Don’t Take Anything for Granted
7 A good reputation is better than a fat bank account.
Your death date tells more than your birth date.
2 You learn more at a funeral than at a feast—
After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover
something from it.
3 Crying is better than laughing.
It blotches the face but it scours the heart.
4 Sages invest themselves in hurt and grieving.
Fools waste their lives in fun and games.
5 You’ll get more from the rebuke of a sage
Than from the song and dance of fools.
6 The giggles of fools are like the crackling of twigs
Under the cooking pot. And like smoke.
7 Brutality stupefies even the wise
And destroys the strongest heart.
8 Endings are better than beginnings.
Sticking to it is better than standing out.
9 Don’t be quick to fly off the handle.
Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head.
10 Don’t always be asking, “Where are the good old days?”
Wise folks don’t ask questions like that.
11-12 Wisdom is better when it’s paired with money,
Especially if you get both while you’re still living.
Double protection: wisdom and wealth!
Plus this bonus: Wisdom energizes its owner.
13 Take a good look at God’s work.
Who could simplify and reduce Creation’s curves and angles
To a plain straight line?
14 On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.
Stay in Touch with Both Sides
15-17 I’ve seen it all in my brief and pointless life—here a good person cut down in the middle of doing good, there a bad person living a long life of sheer evil. So don’t knock yourself out being good, and don’t go overboard being wise. Believe me, you won’t get anything out of it. But don’t press your luck by being bad, either. And don’t be reckless. Why die needlessly?
18 It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.
19 Wisdom puts more strength in one wise person
Than ten strong men give to a city.
20 There’s not one totally good person on earth,
Not one who is truly pure and sinless.
21-22 Don’t eavesdrop on the conversation of others.
What if the gossip’s about you and you’d rather not hear it?
You’ve done that a few times, haven’t you—said things
Behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to his face?
How to Interpret the Meaning of Life
23-25 I tested everything in my search for wisdom. I set out to be wise, but it was beyond me, far beyond me, and deep—oh so deep! Does anyone ever find it? I concentrated with all my might, studying and exploring and seeking wisdom—the meaning of life. I also wanted to identify evil and stupidity, foolishness and craziness.
26-29 One discovery: A woman can be a bitter pill to swallow, full of seductive scheming and grasping. The lucky escape her; the undiscerning get caught. At least this is my experience—what I, the Quester, have pieced together as I’ve tried to make sense of life. But the wisdom I’ve looked for I haven’t found. I didn’t find one man or woman in a thousand worth my while. Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.
Wisdom and Folly Contrasted
7 A good name is better than precious perfume,
And the day of one’s death better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that [day of death] is the end of every man,
And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy [because it is growing in wisdom].(A)
The heart of the wise [learns when it] is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of pleasure.
It is better to listen to the rebuke of the wise man and pursue wisdom
Than for one to listen to the song of fools and pursue stupidity.
For like the crackling of [burning] thorn bushes under a pot,
So is the laughter of the fool;
And this too is vanity (futility).
For oppression makes a wise man foolish,
And a bribe corrupts the [good judgment of the] heart.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit (pride).
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger dwells in the heart of fools.(B)
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
Wisdom along with an inheritance is good
And an [excellent] advantage for those who see the sun.
For wisdom is a protection even as money is a protection,
But the [excellent] advantage of knowledge is that wisdom shields and preserves the lives of its possessors.
Consider the work of God:
Who can make straight what He has bent?
In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider that
God has made the one as well as the other,
So that man will not find out anything that will be after him.
15 I have seen everything during my [fleeting] days of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in [spite of] his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who [a]lives a long life in [spite of] his wickedness. 16 Do not be excessively righteous [like those given to self-conceit], and do not be overly wise (pretentious)—why should you bring yourself to ruin? 17 Do not be excessively or willfully wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you take hold of one thing (righteousness) and also not let go of the other (wisdom); for the one who fears and worships God [with awe-filled reverence] will come forth with both of them.
19 Wisdom strengthens the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.(C) 20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who always does good and who never sins.(D) 21 Also, do not take seriously everything that is said, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you, 22 for you also know that you too have cursed others many times.
23 I have tested all this with wisdom. I said, “I will be wise [independently of God],” but true wisdom was far from me. 24 Whatever has been is far off, deeply remote and exceedingly mysterious. Who can discover it [for it is beyond the grasp of man]?(E) 25 I turned around and directed my heart to know, to investigate and to seek [skillful and godly] wisdom and the reason for things, and to know that wickedness is folly and that foolishness is madness [leading to stupidity and recklessness]. 26 And I discovered that [of all irrational sins none has been so destructive in beguiling one away from God as immoral women for] more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is [composed of] snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God will escape from her, but the sinner will be taken captive by her [evil].
27 “Behold, I have discovered this,” says the Preacher, “while adding one thing to another to find an explanation, 28 which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one [b]man among a thousand [who pleases God], but I have not found [such] a woman among all these [a thousand in my harem].(F) 29 Behold, I have found only this [as a reason]: God made man upright and uncorrupted, but they [both men and women] have sought out many devices [for evil].”
New Living Translation
Wisdom for Life
7 A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us.
4 A wise person thinks a lot about death,
while a fool thinks only about having a good time.
5 Better to be criticized by a wise person
than to be praised by a fool.
6 A fool’s laughter is quickly gone,
like thorns crackling in a fire.
This also is meaningless.
7 Extortion turns wise people into fools,
and bribes corrupt the heart.
8 Finishing is better than starting.
Patience is better than pride.
9 Control your temper,
for anger labels you a fool.
10 Don’t long for “the good old days.”
This is not wise.
11 Wisdom is even better when you have money.
Both are a benefit as you go through life.
12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything,
but only wisdom can save your life.
13 Accept the way God does things,
for who can straighten what he has made crooked?
14 Enjoy prosperity while you can,
but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
Remember that nothing is certain in this life.
The Limits of Human Wisdom
15 I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. 16 So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? 17 On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? 18 Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.[a]
19 One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town!
20 Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.
21 Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. 22 For you know how often you yourself have cursed others.
23 I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” But it didn’t work. 24 Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. 25 I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.
26 I discovered that a seductive woman[b] is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.
27 “This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. 28 Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! 29 But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.”