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The Problem

“Nothing but vapor,”[a] Ecclesiastes said. “Totally vapor. Everything is just vapor that vanishes.”

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  1. Ecclesiastes 1:2 Other possible translations are mist, breath, futility, or emptiness. Since vapor does not last, it serves as an appropriate symbol for everything that is transient, futile, or useless.

18 I also hated all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard under the sun, since I must leave it all to the man who comes after me. 19 And who knows—will he be wise, or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard and so wisely, under the sun. This too is vapor that vanishes.

20 So I changed my course, and my heart began to despair over all my hard work at which I worked so hard under the sun. 21 Sure, there may be a man who has worked hard—wisely, aptly, and skillfully. But he must hand over whatever he accumulated by all his hard work to a man who has not worked hard for it. This too is vapor. It’s so unfair! 22 For what does a man gain through all his hard work, through all the turmoil in his heart, as he works so hard under the sun?

23 Pain fills all his days. His occupation is frustration. Even at night his heart does not rest. This too is vapor.

The Best We Can Hope For

24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and to drink and to find joy in his work. This too, I saw, is from God’s hand. 25 For who can eat or enjoy himself apart from him?[a] 26 Yes, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to the man whom he considers good, but to the person who goes on sinning God gives the task of gathering and collecting, but only so that he can give it all to a person whom God considers good. This too is vapor, nothing but chasing wind.

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  1. Ecclesiastes 2:25 Variant more than me