LIFE IS NOT FAIR…YOU NEED STRONG ROPE!
ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 4
“That’s not fair…” When I hear someone say this, I immediately think about a man that I worked with many years ago. He was the head of our organization – a wise and accomplished man. He had an answer each time someone said this. He always said… “Life is not fair. The only fair I know about is the one that comes once a year - out on West 50.”
Heh… Did you ever get tired of hearing one liners? Oh yeah…I cringed every time someone said something was not fair in this man’s presence, because I knew what his next words would be. It got really old!! But, it is so true… There is nothing that is “fair”.
When tragedy strikes, we begin to question why God would allow such a thing to happen. Many non-believers have said these words… “If your God is such a loving God, then why did He allow such and such to happen?” Well…unfortunately, you will not find the answer here because I cannot answer that question, nor does anyone else know the answer. Only God knows. I prefer to think that God knows what He is doing…but that is just me… I know that nothing is fair about life. But, I do know that I can adjust my attitude about how I handle the things in life that I would just rather had not happened… You know?
“Fairness” has always been a really big issue in my life. I grew up under the “Fairness Doctrine”. Oh yeah…my Mom taught us that everything had to be fair. I have two sisters, the same as Mom did. As the middle child, Mom often felt neglected by her own mother, so she decided that no child of hers would ever feel left out. So, the last piece of cake would get carefully cut into precise thirds. If we were given candy ~ jelly beans for instance ~ we waited patiently while 3 little piles were carefully counted to be equal. The number of gifts received at Christmas would be equal for each of the three of us. She even made sure that the same amount of money was allotted to be spent on each of us. We understood that at times, lots must be cast to make sure no favor was shown for one child over another. We grew up with all of the “lot” type activities ~ you know the ones of which I speak… We drew straws, we did the paper/rock/scissors and eenie, meenie, miney, mo things… and dice…
haha… gotcha! NO, we did not throw dice…but we understood the concept. Heh…yeah… At a very early age, we understood words like fair and equal.
Sadly, there was a reason why my Grandmother may have kept my Mother at an arm’s length – emotionally at a minimum. While Grandma was pregnant with my Mother, her 3 year old son, David, became ill and died. He died in 1927, but I guarantee you that every person in my family and in my generation and some in the next, know who David was because he was kept “alive” by Gram – never allowing him to be forgotten. When David died, my Aunt Bev was an infant, already welcomed and already loved. My aunt was also very ill at the time David died. My Grandmother went from two children to one and a fear that the other might die as well. It must have been a horrible time in Grandma’s life. As time moved on, Grandma did not get over the loss of her only son. She made no secret of the fact that she would, willingly, have traded the life of my Mom for the life of David. She said so… and my Mom overheard her say it. My Mom was born to a Mother who was so lost in her grief that she really didn’t want my Mom. My Mom’s life as a child was much like a small shadow, living in the shadow of a ghost brother she never knew. Later, a third daughter was born, who lived the life typical of a youngest child and spoiled beyond belief. My Mother’s perception of her world was that both older and younger sister were loved, but she was not. Whether that was true or not does not matter because our perceptions become our realities and our realities become our truths. And from those perceptions are born our outlook on life and subsequent actions and beliefs. Mom tried all the usual tactics of a child who did not feel loved. She tried to be really good all the time. She did not do things to grieve her parents. She simply existed – desperately trying to please her Mother. She did have the complete love of a good Father, but there was always that void in her life, that perception that one was favored over another and she was not the one favored. This feeling persisted as my Mother grew. She said that Gram would often say… “If David were here, he would be _______ (playing football, going to the prom, graduating from high school…fill in the blank…). For my Mother, it was like growing up with a ghost. Mom said that the last time Gram used that phrase was at the time David would have graduated high school. For the last time, Gram said “If David were here, he would be going to war.” Mom said with that sad realization that David may have only lived to die in war, Grandma let David go. It was all vanity and the answer was blowing in the wind.
In the first 3 verses of Chapter 4, Solomon considers the life of the oppressed, comparing praise for the dead to the one who has never existed. He concludes that it is better to have never existed to start with. As a child, my Mother felt oppressed. She lived with praise for the dead. Mom thought it would have been better if she had never been born…she said so. However…she was here and she lived a life that was a balancing act. Careful to never offend her Mother who she never believed wanted her. The “balancing act” continued into her adult life. She was always careful to be the good daughter, the good wife and the good Mother. It was out of this careful balancing act that was born her “fairness doctrine”. I also have 2 sisters. My Mother was determined that my middle sister would NEVER feel like the unwanted, neglected middle child. In my Mother’s perception, the middle child gets lost in the family because that is what happened to her. Mom was careful that everything was FAIR AND EQUAL between my sisters and me. My “middle sister” never got lost in our family. Mom made sure that my middle sister never felt the way she herself felt while growing up. It is noble that my Mom felt this way and translated her feelings into actions. Yes…that was a good thing. It gave my sisters and me a good foundation for understanding fairness, but on the other hand, were our expectations realistic? REALLY??? Anybody who has spent much time on this earth knows that there is nothing fair about life! Upon entering the adult world, I was let down considerably by how unfair it is out there in the world… I didn’t know just exactly how unfair the world was because I grew up under the “fairness doctrine”! I can tell you that an upbringing like I had was good in many ways, but leaves one unprepared for the inequity and the unjust aspects of life we learn when we become adults and step out into the world. There is no “fair”…under the sun. And, I also conclude that it is all vanity and grasping for the wind.
More on Labor: Solomon again considers labor as vanity. He considers that the fool may be better off than the one who has his hands full of toil and grasping for the wind. (Vs 5 & 6) He sees that even one alone, without companion or son or brother, labors towards riches, never satisfied and never asking “For whom do I toil…? (Vs 8) This type of person works hard, amasses a fortune, but for what? He has no one with which to share, or even a son to inherit because he made his whole life about getting wealthy, perhaps leaving no time for a family. He succeeds by the worldly standards, but not without personal cost because he has no family, he has no love… He has no one to share life with him. His life is empty regardless of his wealth. Sad for me to think of such a man… Ebenezer Scrooge comes to mind… Solomon concludes that it is “vanity and a grave misfortune”.
He continues to reason that two are better than one because that is a reward for labor…for if one falls, the other can lift up, but woe on the man who is alone because who will lift him up when he falls? Also, as one alone has no extra warmth and if two can warm each other, how much better to be three?
Though one may be
Overpowered by another,
Two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Solomon concludes that being alone is not a good thing, two is better, but a threefold cord is not quickly broken…. When the enemy comes against us, the person with no one may be overpowered, whereas, two or more have the strength to withstand. And though two have strength, if you add a third, additional strength is added. I have always thought that this scripture pertains to God being the third person who adds strength enough to bind the enemy. We have victory when God is our third cord… And if our work comes between us and God, family or friends… it is foolishness.
Solomon also considers that it is better to be a poor and wise young man than a rich and foolish old king who the Lord no longer chastises. Even the man who has a rich and successful life will be replaced one day by a younger man. So, why lose your life, love and companionship while trying to make a name for yourself and while striving to become rich? It’s all vanity and really for nothing…
Don’t take your job so seriously because your job does not define you, nor will it keep you warm when all else has been lost while you toil for recognition and fortune… Remember…LIFE IS NOT FAIR! When you reach the goal post and look around, will anybody be there? Or have you lived a life in vain? God did not intend for man to be alone, living in a paradise with all comforts, or He would not have created Eve.
And the Lord God said,
“It is not good that man should be alone;
I will make him a helper comparable to him.”Genesis 2:18
Wrapping up Chapter 4, we find Solomon’s opinion on youth and old age. Contrary to the general opinion that wisdom lies with the elderly, Solomon points out that we may have forgotten the lessons of our youth to become foolish. He opines that it is better to be poor and wise in one’s youth, than to be king and too foolish to take advice in his old age. He continues this line of thought with the fact that there will always be a young man to take the place of the king. And he adds that when the old king is gone, no one will be grateful for what he has done anyway, so it is all useless…like chasing the wind…
This made me think back and recall some things about my own life. I worked in human resources in state government for 36 years before retiring. Many years ago, when I first started in my career, the personnel manager watched me work like there was no tomorrow. I worked all day, and then I took work home at night. I preferred to think I was dedicated and hard working, but from the perspective of age, I know that I was simply an ambitious young lady who wanted a good career, but lacked the wisdom to prioritize and organize. I had a lot to learn, so work flow was often interrupted while I went seeking through state rules and regulations for answers that later became ready knowledge. The manager, seeing the work habits I was developing, decided it was time to share some wisdom with me. This from the perspective of his age, no doubt… He told me that there are two things that I need to know… But, first, he wanted me to visualize myself putting my fist into a bucket of water, then pull it out. He asked me how long the hole stays there in the bucket of water. Once I understood that there would be no hole, he went on with the two things I needed to understand. The first thing is that if I am killed on the highway on my way home after work, someone would be sitting in my chair, doing my job, within a week or so. The second thing…when you are gone, everything is your fault because you will be blamed for everything found to be wrong after you leave. I never forgot the bucket of water analogy, nor did I forget that I was not the only person who could do my job.
I’m not saying you should not give your best to a job. I’m just saying that you should not over estimate your own importance. I would add a postscript to his advice…from the perspective of age…mine this time…when once you were the young whippersnapper, remember that when you are old, there will be another young whippersnapper to take your place. And the new whippersnapper will do as good a job as you did and maybe better. It is vanity to think otherwise.
Once again…I would like to remind you to stop, enjoy your life and smell the flowers along life’s way…
And, be the best friend you can be because you never know when you might be the one to make a difference in someone else’s life.
This concludes Chapter 4. Thank you for studying along with me as I share what Ecclesiastes means to me and how I translate it into real meaning for my life. I hope you also see how this book relates to your life as well. Please continue with me in Chapter 5. It will be up soon.