Ecclesiastes 6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 I have noticed that in this world a serious injustice is done. 2 God will give us wealth, honor, and property, yes, everything we want, but then will not let us enjoy it. Some stranger will enjoy it instead. It is useless, and it just isn't right. 3 We may have a hundred children and live a long time, but no matter how long we live, if we do not get our share of happiness and do not receive a decent burial, then I say that a baby born dead is better off. 4 It does that baby no good to be born; it disappears into darkness, where it is forgotten. 5 It never sees the light of day or knows what life is like, but at least it has found rest— 6 more so than the man who never enjoys life, though he may live two thousand years. After all, both of them are going to the same place.
7 We do all our work just to get something to eat, but we never have enough. 8 How are the wise better off than fools? What good does it do the poor to know how to face life? 9 It is useless; it is like chasing the wind. It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else.
10 Everything that happens was already determined long ago, and we all know that you[a] cannot argue with someone who is stronger than you. 11 The longer you argue, the more useless it is, and you are no better off. 12 How can anyone know what is best for us in this short, useless life of ours—a life that passes like a shadow? How can we know what will happen in the world after we die?
Ecclesiastes 6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Frustration of Desires
6 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon humankind: 2 those to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that they lack nothing of all that they desire, yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous ill. 3 A man may beget a hundred children, and live many years; but however many are the days of his years, if he does not enjoy life’s good things, or has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; 5 moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to one place?
7 All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied. 8 For what advantage have the wise over fools? And what do the poor have who know how to conduct themselves before the living? 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire; this also is vanity and a chasing after wind.[a]
10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what human beings are, and that they are not able to dispute with those who are stronger. 11 The more words, the more vanity, so how is one the better? 12 For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow? For who can tell them what will be after them under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 6 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
6 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on people: 2 the case in which God gives someone riches, wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing that he wants; but God does not give him the power to enjoy them, and some stranger gets to enjoy them — this is meaningless, evil, sick.
3 Suppose a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that he has a long life, but he fails to enjoy himself; then, even if he were to [live indefinitely and therefore] never be buried, I say that it would be better to be born dead. 4 For the arrival of a stillborn baby is a futile thing, and its departure is in darkness; its name is [forgotten,] covered in darkness; 5 and although it has never seen or known the sun, it is more content than he is, 6 without enjoying himself, even if he were to live a thousand years twice over. Doesn’t everyone go to the same place?
7 The purpose of all toil is to fill the mouth,
10 Whatever he is, he was named long ago,
Ecclesiastes 6 The Message (MSG)
Things Are Bad
6 1-2 I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything—money, property, reputation—all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn’t let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It’s more of what I’m calling smoke. A bad business.
3-5 Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.
6 Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?
7 We work to feed our appetites;
8-9 So what advantage has a sage over a fool, or over some poor wretch who barely gets by? Just grab whatever you can while you can; don’t assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind.
10 Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed.
11-12 The more words that are spoken, the more smoke there is in the air. And who is any better off? And who knows what’s best for us as we live out our meager smoke-and-shadow lives? And who can tell any of us the next chapter of our lives?