Remember…this is Solomon, the words of the Preacher it says in chapter 1:1…the wisest man that ever lived…if you have forgot our lessons on chapters 1-3 you can go to our website and listen to them again…I know you will. So I know you all marked Chapter 4 in your Bibles last week so go ahead and open up to Ecclesiastes 4.
God is not mentioned in this Chapter…but hopefully we will see the gospel at the end of it.
I love watching documentaries on the History Channel and Netflix. My kids not so much but I love them. My favorite ones to watch are the WWII ones. The documentaries on Hitler intrigue me. I start watching them and I get into a zone. Watching the episodes on the Holocaust just breaks my heart. Darcy and I have been to the Holocaust museum in D.C. a few times and we have been to the Holocaust Museum in Israel. IF you haven’t been to one of those you have to go. When you stand in a box car it hits you that you are standing in a car where some of these people actually stood on their way to their death. Its horrible, its heartbreaking.
Watching these documentaries and standing in this box-car, walking through these museums you sometimes think what Solomon says here… “it would have been better for them to die before they ever got into this box-car” or “It would have been better if they were never born”.
VERSE 1-3: OPPRESSION
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.
Oppression: to act violently towards; to defraud; to extort; to be proud and insolent toward; to wrong; to exploit; to abuse.
What could possibly increase the pain of oppression? Isolation. To be alone as you go through it.
It is easy to see the oppression of the Jews in the Holocaust. But as the church we have to open our eyes to the oppressed around us. Do we see the hungry? Are we welcoming to the stranger? Are we clothing the poor? Are we fighting for justice when it comes to sex-trafficing and abortion? Are we fighting for the orphans?
This is what the church should stand for…justice. To fight for the oppressed!
Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew25
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Verses 4-6: ENVY
Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
As soon as you take God out of the picture (which God is not in this chapter…not one time is God mentioned in this chapter) there is no “loving your neighbor as yourself” business going on. The only business going on UNDER THE SUN is stepping on the necks of others to get ahead.
Once you take your eyes off of Christ you no longer love your neighbor...
you love your neighbors stuff and you think he shouldn’t “have that”...
VERSE 4: Envy — its jealousy. If your heart is not set on Christ the work you are doing is rooted in jealosy…a greedy and prideful longing for something that belongs to someone else…and this could be an INTANGIBLE thing…you are envious, jealous of some skill they have.
Instead of “rejoicing in his work” like it says in 3:22…instead of being content and working for the Glory of God we work because we are envious of our neighbor.
God says, look out for others, look out for those who are oppressed…The WORLD says, “look out for NUMBER ONE”!
Well we don’t want to be like that do we? If working hard is JUST ROOTED in envy and jealousy of our neighbor then LETS JUST NOT WORK AT ALL...
NOPE…thats not the answer…LOOK AT VERSE 5
The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
Not working at all is not the answer…not working is a horrible slow death.
The answer to verse 4 is verse 6:
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
Two handfuls of what? Two handfuls of STUFF!
When our focus us on STUFF and not on Christ and what He has called us to be in this world…When we are more concerned with STUFF than fighting for the oppressed we work and work and work and work trying to get more and more and more....and its so tiresome…you get worn out.
What’s better? To have one handful of quietness.
One hand, is working…the other hand is reaching out…loving his neighbor as himself.
One hand is working…the other hand is holding his neighbors, fighting for justice, reaching out to the oppressed.
OPPRESSION…ENVY…AND NOW ISOLATION…ALL UNDER THE SUN WITH NO GOD...
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.
All alone and he is still working his fingers to the bone. Have you ever known someone who just works like a dog and they never realize that all the money they make will NOT make them happy. This guy has worked so hard but he doesn’t have any family and no true friends. He is miserable but guess what he does....HE KEEPS ON WORKING trying to make as much money as he can. FOR WHAT? Vanity…meaninglessness.
Look at Mark 10
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Christians, don’t be a workaholic, don’t be greedy and selfish.
Here is why: Because when your eyes are not fixed on Christ your work becomes meaningless. When your eyes are not fixed on Christ you become discontent, angry, fed up and you don’t know why. Go to work for the Glory of God… Go to Work with one hand on the plow and the other with quietness…always looking for the oppressed.
When you go to work…go to work with one hand and the other out to encourage those around you because I promise many of those around you are hurting in some way. Work for the Glory of God.
And now Solomon gives us some GOOD NEWS…Companionship
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 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! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Companionship is the thing we all need to go through difficulties isn’t it? And if two is good how much better is THREE? How much better is 5?
This is what the church should be to all of us! Companionship. Doing life together…being there for one another.
Do you have someone you can share things with? Do you have someone you can talk to about what you are dealing with in your life right now? Is there someone there for you to encourage you…DONT ACT LIKE YOU DON’T NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED…LIFE IS A BEAST UNDER THE SUN…We all need someone and this is why fellowship matters...
REMEMBER…FELLOWS ON A SHIP! EMBRACE THE CHURCH…lets fight for one another…lets encourage one another…BUT LETS ALSO FIGHT FOR THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED AND CANT FIGHT FOR THEMSELVES.
VS 1-3…ZERO IS BETTER THAN ONE
VS. 4-6…ONE (HANDFUL) IS BETTER THAN TWO
VS. 7-12…TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE
And here is another REMINDER:
Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
You can work your fingers to the bone…you can work and never look up…you can work yourself all the way to the most powerful position that you can think of and guess what....
IN THE END…NO ONE IS GOING TO REMEMBER YOU. NO ONE IS GOING TO CARE AFTER YOU ARE GONE.
This world is passing away…DON’T invest in the things of this world but invest in things eternal. Invest in someones life…invest in things that gives God Glory.
Contentment in what God has given you and living life in community is the answer to envy and isolation.
Christ was oppressed by the authorities…by those who had “power”.
Christ was isolated far more than anyone on this earth ever has been or will be on our behalf.
His people, Israel, rejected Him
His disciples left him
The Father turned his head from him and forsook him
He went to Hell for us and there is no more isolation than that....
And why? HE DID IT SO WE COULD BE BROUGHT BACK TO HIM…to be in COMMUNITY WITH HIM.