Unfair, Unfair (4:1-3)
Solomon, now an aged king and near the end of his days, returned to a familiar subject in this book. Contemplating the injustices men suffer in life (4:1-3), the king wrote, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter” (4:1).
What a sad commentary on how men oppress and victimize the innocent, and less fortunate. The king observed, the oppressed have nowhere to turn for comfort. In his state of heart and mind, Solomon concluded, an innocent man might be better dead than to suffer the sorrows of oppression (4:2-3).
Four Sinful Attitudes Regarding Wealth (4:4-8)
Moving to another matter, the king considered four sinful attitudes concerning wealth and material possessions. The first was envy. Some people are envious of their neighbor’s wealth and possessions (4:4). While the nature of man is not to envy the labor of another, it is to desire the fruit and success of his work. An envious, jealous spirit is unloving, and violates the command, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).
Laziness is also a sinful attitude when it comes to prosperity. Solomon observed, “The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh” (4:5). The fool in this verse is one who quits work, and is dependent upon others (4:5a). He is a sluggard, and is slothful (Proverbs 19:15; 21:25). The effect of his laziness is that it cannibalizes his future, for he “eateth his own flesh,” and what might have been (4:5b).
The workaholic is the polar opposite of an indolent man, for he labors to fill his hands with wealth, and toils at the sacrifice of himself, his health, and his family (4:6b). Solomon observed, it would be better to have a little (“a handful”), and enjoy peace and “quietness” (4:6b).
The miser is the fourth sinful attitude that was observed by Solomon (4:7-8). Like the rich fool who toils away his life for riches, but is never content (Luke 12:15-21), the miser may find himself rich in goods, but alone. He has money, but no family or friends to bless.
Three Principles for Life, Work and Friendship (4:9-12)
I find three life principles when it comes laboring with others (4:9-12). The first: Working with others is satisfying, and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10).
Solomon writes, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (4:9). Like oxen that are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, we are by nature happier and more satisfied when we work with others (4:9).
The king perceived, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (4:10). Working together builds a bond, discourages selfishness, and provides an opportunity to encourage and minister to others (4:10).
Working with others affords us protection, and encourages perseverance (4:11-12). Solomon wrote: “if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (4:11-12).
Everyone needs to be needed, and “huddling together” affords us comfort and encouragement. Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we are made stronger when we laugh together, cry together, and work together! Should an enemy threaten, or when difficult times come, a sincere friend will keep you from falling or failing (4:12).
Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (4:12b).
You are happiest when you are needed! You are more effective in your work, and less likely to quit when you work with others who are striving for the same goals.
One Can Be a Fool at Any Age (4:13-16)
Contrary to the opinion of some, youth does not own the market when it comes to being a foolish. A child that is poor, but wise, is better than a king corrupted by power, and unwilling to hear or heed correction (4:13).
While the foolish sometimes rise from obscurity (i.e., “prison”), and seize opportunity to wield power, their blunders inevitably bring them low (4:14). Remembering people are fickle by nature, they turn and embrace youth (4:15). Those in whom the public celebrate today, they will “not rejoice in” tomorrow (4:16).
Closing review – 1) There will always be injustices, and you should expect them (4:1-3). 2) Warning: The wealth and success of others may tempt you to be envious, or lazy if you sit idly focusing on what others have that you do not (4:4-8). 3) Remember – You will be happiest when you labor with others (4:9-12). 4) People are fickle, and foolishness will characterize the young and old, and the poor and rich.
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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith