We’re continuing Under the Sun, our journey through Solomon’s writings on purpose in the book of Ecclesiastes. This week, we’re looking at the kinds of investments we make in our lives, why investing into the wrong things can leave us feeling dissatisfied, and what we can invest in that will bring purpose and meaning to our lives.

Read Ecclesiastes 4.7–12.

This passage tells the story of the ultimate poor investment. The man in Solomon’s story put everything he had into his career, and ended up with success—he was wealthy, powerful, and had everything he wanted. But one day, he wakes up and realizes he feels empty because his investment isn’t paying off. This is due to a number of reasons.

In verse 8, we read that “there was no end to his toil,” but he was never content. No matter how hard he worked or what he got for it, he always wanted more. What he had never satisfied him, so he kept working for more.

But there was more to his emptiness than feeling the need to keep working for things. In verse 8, he also asked himself who he was doing all of this for. He looked around and realized that he had no one to share his success with—no friends, no family, and no spouse. He realized that experiencing a lot of success with no relationships led to emptiness.

And finally, he asks himself why he is depriving himself of his enjoyment. He realizes that he’s worked so hard to achieve a certain lifestyle, but he’s working so hard to maintain it that he doesn’t have any time to enjoy himself.

In the course of two verses, we see Solomon make the argument that investing in career or lifestyle success isn’t the recipe for a life of purpose and meaning.

Question: Look at the “investments” you’re making in your life. Maybe it’s in your job, or maybe it’s in a different area. Regardless of where you’re making your investments, take time to ask yourself the questions this man did. Are your investments paying off, or are they leaving you feeling empty and wanting more?

Solomon doesn’t stop at just telling us a story about investments not paying off. In verse 9, he begins to talk about the kinds of investments we can make that will give us a life of purpose.

Read Ecclesiastes 4.9.

This is Solomon’s way of saying that, if we want to make fruitful investments, we should invest in meaningful relationships. He’s not arguing that work is unimportant, he’s saying that a combination of hard work and meaningful relationships will result in a satisfying life.

Why are relationships so important to us? They’re important because we were made in the image of a relational God. The Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing in one being—is interdependent and incredibly relational. Since Genesis 1.27 tells us that we were created in the image of God, it means that we were created to be wired for meaningful relationships. That’s why Solomon points out how important relationships are to a satisfying life.

Read Ecclesiastes 4.10–12.

In these verses, Solomon gives practical reasons as to why investing in relationships is so important.

1. In verse 10, Solomon says that two are better than one because “if either of them falls down, one can help the other out.”

One of the best things about meaningful relationships is that they give us help when we need it. This can be especially difficult for people that are wired to be more independent and have trouble accepting help. But, if God calls us to do big things, there will be times when we’ll find ourselves flat on our faces. When we are living in community with meaningful friendships, we have people around us to help us up and keep pursuing God’s call.

Question: When have you “fallen down” and been helped up by a friend? Have you ever “fallen down” and felt like you had to get up on your own? How different were those two situations?

2. Meaningful relationships also encourage us in our purpose.

In verse 11, Solomon says that friends can “keep warm.” When God calls us to a specific passion and purpose, friends can speak words of encouragement to us and continue to keep us on track by warming our God-giving passion and spurring us on to live out our purposes.

Read Hebrews 10.24–25.

Question: Do you have friends that encourage you in your purpose? Are you the kind of friend that encourages others in their purpose and walk with God?

3. Relationships can protect us from danger.

Solomon tells us in verse 12 that one person can be overpowered, two can defend themselves, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. It’s much easier to fall into temptation and brokenness when we’re isolated from God-honoring community. When we have friends and authentic community surrounding us, we can be vulnerable with our struggles while being held accountable by our friends.

Relationships are incredibly important, but it is possible to invest in meaningful relationships and still feel empty and unsatisfied. As important as human relationships are, we were created first and foremost for a relationship and friendship with God. This is the only relationship that can truly and fully satisfy our hearts.

Question: Take stock of your relationship with God. Do you view God as the kind of friend Solomon was talking about? How can you continue to grow that relationship so you are looking to find satisfaction in your friendship with God?