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Be Careful How You Worship

Be careful what you do when you enter the house of God. Some fools go there to offer sacrifices, even though they haven’t sinned.[a] But it’s best just to listen when you go to worship. Don’t talk before you think or make promises to God without thinking them through. God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so don’t talk too much. If you keep thinking about something, you will dream about it. If you talk too much, you will say the wrong thing.

God doesn’t like fools. So don’t be slow to keep your promises to God. It’s better not to make a promise at all than to make one and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth get you in trouble! And don’t say to the worship leader,[b] “I didn’t mean what I said.” God can destroy everything you have worked for, so don’t say something that makes God angry.

Respect and obey God! Daydreaming leads to a lot of senseless talk.[c]

Don’t be surprised if the poor of your country are abused, and injustice takes the place of justice. After all, the lower officials must do what the higher ones order them to do. And since the king is the highest official, he benefits most from the taxes paid on the land.[d]

10 If you love money and wealth, you will never be satisfied with what you have. This doesn’t make sense either. 11 The more you have, the more everyone expects from you. Your money won’t do you any good—others will just spend it for you. 12 If you have to work hard for a living, you can rest well at night, even if you don’t have much to eat. But if you are rich, you can’t even sleep.

13 I have seen something terribly unfair. People get rich, but it does them no good. 14 Suddenly they lose everything in a bad business deal, then have nothing to leave for their children. 15 They came into this world naked, and when they die, they will be just as naked. They can’t take anything with them, and they won’t have anything to show for all their work. 16 That’s terribly unfair. They leave the world just as they came into it. They gained nothing from running after the wind. 17 Besides all this, they are always gloomy at mealtime, and they are troubled, sick, and bitter.[e]

18 What is the best thing to do in the short life that God has given us? I think we should enjoy eating, drinking, and working hard. This is what God intends for us to do. 19 Suppose you are very rich and able to enjoy everything you own. Then go ahead and enjoy working hard—this is God’s gift to you. 20 God will keep you so happy that you won’t have time to worry about each day.

Don’t Depend on Wealth

There is something else terribly unfair, and it troubles everyone on earth. God may give you everything you want—money, property, and wealth. Then God doesn’t let you enjoy it, and someone you don’t even know gets it all. That’s senseless and terribly unfair!

You may live a long time and have a hundred children. But a child born dead is better off than you, unless you enjoy life and have a decent burial. 4-5 That child will never live to see the sun or to have a name, and it will go straight to the world of darkness. But it will still find more rest than you, even if you live two thousand years and don’t enjoy life. As you know, we all end up in the same place.

We struggle just to have enough to eat, but we are never satisfied. We may be sensible, yet we are no better off than a fool. And if we are poor, it still doesn’t do us any good to try to live right. It’s better to enjoy what we have than to always want something else, because that makes no more sense than chasing the wind.[f]

10 Everything that happens was decided long ago. We humans know what we are like, and we can’t argue with God, because he is[g] too strong for us. 11 The more we talk, the less sense we make, so what good does it do to talk? 12 Life is short and meaningless, and it fades away like a shadow. Who knows what is best for us? Who knows what will happen after we are gone?

The Best in Life

A good reputation
    at the time of death
is better than loving care
    at the time of birth.[h]
It’s better to go to a funeral
    than to attend a feast;
funerals remind us
    that we all must die.
Choose sorrow over laughter
because a sad face
    may hide a happy heart.
A sensible person mourns,
    but fools always laugh.
Harsh correction is better
    than the songs of a fool.
Foolish laughter is stupid.
It sounds like thorns
    crackling in a fire.
Corruption[i] makes fools
of sensible people,
    and bribes can ruin you.
Something completed is better
    than something just begun;
patience is better
    than too much pride.
Only fools get angry quickly
    and hold a grudge.
10 It isn’t wise to ask,
“Why is everything worse
    than it used to be?”
11 Having wisdom is better
    than an inheritance.
12 Wisdom will protect you
    just like money;
knowledge with good sense
    will lead you to life.
13 Think of what God has done!
If God makes something crooked,
    can you make it straight?

14 When times are good,
    you should be cheerful;
when times are bad,
    think what it means.
God makes them both
to keep us from knowing
    what will happen next.

Some of Life’s Questions

15 I have seen everything during this senseless life of mine. I have seen good citizens die for doing the right thing, and I have seen criminals live to a ripe old age. 16 So don’t destroy yourself by being too good or acting too smart! 17 Don’t die before your time by being too evil or acting like a fool. 18 Keep to the middle of the road. You can do this if you truly respect God.

19 Wisdom will make you stronger than the ten most powerful leaders in your city.

20 No one in this world always does right.

21 Don’t listen to everything that everyone says, or you might hear your servant cursing you. 22 Haven’t you cursed many others?

23 I told myself that I would be smart and try to understand all of this, but it was too much for me. 24 The truth is beyond us. It’s far too deep. 25 So I decided to learn everything I could and become wise enough to discover what life is all about. At the same time, I wanted to understand why it’s stupid and senseless to be an evil fool.

26 Here is what I discovered: A bad woman is worse than death. She is a trap, reaching out with body and soul to catch you. But if you obey God, you can escape. If you don’t obey, you are done for. 27 With all my wisdom I have tried to find out how everything fits together, 28 but so far I have not been able to. I do know there is one good man in a thousand, but never have I found a good woman. 29 I did learn one thing: We were completely honest when God created us, but now we have twisted minds.

Who is smart enough
    to explain everything?
Wisdom makes you cheerful
    and gives you a smile.

Obey the King

If you promised God that you would be loyal to the king, I advise you to keep that promise. Don’t quickly oppose the king or argue when he has already made up his mind. The king’s word is law. No one can ask him, “Why are you doing this?” If you obey the king, you will stay out of trouble. So be smart and learn what to do and when to do it. Life is hard, but there is a time and a place for everything, though no one can tell the future. We cannot control the wind[j] or determine the day of our death. There is no escape in time of war, and no one can hide behind evil. I noticed all this and thought seriously about what goes on in the world. Why does one person have the power to hurt another?

Who Can Understand the Ways of God?

10 I saw the wicked buried with honor, but God’s people had to leave the holy city and were forgotten.[k] None of this makes sense. 11 When we see criminals commit crime after crime without being punished, it makes us want to start a life of crime. 12 They commit hundreds of crimes and live to a ripe old age, in spite of the saying:

Everyone who lives right
and respects God
    will prosper,
13 but no one who sins
    and rejects God
will prosper or live very long.

14 There is something else that doesn’t make sense to me. Good citizens are treated as criminals, while criminals are honored as though they were good citizens. 15 So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time. Then we can make it through this troublesome life that God has given us here on earth.

16 Day and night I went without sleep, trying to understand what goes on in this world. 17 I saw everything God does, and I realized that no one can really understand what happens. We may be very wise, but no matter how much we try or how much we claim to know, we cannot understand it all.

Footnotes

  1. 5.1 even. . . sinned: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 5.6 worship leader: Or “messenger.”
  3. 5.7 Daydreaming. . . talk: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 5.9 land: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 9.
  5. 5.17 bitter: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 17.
  6. 6.9 chasing the wind: See the note at 1.14,17.
  7. 6.10 with God, because he is: Or “with anyone who is.”
  8. 7.1 birth: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 1.
  9. 7.7 Corruption: Or “Oppression.”
  10. 8.8 control the wind: Or “escape from death.”
  11. 8.10 but. . . forgotten: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.