Sermon – Life on the ladder (Ecclesiastes 4:1 – 4:16) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Life on the ladder

Pete Woodcock, Ecclesiastes 4:1 - 4:16, 24 March 2024

On Sunday, the teacher of Ecclesiastes in Chapter 4:1-16, continued to unpack his observations as he searched for meaning in all he had seen on his mission to discover the answer to the big question in Chapter 1v3. He saw the plight and distress of those who are trodden-on as others ‘climb up the ladder’ in life, and the utter futility of acquiring wealth without someone to share it with. He also saw the futility of leaders who rise to power but are disliked by later generations. It all seemed like darkness, however he found a glimmer of hope. What is our ultimate hope in a world like this?


Ecclesiastes 4:1 - 4:16

4:1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

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.

13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

(ESV)


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

We're going to hear god's word read to us and, and preach now. And we're gonna have 2 readings, the first of which won't appear on the screen. So the first reading is gonna be taken from luke 19 verse 1 to 10. So if you've got a Bible or you can, load 1 up on your device.

Go to Luke 19, 1 to 10, and then we'll be turning back and reading ecclesiastes. Chapter 4. Heavenly father, we thank you that this is a living word and that by your spirit, you speak to your people through this word. Father, we need it. We have tuned in to so many other voices this week.

We have listened to things which have harmed our thinking and led us down rabbit holes and led us into the dark, and we haven't paid enough tension to the life giving light of truth that is your word. And so how precious is this next hour or so together where we can hear you through your word speaking to us, and we pray that you'd help us not just to understand what is written. But you'd move our wills so that we really want to obey to repent to trust where we need to. Change us, speak to us. We pray, father.

In Jesus' name. Oh, man. Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

He wanted to see he chooses who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zekius, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter. He's going to be the guest of a sinner. But Zakia stood up and said to the lord, look lord. Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I've cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back 4 times the amount.

Jesus said to him, today, salvation has come to this house because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost. Well, keep a finger in that reading and, turn back now to Ecclesiastes 4, and that will appear on the screen behind me. Again, I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, and they have no comforter.

Power was on the side of their oppressors, and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead who had already died, are happier than the living who are still alive, but better than them both is the 1 who has never been born. Who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. And I saw that all toil and all achievements spring from 1 person's envy of another. This too is meaningless.

Are chasing after the wind. Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better 1 handful with tranquility than 2 handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Again, I saw something meaningless under the sun. There was a man all alone.

He had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. For whom am I toiling? He asked, And why am I depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is meaningless.

A miserable business. 2 are better than 1 because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, 1 can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no 1 to help them up. Also, if 2 lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can 1 keep warm alone? Though 1 may be overpowered, 2 can defend themselves. A cord of 3 strands is not quickly broken. Better rapport but wise youth. Than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.

The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with this successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the winds.

This is the lord's word to us now, and Pete's gonna come and preach it. Well, good morning. My name is Pete Woodcock. I'm 1 of the pastors here. We've been working our way through this remarkable book, and we've still got some way to go, of ecclesiastes.

It's it's just a very, very different bible book, and I and I think really looks at our world in in a different way than you may think bible books would do. Let me just pray. Father help us now, open our eyes to these wonderful truths, show us the world and our need for Christ. Help us to really feel that we pray in Jesus' name. Oh, ma'am.

Now the the ladder image going up the ladder is is often a picture of getting on in in life. Certainly, in Britain, it is, and I guess in other in other nations, climbing the ladder to success. We have phrases like that. You need to get your foot on the property ladder. Right, you know, when you're young.

Sometimes, you know, you do have to just tread on people to go up the next rung of the ladder. Start here, and then you can work your way up the ladder. There's so many phrases like that. We even have a game called snakes and ladders. You go down the snake and up the ladder if you wanna wanna win.

Now the writer of Ecclesiastes Solomon is at the top of the ladder. He has a room with a view, and, he's looking out from the top of the ladder, from his penthouse estate. He's got there. He's looking out. But he's not doing this casually.

He's not just sort of, you know, woken up in the morning and drawn the curtains and looking down who's down below, below him. He's actually really researching. Now we know this because chapter 1, he says I study. I looked. I applied my mind.

And he's applying his mind as he looks out the window. It's as if he's got his binoculars out. And there he is in his penthouse, there he is on the top rung. And he's looking down to see what's going on in this world and how this world is working on this this ladder. And he'll discover that actually there's no more meaning at the top rung of the ladder at as as at the bottom rung of the ladder.

They're both the same. Someone said contentment and inner tranquility are seldom found in the penthouse. And he hasn't found it there. And yet the amazing thing is, as he'll show us, there's all this laboring and struggling and sweating and squabbling and fighting to get up the next rung because even though those at the top of the rung at the top of the ladder, like Solomon are saying Really, it doesn't bring satisfaction. Nevertheless, we don't believe that.

And if we could get 1 more rung up the ladder, then maybe we're being we'll be a little bit more satisfied and happy. So here he is then. He's got this room with a view, and he's looking out, and he's sort of taking photos of the different people up and down the ladder. You can see he's doing this. Look, verse 1, it says I saw verse 4, I saw verse 5.

He he sees a fool, verse 7, I saw, verse 15, I saw. He's looking at everything from his vantage point, but he himself is under the sun. He's under the sun. And that phrase means without revelation from god. It's not that he doesn't believe in god.

He does, but he's not got a special revelation, a word of explanation. He understands there's a god, and he sees sort of general revelation that god has made patterns as we were seeing last week. But he's got no, no specific revelation of what is going on, and so he's looking at what's going on. Up and down the ladder under the sun, and what does he see? All the lonely people?

Where do they come from? We'll hear. First of all, then, his first entry into the into the diary at this point in chapter 4, his first picture that he puts up in the diary is those who are right at the bottom, the oppressed. Look at verses 1 to 3. Let me read them again.

Again, I looked and I saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, and they have no comforter. Power was on the side of the oppressor, and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead who already died are happier than the living who still alive. Better than both is the 1 who's never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

So from his vantage point, he turns his attention to the bottom of the ladder. And really, actually, these people aren't on the ladder at all. They're not even on the bottom rung. They're right down. In the last chapter, in chapter 3, he was looking at injustice that was going on amongst many.

He says in verse 16, it's an astounding sort of sentence. And I saw something else under the sun, in the place of judgment, wickedness was there. In the place of judgment, wickedness was there, In the place of justice, wickedness was there. Now there's nothing more, you know, dismaying When you go to the place of justice and there's wickedness there, there's nothing more dismay. When you go to the place where you think there should be proper judgment, and wickedness is there.

So Solomon's already looked at injustice, but now There's even something worse than that type of injustice. Appression. Appression is there. It's worse than injustice because there are people actually oppressing people. And the world is like this, he's saying.

Power goes to people's heads. People are so inclined to go up the ladder. They'll tread and oppress anyone. And if you can keep the masses oppressed, then you'll get up the ladder quicker. And we need to know this stuff.

Throughout the world, people live in massive poverty and sickness, not where we live. There's very little hope of most people in the world climbing up another wrong, a right wrong of the ladder. They have to stay where they are. They have all their resources to try and just stay where they are. And this is a terrible condition of many people.

We we had it in our prayers, this this morning, which was good. People seemed to be stuck in a trap. They've never got the chances we've got. They can never moan about the things we moan about. Never can they say?

Oh, I didn't really like that food. They have to just eat what's put in front of them. Never can they say, gosh, the waiting list that A and E is so long. I'm in such pain because they haven't got an A and E to moan about. Never can they say that the the waiting at the dentist's surgery is so long.

It took me all day. They haven't got dentists. Down trudgin, people, and others scrabble onto their heads to go up The ladder, victims of power structures, workers in the sweatshops to make our clothes cheap, the dupes of the of the con man. He's taking photos of all of this. The economic pressure that so many people are under, and he's taking a photo of these shanty towns, and the people of fallen foul to the cocaine traders.

And here are people such in such isolation, they're wandering around muttering to themselves in the streets talking to everyone, but no 1 at the same time. And Solomon looks around, and he says when I see this world like that, From my vantage point, these people would be better off dead. Dead people are better off than these people. These people have never had a full belly in their life. Every single day, they felt hungry.

These people have never meant, going to bed and put their head on a soft pillow and felt the peace as they just expel their air to go to sleep because they'll never get deep sleep because there's war all around them, the whole of their lives. They're better off dead. It's better that they'd never been born at all. That's his conclusion as he looks out. Now please don't think this just happens in poorer countries.

It's around us. Those words in verses 2 and 3 about being better dead or not being born at all, They shockingly work themselves out in our own country here. Shockingly, if you think about it. Better, no life than an unwanted 1. Where did you hear people say that?

At the abortion clinic. A US general surgeon said this about abortion. An imp the abortion is an important and positive public health effect reducing the number of children afflicted with severe defects. Better off dead. It's better off dead.

Those lives Or what about the old and the frail that's being pushed? Let's get rid of them. Let them die. And all of this under the sun thinking comes with a sort of humane sort of care. We put a sick dog down.

We put a sick guinea pig down. Let's put sick old people down. Relieve them of their misery. It all sounds so kind when you're down there, The stark futility of a closed system, an under the sun system, turns a world of life into death. It's better to be dead than alive.

Second view, he looks around. The second view in his diary is the ladder climber this time, the achiever. Look at verse 4, you see him there in verse 4, the achiever. And I saw that all the toil and all the achievements springs from 1 1 person's envy of another, that the word another could be neighbor there. This too is meaningless at chasing after the wind.

So he looks away now from the oppressed that aren't even on the rungs of the ladder, and he sees, you know, what's going on Why are they oppressed? And he sees this this advisor, 1 who's gonna climb up the ladder, and he actually sees something worse than the oppressed. Better their dead. Better they were never born. But what he sees is the human heart.

And I saw all the toil and achievements spring from 1 person's envy. Of another. 1 writer said this. A myriad of men are born, They labor and struggle and sweat for bread. They squabble and scold and fight They scramble for little mean advantages over each other.

Age creeps upon them, an infirmity follow. Shame and humiliation bring down their pride and their vanities. Those they love are taken from them. And the joy of life is turned into aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery grows heavier, year by year.

At length, ambition is dead, longing for a lea relief in its place. It comes at last. The only unpause and gift the earth has for them. And they vanish from a world where they achieve nothing where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness, where they left no sign that they had ever existed, a world that will lament them for a day and forget them forever. Harsh, isn't it?

But true. And in that, these little mean advantages of stepping on each other, I must get up the rung. I must go up the rung. You see, if you take god out of working in people's lives, if you take the love of god then out of our lives, then you basically have the love of self, and you put that thinking with your worth, with your work ethic and you'll be burning up energy to perform better than other people so that you can go up the rung so you can get to the top. Instead of ambition driving you to care and love, ambition drives you with envy.

He says, He sees the human heart. He has a future, diary entry, you can turn to it if you want. It's in Ecclesiastes 5 verse 8, where he's talking about the same subject, but it's worth reading, I think. He says if you see the poor oppressed in a district and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things. For 1 official is eyed by the higher 1, and over them both, our others still higher, higher still.

You see? This is the reality, isn't it? There's the rung, there's the ladder. And when you see oppression, don't be surprised. There's always someone trying to climb on on the rung above you and to push you down, always someone above you that wants to suppress you.

Don't be surprised. That's the way the world world world system works. 1 is higher up the ladder, and he wants to make sure that he stays higher up the ladder. That's the world. Taxes are always geared against the poor, and not the rich, always around the world.

Rich people can employ. They have enough money to employ lawyers and business graduates from the universities. That can sort out their taxes so that they don't have to pay so much. When I was in Australia, I earned 20000 dollars a year. 20000 dollars.

I had to pay 3000 dollars a year in taxes. 20000 dollars, 3000 a year in taxes. Kerry Packer, who was a great, media mogul, personally earned a hundred and 25000000 a year. Guess how much tax he paid? 30 dollars.

30 dollars. I paid a hundred times more tax than him and he earned many hundred times more than I earned. Rich people do that. That's what happens to the rich. They can do that.

Rivery, competition, dog eat dog mentality, step on the underdog, If I can afford it, I can afford lawyers so I don't have to pay taxes. It doesn't matter about the injustices to others. There doesn't matter about my responsibility. And care for anybody else. It's all about me.

When I was a youth leader at Hook evangelical Church, just up the road, 1 of our young people, graduated and then got a job at harrods, and, she was this is probably libel now. So I don't know quite what happens. But it's true. So come back at me. So she had a job at harrods.

She was in middle management, And she was told by the person above her to sack the person below her. So she's in middle management on that rung, person above her says your job is to sack the person below her. And the reason why she had to sack the person below her was this was an old, and I'm only quoting ugly woman that we don't really need at harrods on the shop front because it puts people off. She was told to sack the old ugly woman, And if she didn't, don't worry, there's someone who will do it for you and take your place. That's how the world works.

Up the rung, down the rung, someone above you, someone below you, Thirdly, the third picture is the dropout. He looks down at the dropout, the fool, verse 5. Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. These are dropouts. These are people that wanna drop out society.

And when you think about it, you can't blame them. You're sort of at first sort of quite like them. You think, oh, no, this is good. They're they're fed up with the rat race. They're fed up with treading on people's, you know, having to tread on people to go up to the top.

And they don't wanna compete, and so they drop out. And you sort of think, yeah, I have a lot of sympathy with a person like that, but Solomon doesn't. Sollum has no sentimental words for them for for them at all. In fact, he talks about this fool, ruins themselves. The fool has ruined themselves.

And the phrase that he uses is eats their own flesh. The fool eats their own flesh. These are sort of lazy suicide self cannibalistic people. They're chewing on their own gristle. They, They're not grasping reality at all.

They've they've lost all contact with reality. They've no ambition. They've no care for anybody else. They're just as bad as the people are right at the top. They've only made another oppressed person, another poor person.

And to be honest, it's only middle class people or bored trendy people that can afford to drop out. You don't get dropouts. Sleeping on the streets of Brazil, saying, oh, it's an alternative lifestyle. You only get it in rich places. So Simon has no time for them.

They fold their hands, they eat themselves, they've dropped out of society. They, they give nothing. That's the third picture. Still with me. The fourth picture in his diary on the ladder is the person at the top.

We finally got there. Verse 8. There was a man all alone. He had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.

For whom am I toiling? He asked? And why am I depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is meaningless. A miserable business.

So here now, he's looking out of his room with a view, and he looks out of this man who's on the top rung, and he paints this picture of a person who's eventually got there. He puts his foot on the on the top rung. He's work he's worked for it. He's actually worked for it. He's not a lazy dropout.

He sacrificed everything to get there. He really wanted to get there. Re rarely took a break. He didn't work 9 to 5, 4 days a week. It was full on.

And even when he came home, he got his computer out, and he worked, and he dreamt about work. And there he is on the top rung, and he's scored his personal goal. He's just got there. The foot goes on the rung, and he turns round. To see if anyone's applauding him as he puts the goal in the net as he puts his foot on the top rung, and there's not a solitary person there.

The original says, where it says there was a man all alone, in the original language, it says there is a person and he has no second. He has no second. No second person. No comrade. He's all alone.

He's done it, but there's no 1 applauding. There's no companion, and it actually says he has no son or no brother. He's got no family He's he's blown it. He was so committed to going up the rung, getting up to the top rung, to getting the room with a view, so committed to gaining the riches and gaining that power, no one's there. Many of us as fathers have been extremely challenged by that old song, cat in the cradle.

Do you know that song? Does any men know this song? Yep. A few of us. It's the older ones by, Harry Chapman.

If you don't know it, you just listen to it. It's talking about him as a child, or or him as a father of a child. Listen to what he says. My child arrived just the other day. He came into the world the usual way, but there's been planes to catch and bills to pay.

He learned to walk while I was away, and he was talking before I knew it. And as he grew, he'd say, I'm gonna be like you, dad. I'm gonna be like you. And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue, and the man on the moon. When you're coming home, dad, I don't know when.

But we'll get together then, son. You know we'll have a good time then. I've long since retired, My sons moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, I'd like to see you, if you don't mind.

He said, I'd love to, dad, if I can find the time. You see, my new jobs are hassle and the kids have got flu. But it's sure nice talking to you, dad. It's been sure nice talking to you. And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me.

He had grown just like me. My boy was just like me. All the effort, all the effort to get to the top, and you haven't even got a son to applaud you. All lonely people, where do they come from? Well, here's 1 place, this materialistic world view that you have to prove yourself in this world and have everything in this world.

Just look at verse 6 before we move on, because it's a very interesting. It says better 1 handful with Transquility than 2 handfuls with coil and a and a chasing after the wind. Now this man who's reached the top, he's not satisfied with 1 handful, and he hasn't certainly hasn't got tranquility. Now he wants 2 handfuls at least and more. And then look at verse 8, it says, There was no end to his toil.

Now why wasn't there any end to his toil? Because it says his eyes had never were never content with his wealth. He's always wanting more, always wanting more. It's a vicious cycle. It's like a drug.

There's no end to his toil, He's toiling away until he puts his foot on the final rung. And finally, the rich man, the man at the top, waits up to his own predicament, but it's way too late, and he asks the question for whom am I toiling and depriving my self pleasure? And the answer is no 1. No one's there. No 1 cares.

No companion. No second in your life. You have more money than you can spend alone, but you're alone, and you won't be able to spend your money. And, again, notice that there's there's no rest in the man, his toil, and there's no enjoyment. Solomon comes to the conclusion.

The wealthy at the top are very similar to the oppressed at the bottom. It's just a different form of oppression. They may live a few days longer, But what's the point? A miserable business, he says? Okay.

There's another picture. I hope you wouldn't There's 1 more we've got a few more things to get through here. His fifth picture, his fifth diary entry, is what I would call it a sort of endless cycle of promising do gooders. Right? They go from the bottom rung to the top.

But just have a look at it. Look, look, see what I mean by chapter 4 verses 13 to 16. Better, a poor but wise youth than an old, but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to kingship. Or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.

I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's success There was no end to all the people who were before them, but those who came later were not pleased with the successor This 2 is meaningless are chasing after the wind. So we start off quite optimistic. There he is, in his room with a view, he looks down, and it starts off quite optimistic. Verse 13 better a. Oh, that's a good start.

Better. Some he's got the word better in it. That's a great start. Now, what's happening here? Well, there's great optimism, that there's this new successor to the king gonna come up.

So what's happened to the old king? Well, the old king had become a foolish king. He no longer takes advice from anyone. He's fired all his advisors. He has no second because he doesn't trust any second.

So he's a solitary figure again, lonely man. He's reached the top. He's got no second. He's not trusting anyone. Any contender He pushes off, the the ladder.

He puts in prison. Any opposition to him will go into prison. Or, will will be killed, or whatever. He's a foolish king. He doesn't take any advice He doesn't heed any warning, and he doesn't realize that he's getting old and his life is coming to the end.

But, hey, there's a new leader up and coming He understands us because he's been in prison. He understands us because he's been poor like we have been poor. We're vote for him. We understand. He understands us because he knows exactly our roots, and he surely will remember our roots.

The king is dead. Long live the new king. Verse 15, I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's success. This fantastic. A new revolution.

We've got 1 of us in power. Look at verse 16 in the second half. But Those who came later were not pleased with the success of this too is me and then it's a chasing after the wind. Nothing changes. The poor is still oppressed.

The new king and his governor. He just becomes wealthy. He goes up the ladder. He has to promote himself. He has to keep secure, greed, and envy takeover.

Nothing changes. And in the end, he's a lonely king. Do you see Putin on the news? It's an extraordinary, lonely man. Don't you feel sorry for him?

I hope you do. Walking lonely corridors with gold stuff all around him, and a few people all clapping. Lonely. Well, he hasn't even got a dog with him. He hasn't got a companion.

There's no second. No. Second. They're dead. Politics is all an endless cycle of promises, but no change.

If you know anything about animal farm, it's 4 legs good, 2 legs bad, changes into 4 legs good, 2 legs better. The wise young man has become a foolish old king, and all the promise that he gave, where when he was in the prison cell, that he would help the poor has gone now. He's walking the corridors of power on his own, from hero to oppressor. That's what Solomon sees. There we are.

That's it. That's chapter 4 for you. He does see 1 thing out. Just a little bit of hope. He looks again, and did you notice as Solomon surveys, he sees something small, but so powerful, again and again.

It's not people who are advancing up and down the ladder. They might be in different areas of the ladder, but they're not worried about going up and down the ladder. They're into relationships. Look at verses 9 to 12. 2 are better than 1.

Because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, 1 can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no 1 to help them. Also, if 2 lie down together, they'll keep warm. But how can 1 keep warm alone?

Though 1 may be overpowered, 2 can defend themselves. A cord 3 strands is not quickly broken. Advanced at ment is meaningless. As he looks, He sees the ones that are stable on the ladder are the ones that have a second who have a companion. Not all about self.

They're not all about self advancement. The funny thing is, though, they will advance They're do it better because there's 2 of them, but they're not all about that. They're not living in isolation. They're not prepared to tread on other people. They're prepared to work in harmony and community and to keep each other warm.

And he tells those those 3 illustrations. If 1 falls, the other 1 can help them up, if 1 is cold, the other 1 can keep them warm. If, if 1 needs is overpowered, the other can defend them. And and these chords, 2 chords, and yet let's bring another chord into it, whatever that is, and let's bring free court in to this relationship, and you've got a strong relationship. You've got something that is gonna hold on to the ladder a little bit more.

There are hints here of something more important in life, and that is relationships. Now, okay. I'm nearly done. And I know you're looking at me and thinking, oh, gosh. Looks like it anyway.

Okay. This is under the sun. This is this is Solomon looking at our world, and this is what he sees. Is this not our world? This was written 3000 years ago.

Does this not describe our world? So this must be the word of god. Sure. Can you find a 3000 year old document that is so relevant? So what's it telling us?

Why is it here? How do we apply this? Well, you know what I'm gonna say next, don't you? I hope you do. The next word I'm going to say is what.

It's a name of someone. It begins with j and ends with s. What is the next word I'm going to say? Yes. This is why we need Jesus.

Do you see this? We don't need religion as we'll see next week. We we don't we don't need money. We don't need economics or politics. We need Jesus.

Why? Because he comes from above the sun. He comes from above the sun. From above the sun. Down.

That's the leader Jesus' is. He comes from the room with the view down. Down. Down. Down.

In your relationships with 1 another, says Paul in Philipp too, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus who being in the very nature god, considered equality with god something to be used not for his own advantage. He's god, and he's thinking not of himself and his own advantage. Rather he made himself, let's go down a rung. Nothing. Taking the very nature of a servant down a rung.

Being made in human likeness, down a rung, and being found in the appearance of a man down a rung, He humbled himself down a rung, becoming obedient to death, down a rung, even the death on a cross, down a rung. That's Jesus. That's what this world needs. It's someone who is the ultimate power god but giving himself, giving himself coming down to our lowly silly positions. Coming into our squabbling over which rung we're on, coming into our world, the 1 who's dying on a cross, the 1 who's giving himself so that he will make companions, the 1 who is rich beyond all splendor.

But for our sakes becomes poor, gives his riches to make poor people rich, gives himself. That's Jesus. That's what this world needs. Jesus who's come down into our world of oppression and selfishness. Therefore says, Philippians too.

God has exalted him to the highest place. Who's in the highest place? And gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledged that Jesus Christ is lord to the glory of god, the father. The ones that Jesus puts at the top are the ones who come down the ladder and are servants of all. The 1 god looks at and sees as exalted is the 1 who came down to serve.

We're all on the ladder, by the way. We're all on the ladder. You know, it's what it's a it's a I remember doing a university mission. It got them all really worked up. You know, you're only going to university so you can make some more money and tread on those of us that haven't been on university, because you'll make 4 times as much more money than those that haven't been to uni.

You're not here to learn you're here to make money and have power. I never got invited back to that university. Didn't wanna go anyway. We're all on the ladder, and that's why we need Jesus to work in us. And if we don't have Jesus working in us, you'll find that we'll be looking for little mean advantages Even in religion, little rules and laws and advantages to make myself go up the ladder, we need Jesus to work in us And that's why I asked the story of Zacchaeus to be read because Zacchaeus was going up the ladder.

Zachius become a chief tax collector. He trod on people to get to the to the top. But when he was at the top, he looked around, and he was all alone. And then he heard Jesus was coming, and he was a short man, and so he climbs again, not a ladder this time, with a sycamore victory so that he can see Jesus. And when he sees Jesus, it changed his life.

He came down the tree down the ladder, went into his house, Jesus came into his house, and he says, if if I've stolen anything, I give half my possessions, he says. I give half my possessions to the poor. Immediately, Jesus is in his life. He's looking at blessing and caring and loving other people. He's not now looking to go up the wrong.

He's happy to come down to give his possessions, half to the poor. He says, and if I've stolen anything from anyone, I'll give them, 4 times the amount I've stolen, 4 times He's now obeying the levitical laws, by the way, in the Bible. He's now got a a life to live for, a god to live for. He doesn't care where he is on the rung. I'm giving it away.

I'm loving other people. I now have a second. I want seconds in my life. I was at the top a lonely man, but now I'm giving. And that is a picture of the church.

And if you know Christ in your life, you'll be like Zackus. God made the church to be that little section 9 to 12. That we work better together, that we care for each other. When people fall, we lift them up, when people are cold, we make them warm. When people are in danger, we protect them.

The church is like 2 cords bound together, but another cord, the lord Jesus Christ, binding us together so we're a 3 cord rope, and it's very hard to break a 3 cord rope. The church on this ladder needs to be like this, loving, caring, giving, generous to each other. Change like Zacchaeus, converted like Zacchaeus giving what we've stolen. And if we're a church like that, then in this world of self and envy, and treading on people and sacking them because they're ugly, then we're gonna shine. And people will come to us for the wisdom of god.

Let's pray. Father, we thank you for those different portraits that we've seen together in Ecclesiastes for for showing us the, oppressed person who desperately wants justice and goes to the place of justice, but finds nothing. For showing us the person who toils and works hard for everything, and yet ends up with nothing. For the person who folds their hands and, lazily hopes everything will come to them, but ends up completely ruined for the person who, is powerful and who walks the corridors of power and yet is altogether lonely. For the person who is in prison and perhaps promising that if they just get out, they will change things for the better, that they'll keep their words, that they won't abandon their principles.

And yet, where they get to where they want to be, they forget who they promised to be. And lord, where there is any of this thinking or living in us, we pray that you'd help us to repent. And to turn to you and to look to Jesus. We thank you for that final portrait of him, who exchanged all the riches of heaven, who came down. The ladder in order to save us, help us to keep looking to him.

We pray in Jesus' name, amen.


Preached by Pete Woodcock
Pete Woodcock photo

Pete is Senior Pastor of Cornerstone and lives in Chessington with his wife Anne who helps oversee the women’s ministry in the church.

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