Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But, woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.
A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. ~ Ecc 4: 9-12
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Solomon writes this bit of thought in the midst of talking about rest and labor. He talks about the folly of working for nothing — chasing the wind, he calls it — and how much better it is to take rest or at least enjoy life as well as working. All of a sudden he jumps into this discussion about companionship.
The apostle Paul will be the first to tell us that it is better to be single than to marry because when we marry we are torn between serving the Lord and serving the responsibilities of raising a family. It isn’t that raising a family is contrary to God’s purposes, but in terms of being free to go wherever God leads and having our minds undistracted for His mission, we do better to be single. Yet, Solomon, the wisest man in the world, points out that two are better than one.
Why are two better? For one thing, we get a better return on our labor. When we work together, we accomplish more. My husband and I have had this weird pattern of drift in our marriage at times. We seem to go along and suddenly we are co-existing without connecting. One of us notices this and we intentionally turn towards one another again. God has worked within our marriage over the years to bring about more cooperation and teamwork. We used to argue over financial discussions. Now we have a system and we accomplish twice what we would before. We used to take on certain tasks around the home, but without coordinating our efforts. Now we compliment one another in what we do — each doing their part to carry the load for the whole. Our life is more organized and we get more done around the home. We used to banter about a few approaches to child-rearing. We have decided to see the good in one another’s perspectives and give room for our differences. We have come to common ground and our children are far more stable since we did. Two have a good return for their labor.
Solomon also points out that if either one of the partnership falls, the other will lift them up. This is a great picture of what can be so good in marriage. We can lift one another up. I wish I could say I always lifted my husband up when he fell, but there were times when I felt I needed him and he didn’t do what I hoped or expected and I expressed my disappointment instead of lifting him up. The world and the devil will come against our marriages. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder and lift one another up. God specifically says, “when we fall.” This doesn’t mean that we should allow abuse or sit by while our spouse takes advantage of us, but it does mean that we need to purpose in our hearts to lift our spouse up. We can do this in a way no one else on earth can do. We have been given a special role and our encouragement and support can mean everything when our spouse is facing the wind outside the home.
When two lie down together, they keep warm. What is marriage if it is not the place we are warmed? We can end each day with the warmth of marriage. It is a gift from God to be near to the one He has given us and to lie down and be warmed in their presence. A good marriage provides safety, comfort and security.
Together we can resist opposition. When my husband has had people in his life come against him, I have been here with a listening ear, I have lifted him in prayer, I have spoken words of encouragement and clarity. When I have been misunderstood or had difficult experiences outside our marriage, he has been strong for me and stood by me. He has sought the truth and helped me stand strong in God’s love and power. I can think of nothing more grounding than the covering of my husband in times of distress. He does not present himself as a strong man outwardly, but his inward strength is like bedrock. He is not my rock, but he is my companion and he has championed for me in difficult days.
When Solomon finishes discussing all the strengths of two, he surprises us with this final line, “A cord of three strands can not easily be broken.” We were thinking about two and he says three. Yes, we are two, and we are more productive, effective, encouraged, warmed and defended together. But we are not strong enough as two. We need the third strand, which is God. The strength in my husband is made strong by God. My ability to lift my husband up is from God. Our warmth is a gift from God. Without Him in our midst, we may do well, but we won’t be as strong as we need to be.
I haven’t always lifted my husband up. I haven’t always been his comrade against the things that came against him. I haven’t always given him the comfort and warmth a marriage should provide. I have failed him at different times through our years together. I say this so you know you are normal. But, as I walk with him longer and farther in this life, I appreciate him more and more and I commit deeper than ever in my heart to be his intimate encourager, to be the welcome he calls “home,” and to stand shoulder to shoulder against the winds of life together. I pray you will commit to the same in your home.