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Summary: Much of life is about relationships. The more lessons we can learn from God’s Word about relationships —whether to others, to our leaders, or to God — the better.

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Lessons About Relating

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-5:7)

1. Christopher Cone has written a series of articles about the Japanese concept of Kaizen. It is a way of improving that is based upon a model introduced by Americans like W. Edwards Deming and consistent with Biblical principles.

2. He writes: Kaizen means improvement, or literally, good change. Identified by author Masaaki Imai as “the key to Japanese competitive success,” kaizen is the philosophy undergirding continuous improvement at every level of the organization, and involving all personnel. As a philosophy, kaizen is the post-World War II driving force behind the success of a host of Japanese companies, led most notably by Toyota.

…The similarities show that there is enough biblical data to infer a biblical model for continuous improvement:

Principle #1: Improvement Requires Humility, Collaboration and Accountability.

Kaizen as a philosophy began with collaboration. General MacArthur invited some American quality control experts to help the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation resolve a pervading wrong-number problem. “The American experts told NTT management that the only solution was to apply quality control…” Hajime Karatsu (Technical Advisor to Matsushita Electric Industrial), aiding the NTT, recounts, “In our pride, we told them that we were applying quality control at NTT the Japanese way. But when they asked to see our control charts, we didn’t even know what a control chart was.” What the NTT lacked was another set of eyes — an external accountability — to help them understand deficiencies and how to resolve them.”

Cone argues that Solomon’s words in Proverbs 1:5, 11:14, 15:22, 19:20 and 24:6,

“underscore the importance of humility, collaboration, and accountability if plans are to succeed.”

3. Today’s text is directed toward improving our understanding of people so that we can make more of a difference in our families, churches, communities & nation.

Main Idea: Much of life is about relationships. The more lessons we can learn from God’s Word about relationships —whether to others, to our leaders, or to God — the better.

I. People Do Better if They Cooperate and PARTNER with Others (4:9-12).

Many of us know people who are unilateral. “(of an action or decision) performed by …only one person, group, or country … without the agreement of … others.”

Building consensus. Listening to different opinions. Working thru established authorizes or processes. Following protocol. These have their place.

Unilateral mentalities are a great indicator of arrogance. It takes humility to recognize you need others and are better off working within the group and partnering with others. In our text, we are talking about a small group of 2 or 3.

A. Good REWARD (profits) (9)

The assumption is that you have a good partner or group.

Part of this success is another set of eyes, accountability, perspective.

B. Mutual SUPPORT (10)

• The Jewish/Biblical concept of Haverim.

• Partnering or sharing is the key thought of the word “fellowship.”

C. COMFORT and survival (11)

D. DEFENSE during attack (12)

Application: The ability to work well with and cooperate with others is a great advantage in life. If God were giving you a report card, how would he check the column, “works well and cooperates with others?”

II. Political POPULARITY Is Often Temporary and Usually Has Little to Do With Wisdom (4:13-16).

A. A WISE young king arises out of poverty and supplants an old, foolish king.

1. This probably refers to a “kinglet,” not the head king of the nation.

2. The old king no longer knew how to take advice, which is why he was foolish.

3. We don’t know if he was always foolish or became a fool (some people regress, rather than progress, as they age)

B. The new king is highly SUCCESSFUL for many years.

C. Even though he is wise, later generations do not APPRECIATE him.

1. He is out of style and old and viewed just like his generation viewed the old king who was foolish; but this king is not foolish. It didn’t matter.

2. Most people follow the trends and the trendy, not the wise and the sensible.

3. The real problem is that most people are not wise, so they don’t value wisdom except when they are in a pinch.

4. No king/leader can ever fully and permanently please the populace. People even got tired of King David and King Solomon.

5. People tend to like someone like them. They feel left out, under appreciated, uncomfortable, so they are more concerned that someone has the same interests or wears the right styles or embraces youthful trends… in touch.

6. Our faith is supposed to unite us, not our age, economic status, skin color, love of same hobbies, etc.; this rarely happens, but will as persecution comes

III. Respect for God Shows in Follow-through, Not PROMISES, “Good Intentions,” or Verbiage (5:1-7).

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