Until debt tear us apart - studying Ecclesiastes 4

Do You Have Money or Does It Have You? Thoughts from Ecclesiastes 4:12

Marriage Dynamics Institute Family, Finances, Goals

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And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV)

The writer of Ecclesiastes (whom we think may need some counseling) reminds us of the importance of having close family relationships. The verse above, which we often cite when we’re talking about marriage, seems to rest in a context beyond the marriage relationship.

Starting in verse seven we see this:

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”

Working like this is meaningless—a miserable business!

It seems that the man observed by the teacher in Ecclesiastes did not have a way to carry on his legacy.  Maybe he was so focused on his work that he never got married or had children. Perhaps he lost all of his extended family or was estranged to them.  Or it could be that he lost everything while pursuing wealth.

There may be other scenarios. But it seems this hardworking guy realized that focusing on work caused him to lose sight of having someone to put his arms around.

The teacher, who some think was Solomon, then shares his thoughts about his observation in verses 9-11:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

This passage may indeed be about marriage.

Or, perhaps there’s a different emphasis than we’ve typically thought.

Many people out there—a lot of couples—pursue what we often call the American Dream. Unfortunately, the tendency to consume and accumulate has for many led to significant debt and the need for dual-income families. More than that, we stretch ourselves to the limit trying to meet all the financial and time obligations we’ve taken on. So we sacrifice time we might have spent with our spouse and family. Or we sacrifice time we could be spending at church or in Bible reading and prayer.

As a result, we lose focus.

When we lose focus, we tend to lose so much more, too.

Money problems still rate as the number one contributor to divorce. Our spending habits divert resources from what we really need. And our work patterns may indicate that we want or need too much.

Is there anything you want so badly that you’re willing to sacrifice your marriage or family to get it? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Money often costs too much.”

What is money costing you?

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About the Author

Marriage Dynamics Institute

Marriage Dynamics Institute (MDI) wants to cultivate healthy families, churches, and communities by helping create marriages full of joy, meaning, and purpose. Having served more than 75,000 couples since 1994, MDI offers workshops and seminars for marriages at every stage, including those in crisis.