Oppression Cries The Preacher
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living,who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 NIV)
Dealing with Oppression Today
The words of the preacher still apply even in our modern times. Despite all the sophistication and modernization in the world today, nothing has changed. Regardless of nationality, gender, or socio-economical status; oppression has no boundaries. Why do people strive to oppress one another and is there a cure for it?
In his observations, the preacher learned the reason for all oppression. I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV) Oppression is the result of competition between people.
Wanting to be on Top
Those who have more, whether it be in wealth or prestige, strive to put down their neighbors who have less. They do this because they fear that if their neighbor succeeds, they will eventually become far greater than they are. The pride of the powerful would not allow such a thing to happen, they must be the only one who could succeed.
Likewise, those who strive to be successful are willing to go to great lengths to be where the ones in power are. They are even willing to oppress those who are their equals in order to get ahead. Their envy of wanting to be on top causes them to destroy every relationship in their path.
Sorrow All Around
You would think, after doing all that work out of pride and envy, that the oppressor would be satisfied at last. Oddly enough, at the end of the day, both the oppressor and the oppressed shed tears of sorrow. The oppressed cries out, naturally, due to the pain of being put down by those in power. The oppressor laments, because he fears of losing what he has.
Futility of Accumulating Wealth
The preacher describes the one who has accumulated great wealth through their oppression. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. (Ecclesiastes 4:8 NIV) The labor of the oppressor is consumed with fulfilling his own needs and keeping the fruit of his labor for himself. Such a venture is futile, because when he dies, he will be unable to take it all with him. Therefore, all his ruthless acts for getting ahead or bringing people down are all in vain.
The Cure for Oppression
Now that we know why oppression exists, what is the cure? The answer lies in one word: generosity. We ought work for a reason other than ourselves. Our purpose to work should be to be generous and share the fruits of our labor.
Oppression Versus Generosity
The root of oppression is selfishness, and the fruit that is grown from it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the one who eats it. Nothing good comes from oppressing others, it destroys a person both socially and spiritually, so that in the end, the oppressor dies alone and with nothing to show for his life. Generosity, on the other hand, gives life and pleasure to the one who practices it; as the Bible tells us, it is better to give than to receive.
The Spark of Generosity
So how do we end oppression in the world. The answer lies within us. Instead of accumulating the wealth we earn from our labor, let us instead be generous and give to those who are lacking. When we do this, it will produce a wildfire of change; all it takes is a single spark.