There is a man all alone, without even a son or brother. And though there is no end to his labor, his eyes are still not content with his wealth: "For whom do I toil and bereave my soul of enjoyment?" This too is futile--a miserable task.
The picture here drawn is one of pathetic interest. It cannot have originated in personal experience, but must have been suggested by incidents in the author's wide and varied observation. A lonely man without a brother to share his sorrows and joys, without a son to succeed to his name and possessions, is represented as toiling on through the years of his life, and as accumulating a fortune, and then as awaking to a sense of his solitary state, and asking himself for whom he thus labors and endures? It is vanity, and a sore travail!
I. THE COMPANIONSHIP OF DOMESTIC AND SOCIAL LIFE IS THE ORDER OF NATURE AND THE APPOINTMENT OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. There are cases in which men are called upon to deny themselves such companionship, and there are cases in which they have been, by no action of their own, but by the decree of God, deprived of it. But the constitution of the individual's nature and of human society are evidence that the declaration regarding our first father holds good of his posterity - that is, in normal circumstances - "It is not good for the man to be alone."
II. SUCH COMPANIONSHIP SUPPLIES A MOTIVE AND A RECOMPENSE FOR TOIL. A man can work better, more efficiently, perseveringly, and happily, when he works for others than when he works only for himself. Many a man owes his habits of industry and self-denial, his social advancement and his moral maturity, to the necessity of laboring for his family. He may be called upon to maintain aged parents, to provide for the comfort of a sickly wife, to secure the education of his sons, to save a brother from destitution. And such a call may awaken a willing and cheerful response, and may, under God, account for a good work in life.
III. THE ABSENCE OF SUCH COMPANIONSHIP MAY BE A SORE AFFLICTION, AND MAY BE THE OCCASION OF UNWISE AND BLAMABLE DISSATISFACTION AND MURMURING. Under the pressure of loneliness, a man may relax his efforts, or he may fall into a discontented, desponding, and cynical frame of mind. He may lose his interest in life and in human affairs generally. He may even become misanthropic and skeptical.
IV. THE TRUE CORRECTIVE OF SUCH UNHAPPY TENDENCIES IS TO BE FOUND IN THE CULTIVATION OF SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST, AND IN A WIDE CIRCLE OF SYMPATHY AND BENEVOLENCE. No one need be lonely who can call his Savior his Friend; and Christ's friendship is open to every believer. And all Christ's disciples and brethren are of the spiritual kindred of him who trusts and loves the Redeemer. Where kindred "according to the flesh" are wanting, there need be no lack of spiritual relatives and associates. All around the lonely man are those who need succor, kindly aid, education, guardianship, and the heart purifies and refines as it takes in new objects of pity, interest, and Christian affection. And the day shall come when the Divine Savior and Judge shall say to those who have responded to his appeal, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." - T.
Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
The "quietness" here spoken of is not the inactivity of sloth, but that restfulness of spirit which an industrious man may enjoy when his industry is pervaded by a cheerful contentment. Now, here is one of those maxims with which Ecclesiastes sought to comfort the hearts and to direct the conduct of his countrymen. Many of them might be disposed to murmur because the times were adverse to their acquisition of wealth. But he wishes them to remember that, even if the times had been more prosperous, they themselves would not necessarily have been more happy. He directs their attention away from quantity to quality of possession. One man may get more real satisfaction out of a little than another man gets out of much. Two handfuls are not necessarily better than one. It depends on what is in the hands. One handful of grain is better than two handfuls of chaff. It depends also on what kind of man has the handful or handfuls. Happiness, in its degree and quality, varies with the man who enjoys, as welt as with the means of enjoyment. Yea, and even the same man may possibly get more satisfaction out of one handful than out of two handfuls of the same thing. It depends on whether the additional handful does not bring with it something else as well. In human life it often happens that a plus involves a minus; a gain in one direction means a loss in another. This, indeed, is no argument for "folding the hands" in sloth or indifference; for there is no weariness like the weariness of idleness, and there is no more prolific source of cares than carelessness. But it is an argument against that spirit of envious rivalry and selfish, restless ambition, which lessens the capacity, in the very act of increasing the means, of enjoyment. This maxim of Ecclesiastes is well worth pondering. It is pitched in the same key as the maxim of the Apostle Paul: "Godliness with contentment is great gain": and it reminds us of the still more inclusive maxim of our Lord Himself: "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
TopicsAlone, Asks, Bereave, Bereaving, Bitter, Brother, Business, Child, Content, Dependent, Deprive, Depriving, Either, Enjoyment, Eye, Grievous, Indeed, Keeping, Labor, Laboring, Labour, Labouring, Meaningless, Miserable, Myself, Occupation, Pleasure, Purpose, Riches, Sad, Satisfied, Sore, Soul, Task, Toil, Toiling, Travail, Unhappy, Vanity, Wealth, Working, Yea, Yes, Yet
Outline1. vanity is increased unto men by oppression4. by envy5. by idleness7. by covetousness9. by solitariness13. by willfulness
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEcclesiastes 4:8
5634 work, and the fall
6701 peace, search for
8780 materialism, and sin
LibraryThe Order of Thought which Surrounded the Development of Jesus.
As the cooled earth no longer permits us to understand the phenomena of primitive creation, because the fire which penetrated it is extinct, so deliberate explanations have always appeared somewhat insufficient when applying our timid methods of induction to the revolutions of the creative epochs which have decided the fate of humanity. Jesus lived at one of those times when the game of public life is freely played, and when the stake of human activity is increased a hundredfold. Every great part, …
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus
In making the following thread to the rich literature on Constantine the plan has been to confine almost wholly to Monographs, since to refer to all histories, encyclopædias, and the like which treat of him would be endless. Only such few analyzed references are introduced as have special reasons. Even with this limit it cannot be at all hoped that the list is exhaustive. Considerable pains has been taken, however, to make it full, as there is no really extended modern list of works on Constantine, …
Eusebius Pamphilius—The Life of Constantine
And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
43. And for your fearlessness against them hold this sure sign--whenever there is any apparition, be not prostrate with fear, but whatsoever it be, first boldly ask, Who art thou? And from whence comest thou? And if it should be a vision of holy ones they will assure you, and change your fear into joy. But if the vision should be from the devil, immediately it becomes feeble, beholding your firm purpose of mind. For merely to ask, Who art thou  ? and whence comest thou? is a proof of coolness. …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
The Upbringing of Jewish Children
The tenderness of the bond which united Jewish parents to their children appears even in the multiplicity and pictorialness of the expressions by which the various stages of child-life are designated in the Hebrew. Besides such general words as "ben" and "bath"--"son" and "daughter"--we find no fewer than nine different terms, each depicting a fresh stage of life. The first of these simply designates the babe as the newly--"born"--the "jeled," or, in the feminine, "jaldah"--as in Exodus 2:3, 6, 8. …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
Letter xxxvi (Circa A. D. 1131) to the Same Hildebert, who had not yet Acknowledged the Lord Innocent as Pope.
To the Same Hildebert, Who Had Not Yet Acknowledged the Lord Innocent as Pope. He exhorts him to recognise Innocent, now an exile in France, owing to the schism of Peter Leonis, as the rightful Pontiff. To the great prelate, most exalted in renown, Hildebert, by the grace of God Archbishop of Tours, Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, sends greeting, and prays that he may walk in the Spirit, and spiritually discern all things. 1. To address you in the words of the prophet, Consolation is hid from …
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux
Scriptures Showing the Sin and Danger of Joining with Wicked and Ungodly Men.
Scriptures Showing The Sin And Danger Of Joining With Wicked And Ungodly Men. When the Lord is punishing such a people against whom he hath a controversy, and a notable controversy, every one that is found shall be thrust through: and every one joined with them shall fall, Isa. xiii. 15. They partake in their judgment, not only because in a common calamity all shares, (as in Ezek. xxi. 3.) but chiefly because joined with and partakers with these whom God is pursuing; even as the strangers that join …
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning
It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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