Not Good to Be Alone
Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 4:1-16
Sermon Theme: God did not make us to be alone — His way is better.
- Alone in oppression (vv. 1-3)
- Alone in work (vv. 4-12)
- Alone in leadership (vv. 13-16)
The chapter opens with a depressing glance at the way in which the strong take advantage of the weak. The situation is so bad that Solomon judges the dead happier than the living. Perhaps for that reason Solomon pronounces the one never born the happiest of all. Then he proceeds to see only a selfish motive, getting ahead of one’s neighbors, behind work. This motive can never be satisfied, so it leads to ceaseless work and despair. Thus, Solomon looks at the motivations of the heart and it turns him sour. This leads to a picture of a lonely miser working hard, without companionship and without satisfaction with the income, no matter how high — companionship seems to be the only solace in an uncertain and unsatisfying world. Even the fruits of the king’s labor fail when he falls out of favor with succeeding generations. Such is the fickleness of the populace and the fate of royal power: vanity!
- Can you explain any unjust disadvantages imposed on you?
- Do you believe your problems are any different, greater, or more complex than other people’s problems?
- Are you miserable or unbalanced by the oppressions that Satan has put on you? Are you denying the joy that can be yours in Christ because of the oppressions in your life?
- Are you trying to change your attitude in light of your present circumstance? Changing our attitude will change our life from cynicism to hope when we replace passive self-pity with active courage in Christ.
- Are you allowing rivalry and envy to control your actions (e.g. keeping up with the Jones)? Do you have a restless desire to outclass others? Take note of the wisdom writers describing the destructive influences of envy which “enrages” a man and makes him furious (Proverbs 6:34) and destroys him physically (Proverbs 14:30).
- Are you aiming for contentment with what you have — not laziness or over achieving but having a middle way that has balance and Christ’s peace in everything?
- Are you disillusioned with your striving after the wind? Do you have the vertical view of life (God’s view) or a humanistic horizontal view?
- Is it possible your loneliness is due to your passivity and not reaching out to others? Are you trying to get off your island of loneliness by letting others know your feelings and thoughts? Are you active in your church family? We cannot enjoy life to the fullest in isolation. Even our children need the friendship provided in our church family.
- Are you trying to cultivate companionship one friend at a time? Are you missing the greatest companion — Christ?
- Are you growing with your interdependence on the church family?
- Do you see the folly of self-sufficiency and growing isolation in not assembling with other believers? Are you indifferent, unconcerned about the church family?
- Are you being foolish when you ignore good advice from someone youthful or has a lesser social standing? Elihu (one of Job’s counselors) is the balanced position, giving his elders the first hearing but not regarding them as infallible, since the Spirit of God may give wisdom beyond one’s years (Job 32:4-11).
Solomon failed to cite two other biblical characters who react with a death wish in the light of oppressive enemies, Jonah (Jonah 4:3) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). He fails to mention, though, that in both cases God rebukes them for their attitude (Jonah 4:10-11 and 1 Kings 19:5-9).
There is no doubt about a positive side to jealousy, but only in terms of two relationships: the divine-human relationship (Isaiah 11:13; 26:11; Psalms 69:9; Nahum 1:2) and the marriage relationship (Numbers 5:14; 5:30). These are the only two relationships that allow, indeed require, exclusivity. Jealousy is to be eschewed in all other relationships as a damaging attitude:
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
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