When we first read this chapter, there seems no connection between the cruelty (in Ecclesiastes 4:1), the jealous attitudes (in Ecclesiastes 4:4), and the lazy behaviour (in Ecclesiastes 4:5). But with the help of the Book of James, we can discover a connection.
James was worried about Christians who cared too much about money (James 2:1-7). They were making plans to make themselves rich (James 4:13-16). James warned them that they were allowing themselves to become jealous of other people (James 4:1-4).
James saw the truth about the easy and comfortable lives that those Christians so much desired. Those Christians were trying to imitate some rich people who were lazy and cruel. Of course a rich person can have an easy life if he is lazy. And of course he can have a comfortable life by means of cruelty to other people. But God will punish anyone who behaves like that (James 5:1-6).
Or perhaps we should say that those people bring about their own punishment (Ecclesiastes 4:5; James 5:5). They have allowed jealous attitudes to control their lives completely. They have become so lazy that they will not even lift a hand to work (Ecclesiastes 4:5).
Near the end of their lives, a farmer feeds his animals plentifully. He wants the animals to be very fat when the butcher kills them. A cruel person may imagine that he is living well. But really, he is getting himself ready for his own punishment (Ecclesiastes 4:5; James 5:5).
Jealous attitudes can ruin your life. Such attitudes cause people to do many evil and cruel things. It is better to be poor than to behave like that (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.