The Value and Importance of Community
Read Eccl 4:7-16
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”
Ecclesiastes is a book of paradoxes. In contrast to the book of Proverbs (many of which were written by Solomon) which paints life from the standpoint of wisdom and its natural outcome, the sage (again Solomon) in Ecclesiastes takes a far deeper look to examine the reality and paradoxes of life when traditional wisdom fails to deliver. While Proverbs provides the positive outcomes of living a life governed by wisdom, Ecclesiastes (along with the book of Job) looks to examine life when the blessings promised by traditional wisdom are not realized. How do we understand life when it seems broken and futile? This is the question that Job (with its exploration of why the righteous suffer) and Ecclesiastes (with its exploration of the struggles and futility of life) strive to answer. In the end, each of these books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job), while traveling down different paths, arrive at the same conclusion, namely that the end of all things is to fear God and obey his commands (See Job 42:1-6; Prov 1:7; Eccl. 12:13-14).
As the writer of Ecclesiastes examines life, he delves into the importance and value of relationships by examining the paradox of loneliness. In verses 7-8 He examines the vanity of life when it is lived without companionship. He presents a picture of one who is so consumed with these goals and the pursuit of wealth that he has no time for family. He devoted his life to acquiring wealth and success and, in the end, he has no one to share it with. This individual stands in contrast to the one who has pursued friendship rather than wealth. While the one thought that wealth would provide protection, but, in the end, it brought only ruin and meaningless, the other pursued friendship and relationship and found security and companionship. The one labored for wealth and in the end found a grievous task that provided no satisfaction (vs 8). The other focused on relationships and companionship and obtained a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment for his labor (vs 9). A true companion is one who provides assistance in times of adversity (vs 10), comfort in times of trial (vs 11), and defense in times of attack (vs 12).
God created to be in community and fellowship with others and our ultimate fulfillment is found in relationships rather than accomplishments or wealth. This finds its greatest fulfillment in our connection with the church, for the basis of true fellowship is not social, economic, or even personal, but is grounded in our identity and relationship with Christ (1 John 1:6-7). It also serves to remind us of what is the church. The church is not a building where we gather to conduct a service yet have no real meaningful interaction. The church is not programs and organizations. The church is people connecting with others, grounded in our faith in Christ where we mutually encouraging one another in spiritual growth. The church is a group of people who assist one another in times of adversity and comfort one another when we face distress. It is a place where we strive to encourage and protect each other. This moves the church from the walls of the building to the thoroughfare of everyday life. Rather than social distancing resulting in less fellowship, it should push us to greater in-depth and intentional fellowship where we connect with people in creatives ways. Today, connect with people within the church and encourage them by sharing what God is doing in your life and praying for them.