In the last post, the preacher spoke of the absurdity of one who pursues wealth for no other reason than to possess wealth. Having no beneficiary, he simply works hard in order to have more. The preacher then pushes pause and reflects on the value of meaningful relationships in life. Here’s what he recorded:
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)
If you’re familiar with this text it’s probably because someone has referenced it in the context of marriage and family. I don’t think that understanding will get anyone labeled as a modern day heretic, but Qoheleth is not speaking of marriage in this text. He’s simply pointing to the necessity of meaningful relationships and how their value cannot be overlooked. He points to four advantages that come to one who prioritizes people over possessions.
- In business pursuits, two can help each other multiply their success because they are able to support and strengthen move toward greater accomplishments than one can achieve alone. When I was in high school, I worked for a farmer who had this kind of relationship with a neighboring farmer. By working together, they eliminated the duplication of equipment and multiplied their labor. It was resourceful behavior, and it helped them each earn more than if they would have worked independently. This principle was true then and continues to be true today. John Maxwell was the first I heard define the word “team” as “Together, Everyone Achieves More.”
- In times of trouble, a friend is important to help you get back on your feet. Everyone faces trouble in life. Whether your fall is literal or metaphorical, its important to have someone who can come to your aid and help you get back on your feet. To suffer alone is to suffer twice.
- Everyone needs encouragement. In ancient times, travelers who stopped for the night didn’t always have the luxury of pop up tents or fire pits. They would stop and sleep beneath the stars, and the desert nighttime air could become cold. So they would lie next to each other to take advantage of each other’s body heat. Qoheleth is not making a sexual allusion, but is rather reporting on the common practice of the day. Obviously, the presence of another during the night could serve as encouragement through those long, dark hours between sunset and daybreak.
- Everyone needs strength, and there is strength in numbers. A second or even a third person serve as deterrents to attacks from dangerous people or dangerous animals. To be alone is to be easily surrounded, but when someone has your back you can withstand and even prevail against attacks.
Qoheleth is not condemning wealth. He certainly had plenty of it and doesn’t appear to be too ready to just give it all away. But he’s pointing to the fact that wealth is not all there is to life. It takes more than money to be content. The challenges we face in life reveal two things. They reveal something about who we are. But they also reveal who is truly with us, through thick and thin, with a loyal love that exceeds toting casseroles. Today, let’s be grateful for the relationships that truly add value to our lives.