Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Are Better Than One



Part 7 of a series on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes

Text: 4:7-12


NOT CREATED TO BE LONERS

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business (vv. 7-8).

Here is a man who so busy working that he has time for nobody else. He doesn’t have time for a wife or a family or friends. He is not satisfied because he’s only working for himself. He has no one with whom to share his wealth. And he never stops to ask himself, "For whom am I toiling?"

Albert Einstein once said, "It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely."

So often we hear people say, "I’m so busy!" People are so busy (like the man in vv. 7-8 and Einstein) that they don’t have time for their spouse, or their children, or their church, or their neighbor.

Instead of competing with our neighbor (v. 4), we should be caring for our neighbor.

We have a built-in desire for friendship:
  • We were made in the image of a relational God. God is three in one (triune): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He did not create us because He was lonely. In eternity past, He enjoyed fellowship within the Godhead. "In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The Greek word for "with" (pros) can be translated "face to face with." It indicates a personal relationship. In Genesis 1:26, we read, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'" (Genesis 1:26). ("Us" could be the first hint of the Trinity in the Bible). Because we have been made in God’s image, we share with God the desire for fellowship. This is one reason why Facebook is so popular right now. People long for interaction with others. We are social beings.
  • God said that living alone is "not good." Genesis 1:31 says, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." But there was one thing about creation that was not good. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (Genesis 2:18). God was above Adam, and creation was below him. But there was no one on his level to be his companion. So God created Eve. (This was a marriage relationship. Of course, many people remain single and have meaningful relationships.)

TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil (v. 9).

We are taught to be individuals. People say, "The only person I can really believe in is myself." But we need others. They need us. Christians enjoy a personal relationship with God, but we also have been brought into a community of fellow believers—the church. And the church is a family.

In verses 10-12, the Preacher gives three illustrations to show why "two are better than one." Each of these illustrations is taken from a danger of travel: (1) the danger of pits used as animal traps (v. 11), (2) the danger of cold nights (v. 12), and (3) the danger of thieves (v. 12).

Three benefits to Christian friendship:
  1. Christian friends can provide help. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (v. 10). Do you remember the LifeCall commercial that popularized the phrase, "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!"? When people, especially members of our church family, fall into trouble and need help, we should be willing to lend a hand. This is what the early church did. "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongs and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need" (Acts 2:44-45).
  2. Christian friends can provide warmth. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? (v. 11). We should be friends who offer warmth—not physical warmth, but the warmth of affection.
  3. Christian friends can provide protection. And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken (v. 12). There is safety in numbers. When walking at night down a street with a bad reputation, it’s best to have at least one other person with you. As believers, we benefit from having people in our lives who can provide protection against discouragement, temptation, and doctrinal error.

BE A FRIEND

In the 2005 film Batman Begins, Police Commissioner Gordon wonders how he can stand against all the crime and corruption in Gotham City? He’s just one man. But then Batman appears out of the darkness and says, "Now we are two!"

You might be thinking, "I wish I had friends like that. I wish there were people in my life who could offer me help, warmth, and protection." But instead of asking, "Who can be my friend?", ask, "To whom can I be a friend?"