'The Three Ifs' from Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 is part 3 of 5 of a larger expository study on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 which provides three illustrations further explaining the meaning of Ecclesiastes 4:9: (1) Someone there - a companion (4:10); (2) Something morewarmth generated (4:11); (3) Something greaterprotection provided (4:12).
The Meaning of Ecclesiastes 4:10-12
The Three ‘Ifs’
Now let us look at three specific examples that Solomon has provided us. These are the three ‘ifs.’ Each of them speak of a different aspect of genuine support that each of us would wish we had in desperate times. Solomon’s message is simply that if we do not value others and make those commitments early on in life, then we will not be ready for stressful times. One never knows when that good return will turn up. We live in hope of it not because we have it.
If #1: Someone there a companion (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
“For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”
We never know what the next day will bring. It is ever so nice to know that if we go through a difficult time, someone is there for us. When someone heard that my hot water tank flooded my basement, a brother, a very busy brother at that, emailed me and asked if he could help. I can guarantee you that he is not an expert in repairing hot water heaters, but his willingness to help me out was special. He valued the whole and not only his own concerns. Or perhaps we could better phrase it, he made other people part of his life concern.
Sometimes we might go through a series of hard projects and need someone to pray for us. Sometimes it might be a rough relationship with another, and you need to talk with someone about it to get perspective. You might be looking for insight into finding a spouse or finding a job. The point is, do you have anyone there? No matter what the circumstance is, have you built friendships in such a way that you could find the help you need. We are thankful that the Lord is there when we go through hard times. Job’s friends were not thinking of him as much as their theological constructions. On the whole, however, God works through the body of Christ to build up and strengthen his people. The strength of the people of God is seen in crisis not in prosperity. Humanists simply wither away alone when they see that the money in the bank never can substitute relationships.
Be a friend, have a friend!
If #2: Something more warmth generated (Ecclesiastes 4:11)
“Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?”
My wife and l have our bedroom high up on the third floor. By the time the heat reaches that third floor duct, the heat is not that warm or abundant. We are appreciative of how the two of us can warm each other up. The other night when Linda was sick, she was extra cold. We could be close together until both of us were nicely warmed up. I don’t think Solomon is only speaking of body heat here, though. It serves as an illustration, but of what?
He is simply reaffirming the truth we have already mentioned. Something more is being generated by the closeness of two individuals working in a close relationship. If we have a group working as a team, we have ‘something’ special being generated. It is hard to tell what it is at times, but whenever I have worked in a close team with others, whether it be on a church planting project, a team of prayer partners, a group of Sunday School teachers, I see it happening. Extra love, joy, devotion, energy and insight is produced.
If #3: Something greater protection provided (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
“And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.
A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
The point of Solomon’s illustration is clear. When we have more two or more people committed to each other, we have greater protection. We will not be so easily or frequently attacked. The wolf goes after the lone sheep. Although Solomon has been speaking of couples, he says in the last phrase, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” The more support the better. This is true for protection but also for companionship, for joy and other things.
I am glad the idea of accountability partners has become more popular. There are some things we need to be careful of when having them, but on the whole they are going in the right direction. It is basically two or more individuals (accountability group) that get together and frankly share how they are doing and what they have specifically done or not done in the past week. Whether they are brothers or sisters doing it (within their own gender), they find special protection and help.
Relationships are important. People are important. Yes, you can get somethings done better without the fuss and time of people and their individual particularities. But in the end, you are saying a lot on what you believe and who you are by the way you associate with others.
Some of us are people persons. They are energized by others. Others are task-oriented. Relationships get very tedious. We in fact need each other no matter what our makeup. If not for any other reason, it is to eliminate that chase of the cancerous independent spirit. For that in the end will condemn us. Let me close by asking some questions and making a few comments.
Solomon confessed that he lacked these greater things found in relationships. He was too busy looking elsewhere for value.