Observation #1: “Then I observed all the work and ambition motivated by envy. What a waste! Smoke. And spitting into the wind…” (Eccles 4:4, The Message)
Observation #2: “I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more…” (Eccles 4:7, The Message)
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. (Eccles 4:9-12, The Message)
Observation #1: Envy creates loneliness: Social media pushes my buttons! If there is a digital disease called, “Social Media Depression”, then I have it. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram show me a global population of happy perfection. I don’t get it! If everything is wonderfully perfect, why are Prozac, Valium and anti-depressants prescribed like multi-vitamins. My envy creates barriers to friendships. These barricades sow loneliness.
Observation #2: Selfishness creates loneliness. My selfish strife isolates me from others! Self-centered striving is “a wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness.” (Eccles 4:4) Unchecked, my warped, insatiable, unbalanced, self-centered ambition alienates me. In Chapter 5, Solomon writes, “The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, nor the one who loves wealth with big profits. More smoke.” (Eccles 5:10, The Message). Insatiable selfishness is a ravenous appetite sowing loneliness. It destroys relationships and undermines happiness. Beware of a self-serving appetite for things; not people.
Conclusion: Nurture Relationships. Charles Spurgeon reminds us, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Likewise, Solomon concludes, “A three-stranded rope is not easily snapped ... It’s better to have a partner than go it alone … Share the work, share the wealth … And if one falls down, the other helps … Two in a bed warm each other … With a friend you can face the worst.
I get it … but how do guys make relationship happen? Is self-less-ness the solution? Give in? “Don’t worry, be happy? Where do I find balance? Christlikeness restores balance! CS Lewis, writer and Christian philosopher, observes that man’s selfishness prevails because his self-interest is too weak! In his sermon, The Weight of Glory, Lewis wrote,
“Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink, sex, and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
At the dawn of creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Having a Christlike self-interest means balancing admiration, effort and relationship. Men with a Christlike character (1) recognize and (2) balance values. Self-interest reminds us of the critical importance of Godly relationships.
In 1999, Michael W Smith recorded “I Will be Your Friend” (https://youtu.be/91wvQIbYcoo). His song ends with these final verses:
Sure as the river runs to the
High as the mountain that reaches
You were there by my side till the end
(And) helped me on my feet again
So in the valley walk on
Don’t have to face it alone
Cause in the hard times
We keep growing strong
As we learn, as we live
That we live when we give
Be strong in Christlike self-interest. Nurture friendships!