Helping others – giving each other an assisting hand in time of need or difficulty.
We sometimes think of this concept as the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12: “”So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”).
In studying the Scriptural book of Ecclesiastes, you find a myriad of comments on the difficulty of life, the dreariness of toil, the futility of materialism, the fleeting nature of life.
Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
The writer here describes the solitary person who was striving for goods and his toil was difficult. The description of the futility of a man gaining much worldly possessions through hard work but not having any pleasure while not having anyone to leave those goods to after death is described as vanity (futility) and an “unhappy business”.
But the next series of verses extols the benefits of community.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Two workers are better than one – they can help each other in difficult times. Some think of this “falling” as not only physically falling but spiritually falling into sin. Having a friend with you can help prevent physical as well as spiritual injury.
In his Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Poole has this to say about the proverb at the conclusion of Ecclesiastes 4:12:
A threefold cord is not quickly broken; if a man have not only one, but two or more friends, he is so much the safer and the happier.
The Church is an illustration of this proverb. When one believer is alone, his witness is difficult, his spiritual life suffers by lack of attention, and he can neglect his study, prayer and devotion to the Lord.
In contrast, the one who is active in his church, who studies his Bible and prays by himself but also with others in a small group or Sunday School, who attends worship to lift his voice in song in praise to our Father and who hears a Bible-based sermon expounding on the truth of the gospel, that individual is strengthened in his Christian life and he will grow through the Holy Spirit into the likeness of the Lord.
In other words, a solitary believer is subject to the attack of Satan and to the lure of sin and will succumb to the attack much more readily than one who has the community of believers around him. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord are those who will hold us to account and who will warn us if they see us swerving into sin’s path, and they will be there to pray for us if we need them to do so.
There is an old story about the man who stopped going to church after his wife died, he no longer desiring to worship with others and believing that he could connect with God on his own.
After a long absence, the pastor visited the church. Upon entering the home, he saw it was heated by a blazing fire. Neither of the men spoke a word. They both sat in front of the fire and rocked a few minutes.
Then the pastor took the tongs and picked up a blazing coal from the fire, placing it on the hearth, away from the fire. Both men silently looked at the coal and it began to stop burning, slowing losing its energy and growing cold.
When the transformation ended, the pastor took the tongs and placed the cold coal back into the warmth of the fire, and almost immediately the coal began to blaze on its own, as it was surrounded by other burning coals.
Still without speaking, the pastor stood up and turned toward the door, when he heard the man speak from behind him … “Pastor, I’ll be in the worship service on Sunday.”
Friends – two are better than one. Three are better than two. Many are better than three. Brothers and sisters in our Lord are the best!
Father, thank You for providing us with your Son Who died for our sins and Who lives now as He intercedes on our behalf before your throne. Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us your Church, the Body of Christ, and our Christian brothers and sisters who encourage, strengthen, hold accountable and bring joy to us as we walk along the way.