Tomorrow at 3 PM, Lord willing, I will have the privilege of marrying my son, Joshua, to his betrothed, Emily in a park in south Orlando.
I plan to present my message charge to them from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
There is a scene in the movie Gladiator where Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, leads a group of fighters into the Roman Coliseum to face not one another, but some unknown foe. The gladiators have no idea what kind of battle awaits them. Just before they step into the arena, Maximus pleads with them: If we stick together, we have a much better chance of surviving whatever is going to come out of the other tunnels.
He invoked, knowingly or unknowingly, a principle of ancient wisdom contained in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 4. It was written by one of the wisest men to ever live – King Solomon. And it is supremely applicable to the reality of marriage. Two are better than one. It follows some verses where Solomon laments the emptiness of a person swallowed by greed who works feverishly all his life without anyone at all with which to share his life.
The reason two are better than one, v. 9 goes on to say, is because they have a good reward for their toil. The Old Testament usually uses the word reward to refer to wages rendered for work done. But here it has a wider application to that which brings a satisfactory or pleasant outcome. And nowhere is that perhaps more true than in marriage, though this passage actually never says anything at all about marriage. It speaks to the superiority of companionship on any and every level over and against the inferiority of isolation.
But clearly we aren’t off base when we apply it to marriage when we consider God Himself and His estimation of the condition of aloneness in the Garden of Eden in Gen. 2:18 when He first created the institution of marriage. It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. It’s not good, this alone thing. As a rule, though there are exceptions, two are better than one when it comes to that part of the image of God in man that is his mandate to exercise dominion and subdue the earth.
Married couples are meant to participate in the larger story of what God is doing on His earth. He leads couples to understand that together they can be more effective than apart as regent and vice-regent in the task. If this was true with Adam and Eve before their fall into sin and rebellion, how much more is it true now after sin has tainted everything in the human experience?
Every time we attend a wedding it should remind us of the gift of companionship of all kinds and the advantage it brings to our call to execute our God-given stewardship on this earth.
Hug your spouse and/or friend tomorrow and say a prayer for Josh and Em whom I toasted this way at the rehearsal dinner on Friday night:
Long life, lasting love, ferocious commitment, and the daily experience of what the wisdom writer said, “Two are better than one.”