Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ecclesiastes 4-5: Two Are Better Than One

I love being married.  Obviously no one is perfect, but Duane's pretty awesome.  And we're good together.  After 32 years of marriage, we've learned to trust each other.  We've become a team and learned to depend on each other.  Duane is good at things I don't do well, and I'm good at things he doesn't do well.  

Solomon spends a lot of time describing meaningless situations in the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes, and in chapter 4, he says he saw a man who was all alone.  The man didn't have any sons or brothers.  I want to add that apparently he didn't have a wife or good friends either, but that's totally my addition.  

So essentially, he had nothing to do except work and he earned a lot of money.  Of course, no matter how much earned, it really wasn't enough.  And he wasn't happy because he was all alone.  His life was meaningless.

So Solomon writes:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  
Duane and I used to have a plaque with a portion of this passage inscribed on it.  Someone made it for us and gave it to us as a wedding gift.  Solomon wasn't talking about marriage in this passage, of course, but it applies.  When I'm down, Duane comforts me, and when Duane is struggling, I comfort him.  When I fear failure, Duane encourages me, and when he's uncertain about trying something new, he knows I believe in him.  We're better together than we are apart.

This passage isn't about marriage.  Solomon never says anything about women in this section.  And God does not exclude single men and women from lives of significance.

This passage is about living in community.  It's about making a difference when we join together with other people, focused on the same purpose.  We take care of each other.  We defend each other.   A group of three isn't easily broken.

And yet, it's not always that easy.  That's why Paul writes,
"If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others."  (Philippians 2:1-4)
If we want to live lives of significance, full of meaning, we need other people.  Just as Duane and I are better together, just as he can do things I can't do, and visa versa, we have other people in our life that can do things neither one of us can do.  Together, as one body, we can do things that we can't do alone.

And so we need to take care of each other.  Forgive each other.  Love each other.  We need to humble ourselves and treat each other as better than ourselves.  Even Jesus humbled himself to the point of dying for our sin.

Yes, two are better than one, and a cord of three strands isn't easily broken.  I love Duane, and I guard my relationship with him.  But that relationship alone isn't enough.  I have learned, and I am still learning, that I need other people.  I need to guard those relationships like I guard my relationship with Duane, and I need to make opportunities to develop and strengthen those relationships.

I'm not okay with "meaningless."  

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