IX. The Sermon: Vikings, Pashtun and Solomon – Rev. Kyle McClellan, Senior Minister, Grace Church – The Sermon Passage: Ecclesiastes 4:4-12 – Part 8
Intro. This passage seems random with wise sayings out of order. However, we have spontaneous randomness in our lives as well. This passage is not a random accident but very wise and helpful.
The Big Idea: Living wisely requires that we balance ambition and contentment, live in community and look to Another as our Helper/Comforter/Defender.
I. Balance ambition and contentment (vv. 4-8).
When Solomon says, “then I saw”, he means he has experienced it and seen it. Toil is most often motivated by envy.
He is reminding us we need to have balance in our life. Too much work is not good and also not enough work is not good. Balance is a learned thing though it does come easier to some versus others in various different endeavors. Workaholism is easy in our culture. Balance is a thing we have to fight for and to be intentional about it. Balancing work, family, hobbies takes work.
What happens when your life is all about work? Wendell Barry’s short novel about the young Coulter boys addresses this – when their mom dies, all their dad could do is work.
There will be seasons in life when we have to work different hours and rhythms, but fight for this balance to life.
II. Live in community (v. 9).
We need to notice when Solomon calls something good – he states the goodness of living in community. We are called to salvation as individuals but then placed in a body of community bigger than ourselves.
One of the things that this includes at our church is that we are going to use technology wisely and in a counter cultural way. Technology offers us to be “closer” but does not deliver on that ironically. We choose face to face over texting.
III. Be the kind of helper/comforter/defender that points others to The Helper/Comforter/Defender (vv. 10-12).
This is often a wedding text. What does it mean for two people to sit down and build a home? What does this kind of companionship really look like that Solomon is trying to convey? In an over romantic and warped society, what does this passage mean?
We resonate with this passage. We want that. I want to be helped. I want friends who have my back. We want a spouse to be cherished by. There is an oughness here in this passage. However in our fallen world, the way we want it to be is not the way life turns out.
What do I do when I want that kind of protection and comfort in deep relationship that Solomon is talking about but I can’t get this? Also, what happens when I want to be this kind of a friend but fail miserably at this? What do we do? Where do we go?
-a threefold cord is not quickly broken – is this verse random and a squirl moment?
Our NT reading today came from 2 Cor 1:3-11. Paul uses the word comfort 10 times. Where did Paul find this comfort and companionship? He tells us we get it by being in Christ. In a fallen world this is good. We find it in Jesus Christ.
If we want to be this kind of friend and family leader or spouse, he says in verse 4 that the only way we can give this is if we first receive it directly from Jesus for ourselves.
Jesus had all his closest friends betray him and not be this kind of a friend that Solomon talks about to him. In fact, Jesus had his own father turn his back on his eternal friendship so that we might never be without of this friendship with God.
I would love for my wife or kids to stand up and say that their husband or dad does all these things Solomon talks about perfectly. However, I don’t and we can’t. This imperfection of their husband and dad should hopefully drive them to One who is the perfect husband, lover, friend, father, and companion. So our message should be let’s run to him together!
4 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.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 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.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 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! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken.