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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Never Can Say Goodbye

Visit jamesbest.net/artwork/sermon-illustrations-2023.

Earlier this year Joy Rajat Das published a story entitled “Drawing the Line” on the website Soulveda. It is about a mother visiting her son and his wife.

One evening at the supper table, she watched the couple exchange distracted conversation while giving most of their attention to their cell phones. Mother wondered, “What’s this obsession with phones?” She couldn’t imagine a glass having so much a big influence on her children’s lives. What happened at the table was the rule, not the exception. They were virtually slaves to their phones, taking calls and working from home on them.

She knew a line had to be drawn somewhere and said, “May I ask you two something?”

“Of course, mom,” they answered in unison.

“When was the last time you really spent time with each other – without cell phones between you?” she asked.

Clueless, the couple looked at each other. They couldn’t remember.

“There is more to life than what you see in your phones,” she said and left them to think about it.

The next day, just before dinner, her son took a basket from a shelf and put his phone in it. His wife did the same.

“This is our new rule, mom,” he said. “No phones during dinner.” He held out the basket to his mom, who pushed it away. “I am not the one who is addicted,” she laughed.

While we’re on the subject of a family meal, let me quickly note how this one act of togetherness can have a profound effect on children. According to research by the University of Florida, “having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school.”

I offer the story and the science to support the point of this morning’s message, which is this: In the life of faith, your best life is when you partner with other believers.

1. Working for yourself is meaningless. (7-8)

The case study: a man who worked hard to accumulate wealth but had no one with whom to share it. (7-8) The man in this case study is a miser. (You notice the similarity between the word miser and the word “miserable.” The connection is not just in spelling: the action leads to the attitude.) This man worked hard and had success in the sense of being able to accumulate wealth. The Preacher realized material success is nothing without relational success. But success did not satisfy the miser and he realized that he had no one with whom he could share his wealth. The self-sacrifice necessary for success had been in vain. Not only is he not getting any pleasure from his earnings, neither is anyone else.

The verdict: such labor is MEANINGLESS AND DEPRESSING. (8) The substance of the book of Ecclesiastes are the Preacher’s observations on the parts of life he finds to be MEANINGLESS. The Hebrew word translated in the NLT as MEANINGLESS is hevel, which literally means “breath” or “vapor.” The Greek word translated in the same way is ματαιοδοξία, meaning foppery or conceit. Taken together, this word refers to the things in this life that may take on an appearance of importance but are actually of only momentary import; they disappear like a vapor.

His conclusion on being a workaholic is worse than average, it being MEANINGLESS AND DEPRESSING. A surplus of worldly things will not compensate you for the loss of relationships if you prioritize wealth or career. There is a lot more to be enjoyed in good relationships, especially in our relationship with God.

2. Working by yourself is meaningless. (9-12)

The verdict: TWO ARE BETTER OFF THAN ONE. Common sense and shared experience verify this statement as true. This verse makes another reference to success, this time finding success by working together.

Better still are three together; they have strength like a TRIPLE-BRAIDED CORD. (12) Other ancient records prove this was an oft-quoted proverb, even in other cultures. In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher’s wisdom is based on experience and observation as much as direct revelation. This is an example. If you’ve ever had the experience of making rope (as I have), you will understand the truth of v. 12. This homespun wisdom reinforces the fact that the more people with whom we are interdependent, the better off we are. Accumulate as many good relationships as you can.

The Preacher offered four proofs in support of his verdict.

- Two people CAN HELP EACH OTHER SUCCEED.

- If one of the two FALLS, the other can help them get up.

- Two people keep each other warm; one person shivers.

- Two people can defend each other; one person can be defeated because there’s no one to watch their back.

In the life of faith, your best life is when you partner with other believers.

J. Stafford Wright, in his commentary on Ecclesiastes, views chapter four as King Solomon’s commentary on politics. That would mean that our passage for today is a call for people to get along in the political process, to make partners not opponents in order to get things done. In today’s overly politicized and overly divisive culture, that seems like especially timely advice.

Contrary to every claim to be able to worship God better when one is apart from other people, the Bible’s overwhelming witness is to the need for mutual support. God calls people into relationship with Him first, then into relationship with one another. You can’t have one without the other and there’s no sense in pretending otherwise.

What are the qualities we should seek to develop in our relationships to make them as good as possible?

1) Christ-centered.

2) Characterized by love and holiness.

3) Mutually accountable for maturing.

4) A source of mutual joy.

5) Between peers.

RESOURCES:

Dinner story from https://www.soulveda.com/short-stories/relationships/drawing-the-line/ retrieved on 7 July 23.

Dinner time quote from https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/families_and_consumers/family_dinners.shtml#:~:text=Research%20suggests%20that%20having%20dinner,of%20graduating%20from%20high%20school, retrieved on 7 July 23

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 6, 2006, Ecclesiastes, Tremper Longman III

Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 6, Ecclesiastes, 1982, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzch

The Expositor’s Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 5, Ecclesiastes, 1991, J. Stafford Wright.

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