Four Reasons Why Two Are Better Than One
Written by: Nathaniel Wall
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:”
Why are two better than one? Obviously, it is not always true that two are better than one. On some occasions, two people together can be more destructive than constructive, more toxic than helpful. So why does the Bible tell us that “two are better than one”? First, Ecclesiastes 4:9 is best viewed as a proverb, rather than a hard and fast rule. A proverb is a short pithy saying (memorable and repeatable) that expresses a general truth or practical instruction. In short, Proverbs aren’t always true in every circumstance, but they are generally true in most situations. Below you will discover a few more reasons why the Bible supports the saying “two are better than one”, along with examples on how to practically live out this saying within our own communities.
1. Two are Better for Race Running
Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells God’s people that the Lord has a “labor” for us to do (or a race for us to run), and it is better done together rather than alone.
God designed us to thrive in healthy community. This community is intended to strive toward a common goal–to glorify Him. The importance of teamwork (in contrast to independent work) is illustrated well with Belgian Draft Horses. One Belgian Draft Horse can pull up to 8,000 pounds. You would expect then for two Belgian Draft Horses to pull 16,000lbs. Surprisingly, two Belgian Draft Horses can pull more than double the weight that a single horse can; up to 22,000 pounds.
Community is intended to strive toward a common goal–to glorify Him.
Like a Belgian Draft Horse, God calls his people “to run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We are better when we strive together. We aren’t called to run a solo race. In Hebrews 12:1, the emphasis is on “us” (plural), rather than “me” (singular). Christianity isn’t a solo sport; it is a team game. We cross the goal line together. Just two chapters before, Hebrews 10:23-25 encourages us not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together but to spur one another on. Just as two horses can more effectively work together, we are also called as God’s people to connect and strive as Jesus’s community on mission.
In your community there are local churches looking for Christians to share their heart in ministry. In fact, they likely have specific ministries that fit your spiritual gifts. Maybe you even call one of these churches your spiritual home. This Sunday, go find a pastor or ministry leader in that church and ask them how you can get involved. Run the race together.
2. Two are Better for Fruit Bearing
Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us that God’s people have a good “return” (fruit bearing) when we work together.
God’s people have a good “return” (fruit bearing) when we work together.
God’s people should reflect the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Notice, these are all relational words. The fruit requires a community to share them. You cannot express the fruit of love without someone to love. You don’t know if you are truly kind without being able to offer kindness to someone. Each fruit requires someone to gift it to, otherwise the fruit is meaningless or wasted.
Right now, Covid has presented churches with community needs and opportunities to live out these fruits. Some people are isolated and need someone to extend love and grace to them. In other places, inflation prices have created an extra strain on families. If you have some free time, go find a family with health struggles or elderly couple sheltering at home and spend some time talking with them. If you have extra financial resources, you can bless a single-income family with a gift certificate to a local community activity or a gift card to a local grocery store. If you can’t think of anybody to minister to in this way, your local church likely has a list and would love for you to get involved. Love them like Jesus would.
3. Two are Better for Accountability & Encouragement
Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us that believers working toward the same goal is “better” than believers working alone on separate goals. We need each other.
We all need encouragement. Even Paul needed a Barnabas to encourage him.
When you do ministry, it is not uncommon to endure moments of discouragement, especially when you feel alone. Satan loves to isolate for the purpose of discouraging us from what the Lord has for our lives. We need friends to walk alongside us and encourage us. Barnabas was one who saw Paul attempting to live for Christ but finding adversity. People were afraid of Paul. Therefore, “Barnabas took hold of him (Paul) and brought him” to a place that helped encourage him along (Acts 9:27). Perhaps by divine design, Barnabas actually means son of encouragement. How fitting a name for a great encourager.
Do you have an encourager in your life? I don’t just mean someone who says what you want to hear. I mean someone who will hold you accountable. You need someone who cares enough about you to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. You need someone who loves you enough to risk the relationship by saying the hard things so that you can live a godly life. We all need a Barnabas.
At the same time, we also need to be a Barnabas to someone else. We need to be encouraging others to grow in Christ. For Paul this was Timothy, his son in the faith. Furthermore, Paul encouraged Timothy to also find someone in which to invest. Paul said, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:2-3
Whether you take the example of Barnabas and Paul or Paul and timothy, the point is that Christians should be intentionally investing in others. Especially those who are eager and hungry to learn about Jesus. This takes time and it takes commitment. As a friend once said to me, “People aren’t an obstacle or a distraction, people are the point.” Ministry exists for people. We demonstrate our love for God by the way we care for people. After all the bible says, “If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20
If you have never been discipled or discipled someone else, start! Discipleship can sound like a daunting or complicated task, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let a lack of know-how stop you from just getting started. Jesus calls us to do one thing as his followers: go into this world and make disciples. None of us are experts at it. That’s part of being a disciple. We are all life-long learners, not experts.
What we do know is that we want to encourage people toward Jesus. It can be as simple as reading a chapter of the Bible together, studying the meaning, and asking each other about how to apply it in your lives. You can conclude by simply asking how you can pray for one another that week or commit to memorizing a Bible verse together. Get together once a week or once every two weeks for a couple months (or even a year). Once you have met for your predetermined length of time, go do this with someone else! I once met a 70-year-old Chrisitan man in Atlanta who got together with an average of 15-20 young men each week in order to invest in their lives and encourage them to honor God. I don’t know about you, but I want to be like that man if I live to 70! The world needs Christians like that because every generation needs Jesus.
A great place to start discipling is within a small group at your church. There may even be small groups catered to your specific demographic, whether that is young adults, seniors, men, women, families, etc. You may find a peer or two to begin a discipleship relationship with outside of group time, or even a younger person to encourage along in the faith. If you call Alpine Bible Church your home, we have a variety of connection groups for you to join!
4. Two are Better for Burden Carrying
Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, “…for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up!”
God calls us to help one another. This doesn’t mean we have to carry every problem someone faces. It is important for each person to learn to carry their own weight of responsibility most of the time. However, there are times when the burdens of life can become too large for one person to bear, and it is important to lean on someone else for support. A weight that may crush a single person might be able to be carried by two people for a time.
Unfortunately, for those who refuse to invest in God’s community, they may come to realize how much they need support only after it is too late. By investing in God’s community today, you lay the groundwork to rely on that community when life gets hard. You need friends to help bear your burdens. Can you think of anything more Christlike than bearing a burden for another? I am thankful in that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). He bore a burden I could not bear. In so doing he has forgiven me and freed me to help others. Perhaps this is why Paul said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2.
The next person you come in contact with today needs encouragement. I know this because we all need encouragement. All of us are carrying some burden somewhere. No matter how busy your day is, for the next person you meet, take a minute to listen to anything personal they might want to share and help make their day a little brighter. You will never regret being a little extra kind to someone in this world.
While it is true that two are not always better than one, generally speaking, God has made us for community and for relationships outside of ourselves. When two are striving together, they are a tremendous blessing to one another. No doubt, you will find there are times when it is easy to walk with someone and times where relationships feel strained. Even Paul and Barnabas had some bumps in their friendship (Acts 15:36-41). Let me encourage you not to give up on friendship because of a bad experience. Thank God the Lord doesn’t give up on us!
It is impossible to do what God calls you to do without community. Unfortunately, however, no community is perfect. When relationships are hard and the imperfections are glaring, don’t stop striving to live a godly life. The most honoring thing you can do is show your love for Jesus by blessing others even if they aren’t always blessing you. We never have an excuse to hate others. In fact, the Bible tells us to bless those who curse us (Romans 12:14), enemies as well as friends.
My hope for you is that your Christian journey will have a Barnabas and Timothy. God has a great work for all of us to do. This work is something we can experience with Him and with each other, and we will all be better off for it if we seek to reflect, demonstrate, and share the love and truth of Jesus with each other.