Ecclesiastes 4:7-12: Friends

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes seems to be speaking from experience concerning friends. In his old age, he is alone, not having any friends because he spent his entire life pursuing wealth to no end. He says that there is no end to his toil and no contentment in wealth. The preacher declares this predicament meaningless as chasing after the wind. He had traded meaningful relationships for stuff, and in the end he was empty. With this in mind, the Preacher makes some observations concerning friendship:

  • Two are better than one when it comes to labor. There is a synergy to the effort of two people when they work — more output than the sum of the individuals. The Preacher thinks that this is a good return on one’s investment because it is efficient — requiring less effort to accomplish the same sort of task.

  • Those who have friends have someone there to help them out in a bind, but those who don’t do not have such luxuries. The Preacher probably had his wealth as his security, but this does not help one in only when people can. In the event when money cannot help, having a person to help is worth more than all the money in the world.

  • Friends offer each other warmth too. The Preacher describes it in terms of lying down with one another. In ancient times, when traveling, travelers would huddle together at night when sleeping to stay warm. Such is true when times are cold figuratively too. One does well to have a friend to help him or her through cold times.

  • Friends are also there to watch another friend back — that is defend them when threats arrive, that is threats of all sorts. Threats can come in all shapes an sizes from accusations to physical threats. Friends can help defend one’s character and life at times.

The Preacher summarizes the text on friendship: a chord of three strands is not easily broken. This summary statement shows the value of friendship. When a strand is bound together with other strands, the strands pull as a unit rather than three individual strands. The load is distributed evenly such that it is not likely to break! The ultimate description of friendship is found in Christ. He says that the greatest form of love is for one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). In the manner that Jesus laid down his life, so Christians ought to lay down his or her life for the sake of his friends, being willing to work with one another, help one another, comfort one another, and protect one another in all things!

Lord, help me to be a friend to others!