Interpreting and Preaching Ecclesiastes 2 & 3: Two Different Ways to Assign this Topic
Both of these assignments assume that the biblical text of these chapters will be read and examined. Also that the TOW Commentary on Ecclesiastes will be read by all students and whatever other commentaries and biblical resources the teacher chooses to recommend.
The aim of the first exercise is to get students thinking carefully about how to deal hermeneutically with a portion of Scripture that seems to communicate different, perhaps even contradictory, messages about the meaning of work.
The aim of the second exercise is to get students to explore how the different messages about the meaning of work in Ecclesiastes 2 might help people with very different experiences of work make sense of their working lives.
- Class Debate
The whole class is divided into two teams, one arguing that work is meaningful and the other arguing that work is futile. The case for each side has to be built solely around their reading and interpretation of Ecclesiastes 2 and 3. Everyone is to be involved in examining Ecclesiastes 2 and 3 to see how their case might be argued. Each side appoints 2 speakers to argue their case, with speakers from each side taking turns for a maximum of 5 minutes each. Then after a 10-minute recess for each team to reflect on what has been said and to consider their response, a third speaker from each side is given the chance to offer reinforcement or rebuttals of what the other speakers have said. After the last speaker, class members vote to decide which team offered the most convincing case.
- Write a Sermon
This exercise could be done by all class members following the previous “Class Debate” exercise, or as a stand-alone assignment. Here are the instructions:
Your text is Ecclesiastes 2. Your sermon is to be only 15 minutes long. You must try to make it helpful for those who love their work, those who struggle with their work and those who don’t have paid jobs. Before you finish preparing this sermon, you must talk with at least one representative from each of these categories and ask for their personal answer to the question in the title “Do you think work is meaningful or futile?” Try to incorporate or at least acknowledge their observations into your sermon in an appropriate way. Assume that they are listening to you preach.
It is assumed that you will have read the biblical text of Ecclesiastes 2 and 3, the TOW Commentary on Ecclesiastes and whatever other commentaries and biblical resources your teacher chooses to recommend.
Additional Resources to Get Students Thinking
- Larisa Levicheva, professor of Biblical Studies and of Languages at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, speaks in a short video on “Work with Contentment: Lessons from Ecclesiastes”
- Jeff Haanen of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work explains his conclusions about the contrasting perspectives in Ecclesiastes
- Austin Burkhart offers his perspective on “The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes: Choose to Find Satisfaction in Your Work”