By Tamara Chamberlain, Crosswalk.com
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
One of the unique things about Ecclesiastes is that its wisdom is beneficial regardless of your belief in God. The wisdom shown in these four verses can be agreed with, even if you don’t consider yourself a follower of Jesus. There are many other non-Christian proverbs that support the wisdom stated in these verses. Proverbs like, “two heads are better than one” or “no man is an island.”
The writer of Ecclesiastes penned these truths thousands of years before the similar proverbs we commonly know today. It truly is amazing to see the way the truths revealed in Scripture are not only true because we find them in the Bible, but because the truth is the truth.
What Does 'Two Are Better' Mean?
Many allude to ‘two are better’ than one referring to marriage. And this certainly can be applied to the partnership within marriage, but it is by no means limited to the union of marriage. The principle of two being better than one can be applied to any partnership or aspect of life.
To be alone isn’t necessarily seen as negative, but when you add another person to your life the situation is usually better. One of the keywords in these verses is “better.” The writer is stating that a better way, a more fruitful way to live life is alongside other people.
He goes on to describe different aspects in life when two are better than one, such as in work, during moments of weakness, for basic survival, and during moments of attack. These are general life circumstances, but that’s because this truth can really be applied to any part of your life.
I had the privilege of participating in a physical endurance competition, and at first I was reluctant to hear that it required teams. I’m a bit of a competitive person in this area of my life, and I was concerned I would lack control to move at the pace I was comfortable with.
But I quickly realized there was a tremendous advantage to competing together, with a partner.
Within the competition there were different types of workouts included that would be measured in different ways. As I looked at the list of workouts I knew there were certain areas where I would score low, because they were areas of weakness. But it turned out those were the areas where my partner excelled. By the end of the competition, we placed second in my division.
There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to rank second in a competition like this without the help of my partner. “Two are better than one” certainly rang true in my life on this day.
But this wisdom doesn’t only prove itself to be true in trivial moments like this. It continues to be true over and over again. In moments of temptation, it is far better to have someone beside you to keep you accountable and help prevent you from falling into sin.
In moments of despair, it’s far better to have someone alongside you to encourage you and to combat the lies or negative thoughts that fight for your attention. In moments of failure, it’s far better to have another person beside you to walk through the pain with and to help get you back on your feet.
The statement of two being better than one is true in many different life circumstances all across time.
Who Is the Author of Ecclesiastes?
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author only identifies himself by the Hebrew word qoheleth, which can be translated as “preacher.” He never identifies himself by name. The traditional view of authorship is that King Solomon wrote this wisdom literature. This is the view held by many scholars, but it’s not the only view.
The traditional view has been called into question based on some scholars believing this book was written after the death of King Solomon. Depending on the date ascribed to this book, the author might be different. Some even believe this book could have been written by multiple authors. Though there are different viewpoints on authorship of this book, the most commonly-held view by scholars is that of King Solomon.
Without a doubt, the book of Ecclesiastes is unique in its style and even its overall theme.
Photo Credit: ©Crosscards
The Contextual Story around Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The beginning of this book starts out very bleakly as the author is almost shouting at the reader, “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Everything is meaningless!” The writer is searching for significance and meaning in life. What he finds is that while you can search all day long, in the end we all die and it was all worth nothing. This is much of the thread that is followed throughout the first four chapters, until we arrive at verse 9-12.
There’s actually a small shift in these four verses, a glimpse of real hope. Verses 9-12 serve as a great contrast to verse 8, “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother…This too is meaningless—a miserable business!” The author describes the misery a person experiences when they’re alone and without others to be in relationship with. This is a perfect setup into the great benefits of being in community with people. Life is better when there’s more than one of us.
But it’s not only in the wisdom literature that we see the benefits of community, this is actually a principle all throughout Scripture.
Biblical Reasons That Two Are Better than One
God himself is a relational God. He exists within the community of the Trinity. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in an everlasting relationship with one another. As image-bearers of the Triune God, we too are meant to live in community with others. Not only is this the example we have been given, but it comes with great benefits.
All throughout the New Testament, God is calling the body of Christ to display his glory and to share his message. The purpose is for each believer to serve as part of the whole. The mission of God is carried out through the entire body of Christ as we work together with one another.
But the gathering of fellow believers is also for the benefit of us as individuals. The Bible calls us to stay in unity with one another, to lift each other up, to encourage each other, and even to bear one another’s burdens. It’s within the context of relationship that the body of Christ thrives. It’s within the community that the glory of God shines the brightest.
Two is truly better than one—because that’s how God created it to be.
Why God Created Us to Be Relationship
From the very beginning, God created us to be in relationship with others. Not only are we to live in relationship with other people but with God as well. The image is explained in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” The three-strand cord is understood to be unity between yourself, God, and another person.
It is within the context of relationships with shared unity in God that the bond is even stronger. As the love of Jesus pours through us we are better equipped to pour love into others.
The Christian faith has never been about solely building your relationship with Jesus, but about how the redemption received in Jesus needs to be shared with others. It’s not only on this side of eternity that community will be the central focus of life. It will be in heaven, too. Our life will always be about community with God and others. It’s through relationship with others and God that we truly live the life God created for us.
Life is better with others. Not only because of the way it will personally benefit you, but because it’s the greatest way to display the glory of God.
Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. This is what life is all about. The author of Ecclesiastes says all other pursuits in life will leave you empty-handed and longing for more. It’s only the pursuit of loving God and loving others that will truly give you fulfillment and purpose in life.
The best life lived is not one searching for things that will fade away—but things that will last even through eternity.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jupiterimages
Tamara Chamberlain and her husband Dale are authors and speakers who are passionate about loving and serving Jesus together. They love having conversations and creating community around the abundant life that Jesus promised us. You can connect with Dale and Tamara at herandhymn.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.