Summary: Wise living according to Solomon is not isolation, but rather connections and family and friends and fellowship… all of which we might summarize with the word: community.


Ecclesiastes 4:1-16


READ ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 4:1-16 [Jennifer Holmes]


Beaker looked out over the lip of the nest and decided it was a long way down to the ground. Why did nests have to be built so high up? He got dizzy looking from the nest to the ground. Every time he thought about flying, he got a nervous knot in his stomach because Beaker was afraid of heights! Don’t laugh. A bird that is afraid of heights is no laughing matter.

At the beginning of each day, all of the little birds would hop to the edge of the nest and the mother would instruct the birds about flight and they would encourage each other to try and fly. The encouragement was helpful and needed. Each day, one of his brothers or sisters would be successful and leave the nest and fly away. He was the only bird left and hadn’t really participated with the others each day. He had been safe and secure thus far in the nest and his mother had brought him food day after day.

She’d fly away and come back and each time would say: “One day you will fly.”

Each time he would say, “Oh no I will not.”

She would then say: “You can’t stay a baby bird forever.”

He’d then say every single time: “I don’t have to fly to be a bird.”


We are making our way through the Book of Ecclesiastes focusing on Wise Living. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, you and I find a word that is used over and over and over again. It is used 39 times in the 12 chapters. It is used 4 times just in the chapter 4 (what we are focusing on today).

It is the word: vanity. Depending on your English translation it is the word: meaningless, pointless, futility, fleeting. The word is used poetically for things that are temporary or perishable or unsatisfying or mundane because they are temporary like smoke or our breath on a cold day. Much of life is vanity. The flavor of the word that I think fits the passage best that we are digging into today is: futile.


The word ‘fultility’ or ‘futile’ means ‘pointless’ or ‘useless.’ In my brain, the word futile means that good energy and constant effort and dedicated time and specific thought and expert plans and repeated attempts are made, but the end result does not happen. All of the effort and trying comes to nothing. There are things like that in life that try as we might, we cannot win or succeed or complete the task. Futile. Futile is not a good feeling.


General ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (1934-2012) said: “All you have to do is hold your first solider who is dying in your arms, and have that terribly futile feeling that I can’t do anything about it… Then you understand the horror of war.”

General Schwarzkopf illustrates for us that the feeling of futility is hopelessness and a loss of power and also I think a loss of control. We don’t like that feeling. It is a terrible feeling. Sometimes life feels futile. Being the Star Trek fan that I am I also know that resistance to the Borg is futile, which is also not a good feeling. Futility whether it is in real life or fiction is not good.

What do we do when our good energy comes up with no results?

What should be our perspective when out constant efforts come to nothing?

Our dedicated time and thought lead us nowhere… then what?

Repeated attempts lead us to repeated failure… then what?

FOCUS ON 4:7-12: TOIL ALONE (verses 7-8)

I know we just read chapter 4, but I’d like to re-read just a few verses again from chapter 4 because this is where we are focusing today and these verses give us the answer to all of these questions about futility.


“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.”

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