I have always considered myself a good driver. Even when I first got my permit, I thought my driving skills far surpassed that of kids my age. Not long after receiving my license to drive, I was going to work one day after school like any other day. I got onto the ramp to enter the highway, checked my mirror to make sure I was clear to merge, and then I merged. I was in the right lane behind a semi going slower than the speed limit, so I decided to get in the left lane to move past him. I checked my mirror, turned my signal on and started moving over.
It was not long after making this decision that a friendly car in my blind spot, who I unintentionally ran off the road, decided to tell me how great my driving skills were. I pulled back into the right lane and my new friend drove beside me to tell me how great they thought I was. Even though I thought I was an excellent driver, that alone did not make me an excellent driver. It was not the idea of being that excellent driver, it was the execution of being an excellent driver. In my mistake I neglected to check my blind spot, and in my old Jeep, it was a pretty big blind spot. The thing about blind spots is that you can’t see them. That’s why they’re called blind spots. If you can’t see where you’re weak and prone to falling, how are you going to keep yourself from falling?
For the summer, our youth have been going through a series on Ecclesiastes and looking at all the wise words the Preacher brings in this text. In Ecclesiastes chapter 4, he gives four enemies that affect real, genuine community. I encourage you to take a moment to read that chapter (Ecclesiastes 4:1-12) and then come back to this point.
The first enemy of real, genuine community is jealousy (envy of neighbor at verse 4). I don’t know about you, but I can remember a time in my life when I was okay if someone went through a hard time. I remember being in a hard time myself and just being angry at someone who was experiencing the opposite of what I was experiencing. I remember that person getting on my nerves because of the good that was happening to them. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that this mentality is not conducive to real, genuine community. It will only tear you from the joy that could be in this genuine community.
Looking at the second enemy of this genuine community, the Preacher shows use in a beautiful poetic form by saying, “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves” (verse 5). Other translations say that this person consumes his own flesh, or starves himself to death. The person the Preacher is talking about here is the lazy person. Intimacy requires effort, so you cannot assume genuine community will just fall in your lap. You have to actually work for it. Lazy people will never know true community because they will cross their arms and expect it to come to them. These are the type of people who expect to be fed by those around them and eventually those who feed them will grow tired of their one-sided efforts and will leave them all by themselves to which the Preacher says, “and they will eat their own flesh.” The idea behind this drastic ending to the lazy person is the idea of them not being able to feed themselves, so they will feed off of themselves until they die. It is my prayer for you and the youth here at Rousculp that you would be able to feed yourself—that you don’t just rely on what we tell you on Sunday mornings, but that you are able to dig into the Scriptures for yourself and pray to your heavenly Father for yourself. You can’t expect that eating just one meal a week is adequate for your body’s needs, so is the same for your spiritual needs.
The Preacher comes to the third enemy when he uses beautiful poetic form to basically say that dissatisfaction will kill your chances at this real, genuine community (verse 6). The poetry the Preacher uses describes the idea of not being satisfied with what is here and now, so you look off into the future where your version is perfect. If you’re always thinking in the future, you’re never in the present. If you’re always thinking you can’t wait until some future time period where you have this going for you, or you reach this certain age, or you reach retirement, then you will never experience the beautiful realities of what God is doing right now in your life. When you’re stuck in some better day tomorrow, you will not be able to see how incredibly good Jesus has been to you right now in the present.
Looking at the last enemy of genuine community, the Preacher pictures a man who has wealth but is never content with what he already has, so he continues working. The Wall Street Journal did a study a few years ago to find out who the happiest people in America are. They found that the happiest people are not the ones who work at acquiring things, but the ones who spent their time, money, and energy on things that increase the relationships around them. The happiest people are not the ones who work for trinkets to fill their lives, but the ones who spent what they had on developing the relationships around them. This is not saying that you should not work to provide a life or get somewhere, but is about using work to define your life. The Preacher says that this enemy is not conducive to real, genuine community.
We tend to get so wrapped up in ourselves and all that we can do, that we miss out on the relationships we could be building with those around us. We get so focused on the ME that we miss out on the WE. There are many things we can do to increase our relational capacity. For starters, we could get with a group of believers who will build us up and help us grow spiritually. There are many believers in this church who would love to have that with you, and all you have to do is show an interest and get the conversation rolling. At the end of this chapter in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher gives the imagery of how important this community is by saying, “two is better than one” and giving reasons to support this claim (4:9-12). How are you going to keep from falling with all of your blind spots?—real, genuine community with believers who will be there to build you up and help you grow.
Ecclesiastes 4:1-12 // Hebrews 10:24-25 // Matthew 18:20 // Romans 12:4-5 // Colossians 3:14