community offer us Sabbath-Rest?

5. What are 1 or 2 practical steps that you may take to be the kind of person mentioned in Eccl 4:9-12?