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Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Psalms 46:1-11; Proverbs 22:15 (Good News Translation)

Ecclesiastes 1-3

Life Is Useless

These are the words of the Philosopher, David's son, who was king in Jerusalem.

It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working, laboring, and what do you have to show for it? Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. The sun still rises, and it still goes down, going wearily back to where it must start all over again. The wind blows south, the wind blows north—round and round and back again. Every river flows into the sea, but the sea is not yet full. The water returns to where the rivers began, and starts all over again. Everything leads to weariness—a weariness too great for words. Our eyes can never see enough to be satisfied; our ears can never hear enough. What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world. 10 “Look,” they say, “here is something new!” But no, it has all happened before, long before we were born. 11 No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then.

The Philosopher's Experience

12 I, the Philosopher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I determined that I would examine and study all the things that are done in this world.

God has laid a miserable fate upon us. 14 I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind. 15 You can't straighten out what is crooked; you can't count things that aren't there.

16 I told myself, “I have become a great man, far wiser than anyone who ruled Jerusalem before me. I know what wisdom and knowledge really are.” 17 I was determined to learn the difference between knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and madness. But I found out that I might as well be chasing the wind. 18 The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts.

I decided to enjoy myself and find out what happiness is. But I found that this is useless, too. I discovered that laughter is foolish, that pleasure does you no good. Driven on by my desire for wisdom, I decided to cheer myself up with wine and have a good time. I thought that this might be the best way people can spend their short lives on earth.

I accomplished great things. I built myself houses and planted vineyards. I planted gardens and orchards, with all kinds of fruit trees in them; I dug ponds to irrigate them. I bought many slaves, and there were slaves born in my household. I owned more livestock than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem. I also piled up silver and gold from the royal treasuries of the lands I ruled. Men and women sang to entertain me, and I had all the women a man could want.

Yes, I was great, greater than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I got. I did not deny myself any pleasure. I was proud of everything I had worked for, and all this was my reward. 11 Then I thought about all that I had done and how hard I had worked doing it, and I realized that it didn't mean a thing. It was like chasing the wind—of no use at all. 12 After all, a king can only do what previous kings have done.

So I started thinking about what it meant to be wise or reckless or foolish. 13 Oh, I know, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 The wise can see where they are going, and fools cannot.” But I also know that the same fate is waiting for us all. 15 I thought to myself, “What happens to fools is going to happen to me, too. So what have I gained from being so wise?” “Nothing,” I answered, “not a thing.” 16 No one remembers the wise, and no one remembers fools. In days to come, we will all be forgotten. We must all die—wise and foolish alike. 17 So life came to mean nothing to me, because everything in it had brought me nothing but trouble. It had all been useless; I had been chasing the wind.

18 Nothing that I had worked for and earned meant a thing to me, because I knew that I would have to leave it to my successor, 19 and he might be wise, or he might be foolish—who knows? Yet he will own everything I have worked for, everything my wisdom has earned for me in this world. It is all useless. 20 So I came to regret that I had worked so hard. 21 You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn't had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn't right! 22 You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? 23 As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can't rest. It is all useless.

24 The best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have earned. And yet, I realized that even this comes from God. 25 How else could you have anything to eat or enjoy yourself at all? 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to those who please him, but he makes sinners work, earning and saving, so that what they get can be given to those who please him. It is all useless. It is like chasing the wind.

A Time for Everything

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.

He sets the time for birth and the time for death,
the time for planting and the time for pulling up,
the time for killing and the time for healing,
the time for tearing down and the time for building.
He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy,
the time for mourning and the time for dancing,
the time for making love and the time for not making love,
the time for kissing and the time for not kissing.
He sets the time for finding and the time for losing,
the time for saving and the time for throwing away,
the time for tearing and the time for mending,
the time for silence and the time for talk.
He sets the time for love and the time for hate,
the time for war and the time for peace.

What do we gain from all our work? 10 I know the heavy burdens that God has laid on us. 11 He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does. 12 So I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. 13 All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God's gift.

14 I know that everything God does will last forever. You can't add anything to it or take anything away from it. And one thing God does is to make us stand in awe of him. 15 Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same thing happen again and again.

Injustice in the World

16 In addition, I have also noticed that in this world you find wickedness where justice and right ought to be. 17 I told myself, “God is going to judge the righteous and the evil alike, because every thing, every action, will happen at its own set time.”[a] 18 I decided that God is testing us, to show us that we are no better than animals. 19 After all, the same fate awaits human beings and animals alike. One dies just like the other. They are the same kind of creature. A human being is no better off than an animal, because life has no meaning for either. 20 They are both going to the same place—the dust. They both came from it; they will both go back to it. 21 How can anyone be sure that the human spirit goes upward while an animal's spirit goes down into the ground? 22 So I realized then that the best thing we can do is enjoy what we have worked for. There is nothing else we can do.[b] There is no way for us to know what will happen after we die.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 3:17 Probable text its own set time; Hebrew its own set time there.
  2. Ecclesiastes 3:22 what we have … do; or our work, because we are going to have to do it anyway.
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2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God's grace not to let it be wasted. Hear what God says:

“When the time came for me to show you favor,
    I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
    I helped you.”

Listen! This is the hour to receive God's favor; today is the day to be saved!

We do not want anyone to find fault with our work, so we try not to put obstacles in anyone's way. Instead, in everything we do we show that we are God's servants by patiently enduring troubles, hardships, and difficulties. We have been beaten, jailed, and mobbed; we have been overworked and have gone without sleep or food. By our purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness we have shown ourselves to be God's servants—by the Holy Spirit, by our true love, by our message of truth, and by the power of God. We have righteousness as our weapon, both to attack and to defend ourselves. We are honored and disgraced; we are insulted and praised. We are treated as liars, yet we speak the truth; as unknown, yet we are known by all; as though we were dead, but, as you see, we live on. Although punished, we are not killed; 10 although saddened, we are always glad; we seem poor, but we make many people rich; we seem to have nothing, yet we really possess everything.

11 Dear friends in Corinth! We have spoken frankly to you; we have opened our hearts wide. 12 It is not we who have closed our hearts to you; it is you who have closed your hearts to us. 13 I speak now as though you were my children: show us the same feelings that we have for you. Open your hearts wide!

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Psalm 46

God Is with Us[a]

46 God is our shelter and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
    and mountains fall into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage,
    and the hills are shaken by the violence.

There is a river that brings joy to the city of God,
    to the sacred house of the Most High.
God is in that city, and it will never be destroyed;
    at early dawn he will come to its aid.
Nations are terrified, kingdoms are shaken;
    God thunders, and the earth dissolves.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come and see what the Lord has done.
    See what amazing things he has done on earth.
He stops wars all over the world;
    he breaks bows, destroys spears,
    and sets shields on fire.
10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God,
    supreme among the nations,
    supreme over the world.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 46:1 HEBREW TITLE: A song by the clan of Korah.
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Proverbs 22:15

15 Children just naturally do silly, careless things, but a good spanking will teach them how to behave.

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