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How often people have arisen from relative obscurity to lead great movements in society! The Bible itself is full of such stories: Joseph goes from slave to prisoner to vizier of Egypt; David goes from shepherd to king of Israel; Esther goes from foreign exile to queen of Persia; Peter goes from fisherman to church founder. Their stories inspire others, but later generations remember only anecdotes and forget the passion and character that move leaders from obscurity to leadership in the first place. Life is fleeting. Victories do not last. In this imperfect interim world, greatness is only provisional.

Teacher: Watch your step when you enter the house of God. Be ready to listen quietly rather than rushing in to offer up a sacrifice to foolish people, for they have no idea that what they do is evil.

God knows what is on the inside. Words and actions are not always necessary.

Do not be too hasty to speak your mind before God or too quick to make promises you won’t keep, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, watch your tongue; let your words be few. For just as busyness breeds restless dreams, so wordiness reveals the voice of a fool.

If you make a promise to God, do not be slow to keep it; for He takes no pleasure in fools. So do what you have promised. In fact, it would be better not to make a vow in the first place than to make it and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you to sin, and do not claim before the temple messenger that your vow was a mistake. Why should God be angry at the sound of your voice and destroy everything you’ve worked hard to achieve? Daydreaming and excessive talking are pointless and fleeting things to do, like trying to catch hold of a breath. What good comes from them? It is better to quietly reverence God.

If you see the poor oppressed, justice denied, and righteousness rejected in a particular place, then do not be surprised at this; for those in power are watched over by those higher up, and they in turn by some even higher. Still, it is better for the land in every way to have a king who cultivates the fields.[a]

Corruption often starts at the top and works its way down.

10     As the saying goes:

    Those who love money will never be satisfied with money,
        and those who love riches will never be happy with what they have.

This, too, is fleeting. 11 The more goods there are, the more people there are to consume them. How does any of this really benefit the owners except they can gaze proudly on their possessions? 12 Sweet sleep comes to those who work hard, regardless of how much or how little they’ve eaten. But the abundance of the rich keeps them awake at night.

There is nothing like the sense of gratification that comes from working hard all day, when bread and cheese taste as good as the finest steak. The ability to work, strength to work, and desire for work are all gifts from God. When we understand that and use those gifts accordingly, simple things like sleep and a good meal are causes for joy and celebration. But those who are rich and idle can’t buy a good night’s sleep or a stress-free meal or a moment’s peace.

Teacher: 13 I have witnessed a grave evil pervading our world, one that has been with us since the first sunrise: harm comes to all who hoard their riches. 14 Such riches can easily vanish through some misfortune, so that the rich have nothing left to pass along to their children. 15 We all came naked from our mother’s womb, and we will leave this world as we came, taking nothing of the wealth for which we have toiled. 16 Here, too, is another grave evil: all of us, no matter who we are, will depart this world exactly the same way as we came into it. So what good does it do to continue to toil after the wind? 17 So all our days we eat in darkness, with mounting frustration, suffering, and anger.

18 Then it dawned on me that this is good and proper: to eat and drink and find the good in all the toil that we undertake under the sun during the few days God has given, for this is our lot in life. 19 Also, God gives wealth, possessions, and power to enjoy those things, and He allows them to accept their lot in life and to enjoy hard work. This is God’s gift. 20 For people like this have no time to despair over life because God keeps them so busy with a deep-seated joy.

Footnotes

  1. 5:9 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.