Armand M. Nicholi, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains that Sigmund Freud died at the age of 83, a bitter and disillusioned man. Tragically, this Viennese physician, one of the most influential thinkers of our time, had little compassion for the common person.
Freud wrote in 1918,
“I have found little that is good about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all” (Veritas Reconsidered, p. 36). Freud died friendless. It is well-known that he had broken with each of his followers. The end was bitter.
Maybe Freud was like Solomon was in the first verses of this section of Ecclesiastes.
It is obvious that he felt all humanity is awful and everything is bad and no one is any good but only out for themselves regardless who they are or what they claim.
Well, I am here to say, Freud was not to far off the mark.
People are wicked, people are unethical, people are most always out for their own good and gain.
Many times over people do things for what they are going to get out of it.
They oppress others for their gain and then they have no unity with others and then they have no authenticity or integrity.
The answer to how one can not be wicked, unethical, greedy, against others, and have integrity is: When we fear God we will love one another and avoid greedy oppression and become authentic people of integrity.
A short and sweet way of saying that mouthful of a sentence is to say: Fear God, love one another, avoid evil.
It is that simple, it truly is.
Solomon tells us in this section that if we do not love others we will be greedy for gain, separate from others, and become fools.
Let us look at what Solomon says in Eccl. 4:1-5:7
1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. 4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. 5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. 6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. 7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 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. 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 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! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind. 1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.Ecclesiastes 4:1–5:7 ESV
Twenty-three verses that basically tell us to not be greedy, be in fellowship with others, and fear God to live a life of integrity. It is the last of these that makes us able to do the other parts. But before we examine that let us look at why we…
Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Jones’
All of us have heard this phrase.
We all know it means that if you are trying to keep up with the Jones’ you are buying all kinds of new and fancy things.
Waylon sung it best “We’ve been so busy keeping up with the Jones, Four car garage and we’re still building on, Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.”
Desiring more, building more, having more is what it means to keep up with the Jones’.
In theses first seven verses we see what greed does for us and to us.
1. Greed for Power Makes us Oppress others.
In verse 1 Solomon tells us of all the oppression he saw under the sun.
How those oppressed had no one to comfort them or help them. Maybe it is because of those who were in power and wanted power and the others were afraid.
People who desire power and oppress others usually do this with a very heavy hand. They do not care who they hurt or how bad they hurt them as long as they have what they want.
Think of the Mafia, they kill any and all who get in their way because they want more and it is very difficult to stand against that.
This caused Solomon to make a stark statement much like Freud’s when he condemned all people. Solomon said maybe it is better that a man never be born than to be born into this and that the dead have it better than those alive.
That is a grim outlook but one that those who have been heavily oppressed or assaulted feel themselves.
All because of Greed for power. But that is not all.
2. Greed for Another’s property Causes Misery.
In verse 4 he speaks of the one who labors from envy of another persons things.
Here is the concept of keeping up with the Jones’ in full bloom.
We are greedy and want that so we slave for it or lie for it or steal for it because we want it and we need it much like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings.
That ring was his and no one elses. If another had it he did all he could to get it. He was full of greed and desire and many of us are no different.
And this all leads into the other aspect of greed causing misery which is.
3. Greed for Gain Without Work Causes Misery.
Verses 5-6 show us that it is foolish to do nothing in life because that brings poverty and is basically like eating yourself alive.
When one does this they desire others things and will do anything for it, which brings us full circle to being oppressors of others.
But, if we go about life diligently working at what we have to do and seek to live by what we have and not want others things, then we can have peace and joy.
Verse six tells us that one handful of quiet is better than two full of toil and striving after wind.
This is all we get when we try to keep up with the Jones’. We get bitterness and strife and become devourers of flesh as we oppress others to get all we want.
This Solomon calls vanity, emptiness that leaves us empty and bitter and fitting of the description from Freud.
But there is a way we can avoid this trap…
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
With others in our life we can stand strong against many things.
We can face oppression, pains, disease, and many other things. We can stay warm, and this is not just about being warm on a cold night. No, we stay warm like the chunk of coal in a fire when with others but when that coal is removed, it goes cold.
This is what happens with us if we go it alone.
As verse 8 tells us about being alone
1.We are greedy for foolish gain if we are alone and working ourselves to death.
This gain we get when alone is not satisfying. It may drive us to become oppressors so we can flaunt what we have over others because we have none with us to share with.
What it does cause is us to never ask why am I working so hard? Why am i doing all of this? Who am I doing it for?
No, because Satan wants us to stay so focused on gain and riches so we never have a family or fellowship.
Man was created to be in community. We were created to be in a bond with another of the opposite sex and with other people in general.
When we stay focused on us alone, we are rebelling against God and will be miserable.
Look at the world today and when it says “You don’t need a man, you can do this alone, you are enough, why waste your life with him or her, do it alone and be happy.”
These are lies from the pit of hell. Why?
2. If we stay alone we will be left out in the cold.
As I said before and as Solomon says now, “Two are better than one.”
Why? Verse ten spells it out, “if one falls, one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him who is alone when he falls.”
This goes deeper than the keeping warm aspect too.
If we are alone we will fall and when we fall while alone we stay down.
All we do is spiral and spiral further and further down until we have hit a wall that we can’t bear and then we do something foolish.
We need each other to help us up when we stumble.
We need one another to help us when we struggle.
We need one another to keep that fire burning inside us so we stay on fire for the Lord over our fire for our desires.
As verse 12 says, “a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not easily broken.” All the threefold cord means is that we do not just need to be in pairs but even more companionship is better.
We need people who are for us so much that they will stand up with us but also tell us the truth.
We all need Doc Holiday’s in our life.
In the movie Tombstone we see that Doc is with Wyatt regardless what he decides but that he does not let him face Johnny Ringo because he knew he could not take him. He was a companion who was there for his friend.
Now, we may not need to encourage the killing of others by going along as he did but we need to be as committed as he was to Wyatt. When we are this committed to others and genuinely desire to help them we will help them be humble and they will be open to advice.
3. In Companionship’s we will stay humble because we will have other voices advising us.
Finally in this section we see it is better to be poor and wise than wealthy, king and foolish.
When we stick with our true companions who tell us the unvarnished truth we may stay poor but we will remain wise.
We see it all the time when someone rejects advice to go make money, get power, or any other desire and they become fools.
Prime example is the son of Solomon, Rehoboam.
In 1 Kings 12 we see that people came to him asking for a rest from all the taxes and labors of Solomon.
He asked Solomon’s advisors who told him the truth and to relax the burdens but then listened to the foolish advisors of his age and went with the power and oppression they said.
He listened alright but he did not listen. He was caught up in power and desire and disregarded sound advice and became a fool.
When we allow Satan to influence us with visions of gold, and prestige, we become fools and then we become poor while the poor man in worldly standards that listened to the wisdom of the Lord is wise and wealthy in the ways of the Lord.
That is wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord Prov. 1:7; 9:10.
And it is this fear of the Lord that allows us to…
Have Authenticity and Integrity
Basically what this last section which is the first seven verses of chapter five tell us is to Be Real.
Be real in your worship to the Lord.
Be real when you speak to others and do not say things you will not do or cannot do.
Be real in your speech and do not let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird you know what.
Simply, worship authentically, be authentic and have integrity, and do not be arrogant and boastful.
When we are lonely or desiring more power we will make bold claims and bold assertions that we cannot keep or do. We will lie and do anything we can to make it happen.
We may even enter church with a false notion of this will get me in good with so-and-so and when I am I will make my move.
This may be for a man or woman.
A position at work.
Or who knows what else but when we do this we are not guarding our steps and we are approaching severe danger because we are treading on the Lord.
You see, when we are in a genuine community with fellow believers who are authentic and of integrity, we will be guarded in our walk.
Not guarded where we cannot be real but protected where we can be real.
We will be able to worship God authentically and speak truth because we know that all involved are desiring the same thing and will support us, or correctly correct us.
Look closely at verses 6 and 7.
In six we see that God does not take foolish talk lightly. He does not take lies lightly.
When we say we will do something and we do not we are lying and therefore offending God.
We may do this to look good before others, because we fear them and want to look good with them, or many other reasons because we are lonely inside because we have never filled that empty place with the Lord.
When we do that we offend God and show we fear people more than we fear Him.
Verse seven clearly tells us “God is the one you must fear.”
This means, To fear God is to recognize his might and majesty. It is to acknowledge that he is in Heaven and we are on earth, that he is God and we are not. It is to say, “Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?” (Psalm 89:6–7). (Ryken, Ecclesiastes, 127.)
He is above all and nothing is greater than Him.
Once we grasp this and realize that He is worthy of all praise we will stop thinking of ourselves so much, stop our greed, stop our unhealthy desires, we will find good solid faithful fellowship, have others help us because we need help in this world, listen to wise advice and follow through on that advice, and we will live a life of authentic integrity before the Lord and the world and show this world that God is moving and through Him there is genuine life and joy.
Oswald Chambers made a solid statement about fearing God, The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.
When we grasp this concept and realize that God is so much more than anything else we will ever face we will learn to love one another, avoid greedy oppression, and become people of integrity.
God has given us fellow believers and the wisdom of Himself through the Holy Spirit but the question is will you allow others to come alongside you and help you up, keep you warm, and stand against the evils of this world and the wicked leader of this world?
Or will you continue to love yourself so much that you actually despise yourself and everyone else?
Will you stay broken and lonely or will you allow your Lonely Life to be Repaired by the great I Am who sent His Son to die for you and rise again so you can be repaired?
Only you can answer these questions and depending which way you decide will place you in a camp like Freud where all is bitter and trash or like Jesus who saw His image in you and now offers you eternal peace and joy.