February 20, 2011
Only The Lonely – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ecclesiastes 4: 1-6
Scripture: 
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Transcript

I invite you to take your Bible and turn to Ecclesiastes chapter four. I want to begin a sermon this morning entitled Only the Lonely. You’ll see the time we’ve worked our way through this chapter, that loneliness is a thread sewn throughout this passage.
Ecclesiastes 4:1. Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun and look, the tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter. On the side of their oppressors there is power but they have no comforter. Therefore, I praise the dead who were already dead more than the living, who are still alive yet better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun. Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work, a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full together with toil and grasping for the wind.
Let’s go down to verse nine and read through to verse 12. Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion, but woe to him who is alone when he falls for he has no one to help him. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be empowered by another, two can withstand him and the threefold cord is not easily broken. We trust God will use his word in our lives this morning. The Beatles and Elvis sang about it. One in four people suffer from it, millions every year telephone the Samaritans as a result of it. Thousands every week write to agony aunts because of it. It knows no boundaries in terms of age, sex, social standing.
The problem of which I speak is loneliness. A sense of disconnection. That melancholic mood of feeling unwanted, overlooked, underappreciated. That sad state of being alone with no real companion with whom to multiply your joys and divide your sorrows. I think we sympathize with the spinster who told her friends that at her funeral there were to be no male pallbearers, and when they asked why, she said, “Well, no man took me out in this life and no man will carry me out.” Loneliness is a ancient and universal problem and the fact is that two is better than one. Always has been, always will be. In case you haven’t noticed, life is a team sport. We excel physically, we do better emotionally, intellectually, spiritually in the company of others.
The person who says they don’t need anybody has a fool for a friend and an idiot for a teacher. Know the empirical data and the biblical record teach us that loneliness is both unholy and unhealthy. I say unholy because it works against God’s better judgment and God’s loving design and desire for us. You see, you and I are made by God, therefore we ought to listen to God and back in Genesis 2:18, what do we read? God states this very fact at the very beginning of creation, it is not good that man should be alone. You see, you and I are mere in the image of God. God exists in community. He’s a triune God, father, son and spirit. Therefore, God has put a stamp on us and you and I excel in the company of others.
We innately crave and we require companionship. That’s why loneliness is unholy and loneliness is unhealthy. The results are in. Isolation is a killer. Isolation either forced upon us or chosen by us, puts life into reverse for it has us going against God’s created order and what’s best for us. It’s not good that man should be alone. And so when we are alone, either because it’s forced on us or we choose that for ourselves, we’re putting life into reverse. Loneliness is both unholy and unhealthy. Listen to these words by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, a well-known psychologist. Quote, “There is no more destructive influence on physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and us from them.”
In fact, he goes on to point out that loneliness is a central agent in depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, murder, and a wide variety of diseases. No, loneliness is unholy and loneliness is unhealthy. And so as we return to Ecclesiastes this morning, we shouldn’t be surprised in finding that Solomon would address this issue. In fact, in chapter four here, he wrestles with it. A sense of estrangement pervades the whole chapter. You see, Solomon’s going to argue that one of the vanities of life is that this world can prove to be a very cold and a very friendless and a very lonely place.
In fact, his own father had experienced that. Back in Psalm 142, in verse four, what does King David say? “I looked on my right hand to see and there was no one who acknowledged me. Refuge had filled me. No one cared for my soul.” Sometimes life can be like that. In fact, if you work your way down this passage, you’ll see that it begins with Solomon talking about the oppressed and the fact that there’s no one to take up their [inaudible 00:06:42], in verses one through three. In verses seven through eight he talks about this friendless workaholic who never leaves the office and over a lifetime they acquire and amass riches.
But since they have no friends and they have no family, Solomon raises the question for whom do they work and for what do they work? Such toil, it’s a chasing of the wind. The friendless workaholic, the oppressed. And then in verses 13 through 16, Solomon talks about the passing glory of a king who has been turfed out on their ear because the population has fallen in love with this young upstart who’s the flavor of the month. And the old king is left without an audience, without an adoring population. Loneliness is an ancient universal problem, and so we’re going to take this week and next week to work through this passage and as we do, you’re going to see four causes for loneliness and two cures for loneliness.
Now we’re going to make a start at looking at the four causes that Solomon identifies. We’re going to see, and you’ve got it in your outline, that sometimes loneliness is caused by cruelty, at other times by covetousness, circumstances and crowning. Let’s begin in verses one through three. Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun and look, the tears of the oppressed. But they had no comforter. On the side of their oppressors, there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore, I praised the dead. In these opening verses of this chapter, Solomon draws our attention to the sad, sorry, sight and plight of the man, the woman, the child who has been abandoned by lady justice, to the cruel oppression of the weak by the strong, the poor by the rich, the righteous by the godless.
In this text, the power of the oppressor is set in contrast to the abandonment and tears of the oppressed. In fact, the phrase power is on the side of their oppressors is literally and from the hand of their oppressors is power. It’s an acknowledgement not only of the act of oppression, but the unrestrained freedom that the oppressor has to commit those acts of oppression. And so Solomon takes up this lamentation on the behalf of the victims of injustice, the casualties of corruption. He cries out for help. He cries out on their behalf because no one else seems to cry out on their behalf. They are on the wrong end of irresistible power and authority. They are oppressed, helpless, lonely. They have no comforter.
That’s the first picture. It’s the picture of loneliness caused by cruelty and it’s a real picture and we could give example after example in our world of cruel fathers, merciless leaders, greedy businessmen, lawless judges, heartless tyrants that have made victims out of so many. In those victims, sadness has gone unrequited. And so Solomon is moved. He’s moved number one, to protest and he’s moved number two, to praise. He’s moved first of all to protest. He takes up this lament. He’s acknowledging the state of oppression that occurs around the world, the cruelty and the evil work of the few over the many. He brings to our attention the fact that this is another evidence of life’s vanity. Life stinks because the wrong people suffer and justice is never served and evil workers and evil work seem to have their day.
Stepping back from the text, the emotion and disgust of Solomon isn’t surprising, is it? Given that the Old Testament emphasizes again and again need for compassion towards the oppressed. The God of Israel is a God of justice, a God of compassion. Therefore, we’re not surprised to read in Leviticus 19:13, do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man. Zephaniah 7:10. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Proverbs 14:31. He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Solomon takes up that great tradition within Judaism of crying out on behalf of the weak, on behalf of those who are oppressed.
You see, the Israelite above all people ought to be a moral crusader in the fight against exploitation, violence and injustice. Why? Because you read about it in the Pentateuch that God often reminds them that they were once slaves in Egypt, that they were once victims of oppression 400 long years until God with an outstretched hand redeemed them and rescued them and above all people the Israel ought to love justice and show mercy. So Solomon picks up that mantle and picks up that message here and in the face of this oppression, in the face of the fact that those who are being oppressed have no one to take up their cause. He protests.
By the way, a little footnote then, should that not be a challenge to us? Is our rescue no less than the redemption of Israel? Is it not greater to be found free from the tyranny and oppression of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ? If anyone ought to love mercy and justice, it ought to be those who found it in Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus encourages us to minister to those in need. The man in need that we come across is our neighbor. If you properly understand the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25, the Christian ought to be in the front lines of the battle against poor working conditions, sweat shops all across this world, failing schools, sex trafficking, child abuse, terrorism, genocide, street children in South America.
Those are the things that ought to provoke the compassion and the concern of the Christian. We are great commission and great commandment people. We are to seek to win people’s freedom in Christ from the slavery of sin, but alongside that, we want to alleviate their suffering in this life. We want to give them a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, don’t we? Matthew chapter 25, and so may we reflect on the cries of those across this world and across this land of ours who are being oppressed, overlooked, the victims of crime and callousness. Our hearts ought to go out to them. Our hands ought to reach towards them. Because according to Micah chapter six, God loves what? He loves the man who shows mercy and lives justly.
Are we not challenged by the last public words of William Booth aged 82, almost blind, the founder of the Salvation Army? He spoke to an audience of 10,000 in Royal Albert Hall in London. Here’s what he said, “While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight. While children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight. When men go to prison, in and out, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, I’ll fight. While there is a poor girl left on the streets, I’ll fight. While there remains one dark soul without the light of the gospel, I’ll fight. I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the very end.” May his tribe increase, because there’s a lot of lonely people in this world, lacerated, wounded, sitting in darkness and deprivation and we must bring the light and the hope and the mercy of God to them.
May we raise our protest. May we, like Solomon, look at the tears of the oppressed and the fact that they have no comfort and point them to the God of all comfort, but he not only protests, he praises. After protest comes praise. Look at verse two. Therefore I praise the dead who already dead more than the living who are still alive. That catches your attention, doesn’t it? Solomon praises the dead. Given the oppression and the cruelty of this world, Solomon congratulates those who have passed on. Life can be so disheartening that Solomon acknowledges that there are times when death seems preferable to life and non-existence to existence.
In fact, you can go outside the context of this chapter. Read the story of Job. Read the story of Jeremiah. Both of them struggled to the point where they actually cursed the day they were born. It’s raw stuff, isn’t it? Now let me say one thing. These verses are not a justification for suicide to any degree. That’s not the remedy that Solomon’s talking about here when he says, “I praise the dead who are already dead more than the living, who are still alive. Better than both is he who has never existed.” As one writer, James Limburg, has said, “The teacher is not counseling suicide as the solution to the problems of those hurting people. He is not speaking of death in the future at all, but is referring to the situation of those who have already passed on.”
He’s simply acknowledging, “You know what? I envy those who are already dead.” He’s not advocating the premature taking or the lawless taking of our own lives. But there is this raw reality here that when you’re on the wrong end of life’s injustices, that you face the cruelty of a tyrant or an abusive father or a crime boss or a merciless terrorist, you might get to a place in life where you envy the dead. That’s real, isn’t it? That’s raw, isn’t it? Just this week I was reading about an Australian woman, Alexia Harriton. She’s aged 24, she’s deaf, blind, physically and mentally disabled, and she’s seeking to sue the doctor who allowed her to be born. Her mother said that if she had known the extent of her daughter’s disability, she would’ve had an abortion.
Now while I hate abortion with every bone in my body, and while I disagree totally with this intended lawsuit, I stepped back from the story and I at least tried to sympathize with the mother and daughter and the struggle and the questions. Sometimes life has us envying the dead and the unborn. Sometimes we wonder, do we not, about bringing children into this cruel, wicked world? Now, if that causes you to bristle this morning and you’re shocked by these verses and even my comments about these verses, I would suggest to you that you have lived too long in the OC bubble. I would suggest to you that you haven’t lived very long, you haven’t gone to war, you haven’t visited Africa, you haven’t traveled very far, seen very much.
This can be an awfully cruel world, an awfully lonely world. Can you imagine a child somewhere tonight in America hiding from its father because of abuse, sexual or physical? Can you imagine the pot belly of thousands across Africa hungering for food, no one to comfort them? Their cries to God seemed to go unanswered. They’re looking to their government, seems to go unheard. Oh, Solomon acknowledges that there is loneliness in this world, loneliness caused by cruelty. Secondly, in verses four through six, he acknowledges that there’s loneliness caused by covetousness. Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work, a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full together with toil and grasping for the wind.
In this second observation, Qoheleth moves moves from the harm inflicted by tyrants to the harm inflicted on ourselves through competitiveness and covetousness. The operative word there is envy, rivalry among neighbors. You see, the desire to excel, to have your two hands full of stuff, taken to an extreme can produce another more subtle form of loneliness. Loneliness that comes through savage, selfishness, viewing people as pawns to be sacrificed in your achieving of your goals. Working to set oneself apart from others can produce pride on the part of the achiever and trigger envy on the part of those who are on the wrong end of their covetousness and competitiveness.
So Solomon has actually taken up again the theme of loneliness here, that loneliness that comes through carnal covetousness, through carnal competitiveness, which causes strained relationships that make us unable to trust one another, that causes us to love ourselves and not our neighbor. Now, let me say this by way of qualification. This is not a smack-down on all desire to excel or to compete. This is a criticism of that drive that’s driven by envy, by rivalry. God did not create man to be passive. God called us to be productive, create. He calls us to excel. Back in Genesis 1:28, what are we told? To subdue the earth, to multiply. The idea of being competitive and productive and excelling, it’s not an un-biblical idea. In fact, Paul acknowledges that, doesn’t he? And he applies it to the spiritual life.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24 [inaudible 00:22:37] he says, “Hey, when you run the race, you run to win. Everybody’s competing for the one prize. Same as me, I’m after Christ and I’m going to run so as to win.” Remember Jesus in Matthew chapter 5:47, he talks about, “Hey, if you love those that love you,” then he says, “What do you more than others?” Jesus is acknowledging, “I want more than that. I want you to excel. I want you to go beyond the status quo.” And so challenging the status quo is a good thing. Trying to beat your last golf score, trying to double your profits, trying to turn a B grid into an A grid, it all has its place so long as the desire to fulfill your God-given calling and potential and possibilities doesn’t tumble over into selfish envy and self ambition.
No, we need opponents because they push us to new levels of effort and excellence. I’ve always been one for competitive sports. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to run by myself. I need an opponent. I need to go after him so that I go after something beyond where I’m currently at. Opponents cause us to excel, to push to new levels of effort and excellence, and so there can be a holy and a healthy competitiveness that builds character, advances society, rewrites history. But that’s not what Solomon’s talking about here. He’s talking about a competitiveness, an envy, a rivalry that’s driven by selfish ambition, self-aggrandizement, and he condemns it.
Now, it’s interesting as he looks at this issue of loneliness through covetousness, he gives us a series of pictures all to do with the hand. If you look at the text, you’ll see two hands, folded hands, and one hand. You may want to write that down as a little outline and think about it, two hands, folded hands, and one hand. Verse 6B, he talks about two hands better, a handful with quietness than both hands full. But with that comes toil and a grasping for the wind. Through this image, Solomon points to the man or the woman greedy for gain, driven by an all consuming desire to amass wealth. It’s the picture of the Wall Street trader restlessly scanning the stock market for a new acquisition or the corporate slave, busily climbing the ladder to success, hoping for his first million.
This person is industrious, driven, skillful, successful, so much for their hands. But the problem is their heart because what’s driving them to make sure that their two hands are full? It’s envy. It’s a desire to have more than one’s neighbor. Solomon acknowledges that, doesn’t he? In verse four, “Again I saw that for all toil and every skillful work, a man is envied by his neighbors.” This is where disappointment comes in. Solomon teaches us that they work hard to beat the competition, to develop their skills for nasty, selfish ends. They want to make things better, but not for the greater good of society, but for themselves. They’re devoid of a social conscience. They want to beat the competition so that they can be the fat cat, the top dog.
It’s all about having more and having more than your neighbor has and that produces loneliness. That produces strained relationships. That produces a culture where people are at each other’s throats because the name of the game is to draw first blood, to get ahead, to get a step on your competition. And so this jealousy, envy, rivalry drives a man to want always to be ahead of others and it’s destructive. Because you know what? After a while, it’s not enough to succeed. Others have to feel. That’s how you’ll measure your success, and it gets so callous and so covetous and so competitive.
I like the story of the rabbi who calls a young man into his study. He’s concerned that this young man is getting caught up in the rat race. He’s failing to love God. He’s failing to love his neighbor, and so the rabbi invites this young man to look out his study and he says, “What do you see through the window?” The young man says, “Well, rabbi, I see a playground. I see children laughing. I see children playing.” Then the rabbi takes a little hand mirror out of his pocket and he hands it to his visitor. He tells him to look into it and says, “What do you see now?” Young man, his brow rises in confusion, not sure what the rabbi’s trying to do, but he says, “I see myself.”
The rabbi says this, “Isn’t it strange that when a little silver gets between yourself and others, you only see yourself?” It’s a good lesson to learn. This desire to excel is a God-given drive and it has its place. We’re thankful for those who have challenged the status quo. We’re thankful for those who have broken through boundaries in fields of education and technology and in fields of industry, but it must be harnessed to a desire to reflect the glory of God. It must be harnessed to a desire to make others better off through what you have been able to achieve. It must never become self ambition. It must never become about us and our own glory because you see, for those of us who are now in the New Testament, living on the other side of the cross and the resurrection, this is the opposite of the gospel.
This is antithetical to the model and message of the Lord Jesus Christ. Over in Philippians chapter two, Paul reminds us, doesn’t he, of the things of which we speak? What does he say? Let nothing be done through selfish ambition, conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only to his own interest but to the interest of others. Paul, that’s good. Oh, it’s very good. He says, “And I’ve got a reason that you can’t contradict for doing it.” Here it is. Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
It’s an amazing thing, isn’t it? To see the humiliation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not hold on to what was rightfully his but out of love for the father, out of love for us, he humbled himself and became obedient onto the death of the cross. We need to bear that in mind, to esteem others more highly than ourselves, lest we become the target of the green-eyed monster of envy, which leads to all sorts of tension and estrangement and loneliness among people. Listen to these words by George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees. He said, “I want this team to win. I’m obsessed with winning, with discipline, with achieving. That’s what this country’s all about.” Donald McCullough replies, “Yes, this country honors winners.” Rewards go to the competitive, the one who pushes harder and stays longer, the one who plays games of power and comes up on top.
So we teach our children to assert themselves, to settle for nothing less than president of the student council or first chair in the trumpet section or acceptance by a prestigious university. And what we want for them often reflects what we want for ourselves. The striving that may or may not have won for us the satisfaction of achievement, the pleasure of victory. The early bird may get the worm, but if you had something other than worms in mind, if you prefer salmon say, then you had better learn to fly with the eagles. Admiration for others, rewards for work well done, financial comfort, invitations to the best social circles. These things don’t just happen. They come after flying high and diving deep.
Blessed are the aggressive, we believe, for they shall inherit the earth. But then he says this, this is a striking statement, “But on the way up the ladder of success, we just might bump into Jesus, who always seems to be on the way down.” Solomon warns us about the two hands approach to life and then he talks about folded hands. In verse five, the pendulum swings as Solomon observes the fact that while you have a man who stops at nothing, you’ll also find under the sun of man who starts nothing. Go back to Ecclesiastes chapter four. Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work, a man is envied by his neighbors. Verse four, verse five, the fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.
Solomon contrasts the man who works too much with the man who refuses to work at all. This is probably the picture of the dropout who protests the dog-eat-dog culture. Who says, “I’m not going to lower myself to that. I’m not going to be part of some competition that’s driven by envy and greed, puts things before people.” This is most likely the person who has no desire to keep up with the Joneses because it involves buying things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to have things like people they don’t like. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? But the person leaves the dog-eat-dog world to feed on themselves through laziness. That’s the problem.
Something like the flower people of the 60s who were tired of the affluence and the grind of the 50s, and so they bailed out. They let their hair grow long. They didn’t wash. They sat on mountain sides and hummed and protest to the dog-eat-dog world. Surely there’s something better. One would want to wish something better, but was the legacy of the 60s good? Was that a high point in American history? No, because they folded their hands and fed on themselves. They fed off the very system they condemned. Nothing resulted from that. It was one problem creating another problem. It’s the two-handed man and folded arms man. Neither of them prove productive or profitable. They prove self-destructive and laziness is a self-destructive path.
Proverbs 18:9 reminds us of this. He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer. The reaction to the dog-eat-dog culture is not not to work, but to have a balance between meaningful work and peace of mind. Solomon points to the fact that they threw their hands up in horror at a greedy culture and then they folded their hands in laziness, which brings them to ruin. In fact, Solomon talks of this man with the folded hands consuming his own flesh. That’s a figurative picture of someone who consumes all that they’ve stored up. Now there’s nothing coming in. So whatever they had accumulated, they now use up. Or, to put it in a sense more literally, if you don’t have anything to eat, then all you have left to eat is your own flesh.
This is a path to destruction. In fact, Solomon is really picking up where every wisdom writer leaves off in terms of the lazy person. The Bible has no sympathy with the person who sits around all day and folds his hands. That person is a candidate for poverty. Proverbs chapter 6:10, 11 tells his what? A little folding of the hands, then sudden destruction, poverty. That person is not only a candidate for poverty, but they shouldn’t receive the sympathy either of society or the church. What does the Bible say in 2 Thessalonians 3:10? If a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat. We’re not to show mercy to the lazy person. We’re to show mercy to the oppressed. To the disadvantaged.
A man was asked how long he had worked for his present employer. He replied, “Ever since he threatened to fire me.” Ronald Reagan said, “It’s true that hard work hasn’t killed anybody, but I figure why take a chance?” That’s funny, but this isn’t laughing matter. We’ll pick this up next week, but let me make a start just for a couple of minutes as the team comes up. Solomon talks about two hands, folded hands and then he talks about one hand. Verse six, better a handful with quietness than both hands full together with toil and grasping for the wind. Solomon has acknowledged there are extremes and he’s already mentioned it, but now he argues for a balance. It’s hard to strike a balance, isn’t it?
I think it was C.S. Lewis when he was speaking about prophecy says that often our study of prophecy is likened to a drunk man on the horse. He falls off one end of the horse, he climbs back on and falls off the other end. And he says, “When it comes to prophecy, often it’s either preoccupation or disinterest.” When there’s a balance, we ought to be heavenly minded and of earthly use, and striking a balance in life isn’t easy and Solomon calls us to strike a balance. He doesn’t encourage us to be non-competitive, idle, but he does say, “Better a handful with quietness than both hands, full and toil and a grasping of the wind.” He’s promoting moderation, a proper balance between rest and labor, ambition and contentment.
That’s a good thing, isn’t it? To hear this morning. I love that verse. I’ve been trying to meditate on it. In fact, next week I’m going to use it as a launching pad to speak about contentment. Go outside the passage here and just look at several mile markers on the road to contentment, but we’ll have to wait until next Sunday. But the challenge here is this, there’s always the danger of too much ambition, not enough contentment, too much contentment, not enough ambition. Making a living and making a life are two different things, and we need to be reminded of that.
The American culture is one of the most competitive cultures in the world, and that’s good. Causes us to excel, causes us to be one of the richest nations in the world. But it can be bad because things become more important than people and the individual more important than the community. And there’s a balance. We don’t work to work. We work to rest. We work to give. We work to bless. We work to fend ourselves against the future. We need to remember that there’s a difference between making a living and making a life. We need to know when’s enough enough?
A handful and quietness. A decent wage, a decent home, and some food. And then my friend, if you’ve got the love of your wife and the admiration of your kids and the company of God’s people and the hope of heaven and the love of Jesus Christ and the promises of his word, tell me why you can’t be happy. Tell me why you can’t be content. Less can be more. 1 Timothy 6:6 tells us what? Godliness with contentment is great gain. Hebrews 13:5 says having food and clothes and such things, be content. For he has said, “I’ll never let you down and I’ll never leave you.” Less can be more.
Listen and listen well, and we’ll pick this up next time. Discontent makes a rich man poor, contentment makes a poor man rich. Better a handful with quietness than two hands full with toil and a grasping of the wind. John Bunyan said, “If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a diseased foot.” It’s a great quote. Let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you for the truth, the wisdom, the up-to-date perspective of this ancient passage. We continue to struggle with loneliness. We continue to find this world sometimes a very cruel, lonely, and cold and friendless place. Sometimes that’s because of oppression, the strong feeding on the weak, the rich feeding on the poor, the godless feeding on the righteous.
Sometimes, Lord, it’s a self-inflicted wound because we’ve become so savage in our selfishness, so cruel in our competitiveness, that we have forgotten to love God and we have forgotten the love of God. We have forgotten to love our neighbor. They have become a pawn to use, not someone to serve.
Lord, teach us true contentment. Teach us a proper balance in life. Help us to remember, should we be tempted to climb up, we’re most likely to find Jesus on the way down. For these things we ask and pray in his name. Amen.