Ecclesiastes 4-6 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Uselessness of Selfish Toil
4 Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:
And look! The tears of the oppressed,
The Vanity of Selfish Toil
4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
5 The fool folds his hands
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:
8 There is one alone, without [b]companion:
The Value of a Friend
9 Two are better than one,
Popularity Passes Away
13 Better a poor and wise youth
Fear God, Keep Your Vows
5 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
2 Do not be rash with your mouth,
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your [f]excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
The Vanity of Gain and Honor
8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent [g]perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.
10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
11 When goods increase,
12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
13 There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
16 And this also is a severe evil—
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his [i]heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his [j]heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
Wealth Is Not the Goal of Life
6 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: 2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil [k]affliction.
3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a [l]stillborn child is better than he— 4 for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. 5 Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, 6 even if he lives a thousand years twice—but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?
7 All the labor of man is for his mouth,
10 Whatever one is, he has been named already,
Ecclesiastes 4-6 New International Version (NIV)
Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
5 Fools fold their hands
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone;
9 Two are better than one,
Advancement Is Meaningless
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Fulfill Your Vow to God
5 [a]Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Riches Are Meaningless
8 If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. 9 The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.
10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
11 As goods increase,
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
16 This too is a grievous evil:
As everyone comes, so they depart,
18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.
6 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: 2 God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.
3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. 5 Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— 6 even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?
7 Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
10 Whatever exists has already been named,
12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?