Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 ESV)
The recent release of the book and film series ’13 Reasons Why’ has led to concern over the glamorizing of suicide. Many who make the choice to take their own lives feel hopeless and can see no way out.
The world is an oppressive place, filled with the misery of the many who suffer under the rule of the few. If one has power, wealth and influence, they can carve out a comfortable existence for themselves—yet usually on the backs of the ‘least of these’. The downtrodden have no advocate against the powerful and corrupt (see Eccl 3:16) while all power is on the side of the cruel and the oppressors. Who wants to live in such a world!? The author figures that it is the dead who are the ‘fortunate ones’, because they no longer suffer under such injustice and oppression. But more fortunate still, so the author presumes are those not yet born, for they have not known the misery and sadness of such a life.
We who live in the developed West live a fairly good life. We see injustice and oppression of the weak by the strong, yet for all this we have it very easy. We in no way face the hardness of the world as millions know it and have known it. In the developing world the corruption and oppression is more pronounced, more visible and tangible. Let Christians in the developed West take heed of two very important things. First, we have no idea what oppression and persecution is. We may feel slighted and perceive a growing marginalization, but we shouldn’t be so quick to cry martyr. Second, practically all of us will go to bed warm and fed and comfortable tonight. We are not faced with lack or forced to do without. The underdeveloped world, in which a majority of our brothers and sisters live, will face true hardship.
Yet for all who feel in some way ‘under the heel’, might we at some point wonder of death is not preferable to such a life. Are the dead truly ‘better off’? Are those not born more fortunate?
The Christian emphatically says ‘NO!’ Life is a blessing and a gift from God, and we recognize death as the Great Enemy (see 1 Cor 15:26). As Christians we know that there is hope; that the evil of the world is not all powerful. We see oppression and evil as symptoms of the great sickness of sin which infects the entire world. We also see these as opportunity to bring the grace of the Gospel, the hope of Jesus Christ, to those who suffer in the world. Christ knew oppression, privation, homelessness, abandonment and injustice. He is the model for how to live under tyranny with hope and grace.
May you find hope in Him.