“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” – [Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 King James Version]
“Next, I turned to look at all the acts of oppression that make people suffer under the sun. Look at the tears of those who suffer! No one can comfort them. Their oppressors have all the power. No one can comfort those who suffer. I congratulate the dead, who have already died, rather than the living, who still have to carry on. But the person who hasn’t been born yet is better off than both of them. He hasn’t seen the evil that is done under the sun.” – [Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 GOD’S WORD Translation]
When I was a senior in high school, I was sitting on the bleachers in the gym one day reading my Bible. I remember that I had an old 1917 Scofield Reference Bible, King James Version, and I determined that I was going to read through the book of Ecclesiastes. I read the first three chapters, but as I begin to read the fourth chapter, I stopped right after verse three and I had to absorb exactly what Solomon was talking about. For roughly three years now I’ve had Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 rolling around in the back of my mind and whenever I read it I go back to that moment where I was sitting on the bleachers in the gym at Dover High School and my mind was going over the subject of oppression.
I was a nerd in school and as a result, I didn’t fit in with very well. I mainly stayed to myself and was often picked on. I thought I knew what oppression was. I had no idea what oppression was until I did a word study on ‘oppression’ and found out that this word in the Hebrew implies tyranny by a ruling authority such as a master mistreating a slave, but this isn’t ordinary mistreatment, this is mistreatment by deception. The same root word is used in verses where the words, “deceived” (Leviticus 6:2, KJV), “robbery” (Leviticus 6:4, ESV), and “wrong” (Psalm 105:14, KJV) are also used. What I was going through as a social outcast in high school was kid stuff compared to what Solomon was describing in Ecclesiastes 4.
When we look at the subject of oppression we find that God has a lot to say about oppression and about those oppress other people particularly widows and orphans. One of the first commandments concerning widows and orphans is found in Exodus.
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”– [Exodus 22:22-24 ESV]
God is very plain about what the punishment for the mistreatment of widows and orphans is. From in-depth study of widows and orphans, I think it’s safe to say that He holds them very dear to His heart. This isn’t just an old testament command either. Let’s look at what God has to say through James.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – [James 1:27 ESV]
In the Church, we’ve created this mantra that has infected infected Christian culture in almost the worst way possible. “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Does that sound familiar? Anytime I hear someone say that it’s like a cat’s claws running slowly down a chalkboard. It has to be one of the most ignorant and theologically inaccurate things I hear on a weekly basis from various cheesy Christian bloggers that still think it’s so cool to say that. The fact is that pure religion has been defined for us in this passage and it would do us well to realize that and apply it to our lives. No, Christ does not merit us on our good religion, but rather, our good religion stems from the relationship that we have with Christ. The Bible is clear. Injustice and oppression against people, especially widows and orphans, will be recompensed either in this life or the next. One day God will right the wrongs of our society and we will live in peace and harmony the way we were meant to.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” – [Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV]