4 Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:
And look! The tears of the oppressed,
But they have no comforter—
[a]On the side of their oppressors there is power,
But they have no comforter.
2 Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead,
More than the living who are still alive.
3 Yet, better than both is he who has never existed,
Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
5 The fool folds his hands
And consumes his own flesh.
6 Better a handful with quietness
Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:
8 There is one alone, without [b]companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a [c]grave misfortune.
9 Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better a poor and wise youth
Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
14 For he comes out of prison to be king,
Although [d]he was born poor in his kingdom.
15 I saw all the living who walk under the sun;
They were with the second youth who stands in his place.
16 There was no end of all the people [e]over whom he was made king;
Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him.
Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
5 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.
2 Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
3 For a dream comes through much activity,
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your [f]excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.
8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent [g]perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.
10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
This also is vanity.
11 When goods increase,
They increase who eat them;
So what profit have the owners
Except to see them with their eyes?
12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
13 There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
Riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
14 But those riches perish through [h]misfortune;
When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand.
15 As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return,
To go as he came;
And he shall take nothing from his labor
Which he may carry away in his hand.
16 And this also is a severe evil—
Just exactly as he came, so shall he go.
And what profit has he who has labored for the wind?
17 All his days he also eats in darkness,
And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his [i]heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his [j]heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.
6 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: 2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil [k]affliction.
3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a [l]stillborn child is better than he— 4 for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. 5 Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, 6 even if he lives a thousand years twice—but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?
7 All the labor of man is for his mouth,
And yet the soul is not satisfied.
8 For what more has the wise man than the fool?
What does the poor man have,
Who knows how to walk before the living?
9 Better is [m]the sight of the eyes than the wandering of [n]desire.
This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
10 Whatever one is, he has been named already,
For it is known that he is man;
And he cannot contend with Him who is mightier than he.
11 Since there are many things that increase vanity,
How is man the better?
12 It is [a]doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. 6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to [b]buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
11 I have become a fool [c]in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.
16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning! 17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
19 Again, [d]do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. 20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; 21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.