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Ecclesiastes 4:1-8

Emptiness at the Top

In this text Solomon exposes the emptiness of many who make it to the top. This is not a plea for mediocrity. The problem with the people he’s talking about soon becomes clear; they have no fear of the Lord. For people like this, tyranny can become a calling card. Since they view people as pawns, it’s easy for the powerful to become abusive. Sadly, those whom they oppress often have no one to help or comfort them (v.1). Their lot is so painful Solomon concludes that the dead or unborn are better off than the oppressed. If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because these verses capture much of the history of the human race. That’s why those who strive for success must also strive for compassion.

Another reason many successful people feel empty is that they see others as competitors to be beaten rather than as companions to be embraced. It isn’t easy to make friends under those conditions. That’s why those who strive for success must also strive for companionship.

The overachiever can also feel empty because success may bring with it a pack of problems he hadn’t expected. For these people, Solomon’s advice in verse 6 is worth heeding. That’s why those who strive for success must also strive for contentment.

Solomon’s final picture (vv. 7-8) is a sad one: a successful person alone with his money. Yet his loneliness and frustration drive him even harder. A person like that needs help! That’s why those who strive for success must also strive for cessation—knowing when enough is enough.

Today in the Word, MBI, April, 1990, p. 14