7Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8one 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. 9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For 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! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 ESV)
A few days ago King Solomon noted that God has a great and wonderful plan for each of our lives. But then he made some observations about life under the sun (on earth) that seem to contradict that. Today he makes another such observation: loneliness.
In man’s perfect state – before the fall – it was not good for him to be alone [Genesis 2:18]. God designed us to be in relationship with each other. He wants us to have friends and family. When sin entered the world it damaged our relationship with God. But it also damaged our interpersonal relationships.
As a result there are those in life who have no other. They are alone. Yet some work too hard (no end to all his toil) and are never satisfied with what they accomplish. They keep trying to find contentment in their own accomplishments but they are looking in the wrong place and can only end up unhappy.
They think they can somehow find contentment in their own efforts but that never happens so they keep at it thinking it will someday work. But it is actually their isolation from others that is depriving them of pleasure.
There is great value in human relationships. Going it alone does not work. An individual who is isolated from others won’t experience the blessings that God has designed to be provided through community. Living and working with others provides productivity, assistance, comfort, and safety
One of these blessings is that two have a good reward for their toil. Two (or more) are more productive than just one. No one can run an entire business by themselves, for example. We need to work with others to accomplish things. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Also, a companion provides assistance in times of trouble. We all go through difficult times – we fall. Sometimes we can’t rely on our own abilities to get out of our predicament and we need someone else’s help. Such assistance is only available if we are in community with others.
Other people also provide comfort. In Solomon’s example he references two people lying together to keep warm. Heat flows from a hotter object to a colder object. The animal kingdom uses this scientific truth all the time. You’ve probably noticed a litter of puppies all cuddled together on a cold morning. This is not just a cute scene. It is a survival mechanism. Heat is transferred from the warmer puppy to the colder and continues to circulate via convection. The human body works the same way. One person, in the cold alone, cannot keep himself warm. But two companions can survive.
Lastly, a friend provides safety. We can watch each other’s backs. When I was in college I belonged to a volunteer group that escorted women to their cars on campus in the dark. Just having a second person alongside made their journey safer. There is strength in numbers.
Likewise we can provide emotional strength to each other. When we face difficulty in life it is good to have someone to talk with, especially if that person has been through the same situation. It is tough to face life’s problems alone. When we have others we are not quickly broken.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.