These chapters, while not entirely inspiring, seem to be a *little* less hopeless sounding than the first two, don’t you think?
There’s a lot here to think about, but in our limited time, I’d like to focus for just a moment on chapter four.
Halfway through the chapter, Solomon talked about the man who works so hard he has no family, no son or even a brother. And he said that this is a bad and senseless thing. No disagreement there, right?
But then he talks about a better alternative. The next four verses explain that two are better than one, and three are even better. Like Solomon, in my older years I have learned that this is true.
My dad was very much a loner. A “self made man”. He worked literally seven days a week until he got too old to work. In all my childhood years, until I moved out of the house at the age of 21, he probably took no more than a total of a month off work for a very few short vacations. He did pretty well for himself, financially, though never rich. But for a guy who barely finished the eighth grade, he did well.
When I was a boy, he taught me that friends would always let you down, and that it is better to keep people at arm’s length. Don’t let anyone in. Do things on your own. Don’t ask for help. Figure things out yourself. Be your own man.
It wasn’t until many, many years later that I found out just how poor that makes you, even if you have a lot of money. When my dad died, he had no friends at his funeral. No one but my mom, my sister and her three children, my wife, my kids and me to mourn him.
My father-in-law was the exact opposite of my dad. He was giving, warm, caring, loving man. He worked almost until the day he died, not because he was trying to accumulate money, but because he barely made enough to pay the bills. He was an integral part of our church and was there whenever the doors were open. I can’t tell you all the jobs he had at church over the years. Suffice it to say that if he saw something that needed to be done, he did it. Everyone loved and respected Rip Collins. And when he died, there was not an empty seat in the church nor a dry eye in the house. Rip Collins died a rich man. And I have no doubt that when he met Jesus he heard a hearty, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
My father-in-law knew that it is better to be with people than go it alone. There is no virtue in being a self made man if you close out the world in the process.