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One Day at a Time

I thought about these things. Then I understood that God has power over everyone, even those of us who are wise and live right. Anything can happen to any of us, and so we never know if life will be good or bad.[a] But exactly[b] the same thing will finally happen to all of us, whether we live right and respect God or sin and don’t respect God. Yes, the same thing will happen if we offer sacrifices to God or if we don’t, if we keep our promises or break them.

It’s terribly unfair for the same thing to happen to each of us. We are mean and foolish while we live, and then we die. As long as we are alive, we still have hope, just as a live dog is better off than a dead lion. We know that we will die, but the dead don’t know a thing. Nothing good will happen to them—they are gone and forgotten. Their loves, their hates, and their jealous feelings have all disappeared with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens on this earth.

Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. 10 Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or knows anything.

11 Here is something else I have learned:

The fastest runners
    and the greatest heroes
don’t always win races
    and battles.
Wisdom, intelligence, and skill
don’t always make you healthy,
    rich, or popular.
We each have our share
    of bad luck.

12 None of us know when we might fall victim to a sudden disaster and find ourselves like fish in a net or birds in a trap.

Better To Be Wise than Foolish

13 Once I saw what people really think of wisdom. 14 It happened when a powerful ruler surrounded and attacked a small city where only a few people lived. The enemy army was getting ready to break through the city walls. 15 But the city was saved by the wisdom of a poor person who was soon forgotten. 16 So I decided that wisdom is better than strength. Yet if you are poor, no one pays any attention to you, no matter how smart you are.

17 Words of wisdom spoken softly
    make much more sense
than the shouts of a ruler
    to a crowd of fools.
18 Wisdom is more powerful
    than weapons,
yet one mistake can destroy
    all the good you have done.
10 A few dead flies in perfume
    make all of it stink,
and a little foolishness
    outweighs a lot of wisdom.
Sensible thoughts lead you
    to do right;
foolish thoughts lead you
    to do wrong.
Fools show their stupidity
    by the way they live;
it’s easy to see
    they have no sense.
Don’t give up your job
    when your boss gets angry.
If you stay calm,
    you’ll be forgiven.

Some things rulers do are terribly unfair: They honor fools, but dishonor the rich; they let slaves ride on horses, but force slave owners to walk.

If you dig a pit,
    you might fall in;
if you break down a wall,
    a snake might bite you.[c]
You could even get hurt
by chiseling a stone
    or chopping a log.
10 If you don’t sharpen your ax,
    it will be harder to use;
if you are smart,
    you’ll know what to do.[d]
11 The power to charm a snake
does you no good
    if it bites you anyway.

12 If you talk sensibly,
    you will have friends;
if you talk foolishly,
    you will destroy yourself.
13 Fools begin with nonsense,
and their stupid chatter
    ends with disaster.
14 They never tire of talking,
but none of us really know
    what the future will bring.
15 Fools wear themselves out—
they don’t know enough
    to find their way home.[e]

16 A country is in for trouble
    when its ruler is childish,
and its leaders
    party all day long.
17 But a nation will prosper
    when its ruler is mature,
and its leaders
    don’t party too much.
18 Some people are too lazy
to fix a leaky roof—
    then the house falls in.
19 Eating and drinking
    make you feel happy,
and bribes can buy
    everything you need.
20 Don’t even think
    about cursing the king;
don’t curse the rich,
    not even in secret.
A little bird might hear
    and tell everything.

It Pays To Work Hard

11 Be generous, and someday
    you will be rewarded.[f]
Share what you have
    with seven or eight others,
because you never know
    when disaster may strike.
Rain clouds always bring rain;
trees always stay
    wherever they fall.
If you worry about the weather
and don’t plant seeds,
    you won’t harvest a crop.

No one can explain how a baby breathes before it is born.[g] So how can anyone explain what God does? After all, he created everything.

Plant your seeds early in the morning and keep working in the field until dark. Who knows? Your work might pay off, and your seeds might produce.

Youth and Old Age

Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the morning sun. Even if you live to a ripe old age, you should try to enjoy each day, because darkness will come and will last a long time. Nothing makes sense.[h]

Be cheerful and enjoy life while you are young! Do what you want and find pleasure in what you see. But don’t forget that God will judge you for everything you do.

10 Rid yourself of all worry and pain, because the wonderful moments of youth quickly disappear.

12 Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, “I don’t enjoy life anymore.”

Someday the light of the sun
and the moon and the stars
    will all seem dim to you.
Rain clouds will remain
    over your head.
Your body will grow feeble,
your teeth will decay,
    and your eyesight fail.
The noisy grinding of grain
will be shut out
    by your deaf ears,
but even the song of a bird
    will keep you awake.

You will be afraid
to climb up a hill
    or walk down a road.
Your hair will turn as white
    as almond blossoms.
You will feel lifeless
and drag along
    like an old grasshopper.

We each go to our eternal home,
and the streets are filled
    with those who mourn.
The silver cord snaps,
    the golden bowl breaks;
the water pitcher is smashed,
and the pulley at the well
    is shattered.
So our bodies return
    to the earth,
and the life-giving breath[i]
    returns to God.
Nothing makes sense.
I have seen it all—
    nothing makes sense.

Respect and Obey God

I was a wise teacher with much understanding, and I collected a number of proverbs that I had carefully studied. 10 Then I tried to explain these things in the best and most accurate way.

11 Words of wisdom are like the stick a farmer uses to make animals move. These sayings come from God, our only shepherd, and they are like nails that fasten things together.[j] 12 My child, I warn you to stay away from any teachings except these.

There is no end to books,
and too much study
    will wear you out.

13 Everything you were taught can be put into a few words:

Respect and obey God!
This is what life
    is all about.
14 God will judge
    everything we do,
even what is done in secret,
    whether good or bad.


  1. 9.1 or bad: Three ancient translations; the Hebrew text does not have these words.
  2. 9.2 exactly: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  3. 10.8 a snake might bite you: Walls of houses were often made of stones with mud to fill in the cracks between them. If some of the mud washed out, a snake could be living inside the wall.
  4. 10.10 do: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 10.
  5. 10.15 home: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 15.
  6. 11.1 Be generous. . . rewarded: Or “Don’t be afraid to invest. Someday it will pay off.”
  7. 11.5 how. . . born: Or “what makes the wind blow or how a baby grows inside its mother.”
  8. 11.8 Nothing makes sense: Or “There’s nothing to look forward to!”
  9. 12.7 life-giving breath: Or “spirit.”
  10. 12.11 These sayings. . . together: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

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