Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5

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Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with our Scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 4-5. This Bible study will focus only on Ecclesiastes 4.

Ecclesiastes 4


Unfair, Unfair (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)

Now an aged king and near the end of his days, Solomon returned to a familiar subject in this book. Contemplating the injustices that 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. Solomon concluded that an innocent man might be better off dead than to suffer the sorrows of oppression (4:2-3).

Four Sinful Attitudes Regarding Wealth (Ecclesiastes 4:4-8)

Moving to another matter, Solomon considered four sinful attitudes regarding wealth and material possessions.

The first sinful attitude toward wealth was envy. In this, Solomon observed how some are envious of their neighbor’s wealth and possessions (4:4). The nature of man is not to envy the labor of another; however, it is to desire the fruit and success that comes with another’s work. Of course, an envious, jealous spirit violates both the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17), and the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Laziness is also a sinful attitude when it comes to wealth and 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 third attitude cited by Solomon and is the polar opposite of an indolent man. The overachiever 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 fourth attitude toward wealth observed by Solomon was the miser (4:7-8). Like the rich fool who toils away for riches and 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 Rewards for Working Together (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Consider three life principles that prove the value of co-laboring with others in life and work. The first:

Principle 1Working with others is satisfying and more rewarding than working alone (Ecclesiastes 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 explained, 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 and discourages selfishness, and provides an opportunity to encourage and help others (4:10).

Principle 2Working with others protects us and encourages perseverance (Ecclesiastes 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” provides comfort and encouragement. Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we are made stronger when we laugh, cry, and work together!  Should an enemy threaten or when difficult times come, a sincere friend will keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

Principle 3Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (Ecclesiastes 4:12b). In the beginning, God created everything perfect and good (Genesis 1-2), with one exception: After He created Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:19).

Friend, you are happiest when you are needed!  You are also more effective in your work and less likely to quit when you work with others and strive for the same goals.

One Can Be a Fool at Any Age (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16)

Contrary to the opinion of some, youth has not cornered the market when it comes to being foolish. A child who is poor but has wisdom is better than a king who is corrupted by power and unwilling to hear or heed correction (4:13).

While the foolish sometimes rise from obscurity (i.e., “out of prison”) and seize the opportunity to wield power, their blunders inevitably bring them low (4:14). Yet, when Solomon observed “all the living,” and concluded that people are fickle by nature. The public applauds and promotes a leader one day, only to turn the next and embrace another (i.e., “the second child that shall stand up in his stead,” 5:15).

Closing thoughts

I hope you are appreciating the wisdom of Solomon and the insights he had into human nature. Although he penned Ecclesiastes 3,000 years ago, the nature of man is unchanged. One generation may celebrate a leader only to have the monuments to his success destroyed by others who “come after” (4:16). Let’s close by reviewing the rewards that should encourage us to work together and minister to others.

Principle 1 – Working with others is satisfying and more rewarding than working alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Principle 2 – Working with others protects us and encourages perseverance (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

Principle 3 – Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (Ecclesiastes 4:12b).

If you are lonely and unhappy, it is probably because you fail to appreciate how much you need others.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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