Ecclesiastes 4–6

1 Again I saw all types of oppression that are done under the sun:

Look! The tears of the oppressed,

and no one was there to comfort them.

And there was force from the hand of the oppressors,

and no one was there to comfort them.

2 And I thought that fortunate were the dead

who had already died,

even more than the living

who were still alive.

3 And still better than both

is he who has not been,

who has not seen the evil deeds

that are done under the sun.

4 Then I saw that all toil and every skillful work come from one man’s envy of another. This also is vanity and like chasing the wind.

5 The fool folds his hands

and eats his own flesh.

6 Better is a full hand of quietness

than handfuls of toil and chasing the wind.

7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun:

8 There is a man who is alone,

neither having son or brother,

and there is not an end to all his toil,

and his eyes are not satisfied with riches to say,

“For whom do I labor

and cause my life to lack good things?”

Also this is vanity

and a burdensome task.

9 Two are better than one,

because there is a good reward for their labor together.

10 For if they fall,

then one will help up his companion.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls

and has no one to help him up.

11 Also if two lie down together, then they will keep warm;

but how can one keep warm by himself?

12 And if someone might overpower another by himself,

two together can withstand him.

A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will no longer be admonished. 14 For out of prison he has come to reign, even though he was born poor in the kingdom. 15 Then I saw all those who live and walk under the sun, along with the next youth who will arise in the king’s place. 16 There is no end of all the people, to all who were before them. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and chasing the wind.

Chapter 5

1 Guard your steps when you enter the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

2 Do not be quick to speak with your mouth,

nor let your heart be hasty

to utter a word before God.

For God is in heaven,

and you are on the earth;

therefore may your words be few.

3 For a dream comes when there is a great burden,

and a foolish voice when there are many words.

4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it because He has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you have vowed. 5 Better it is that you do not make a vow than you make a vow and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth cause you to sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was an error. Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when there is an abundance of dreams and futilities, then words increase too. Therefore it is God you should fear.

8 If you see in a district the oppression of the poor and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness, do not be astounded at the matter; for the high official is watched over by an even higher official, and there are even higher officials over them. 9 But this is an advantage to the land in every way, like a king committed to a cultivated field.

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money;

nor he who loves abundance with increase.

This also is vanity.

11 When there is an increase of good things,

then there is an increase of those who devour them.

And what profit have the owners

except to see them with their eyes?

12 Sweet is the sleep of a laboring man,

whether he eats a little or much;

but the abundance of the rich

will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grave misery that I have seen under the sun:

when riches were kept by an owner to his hurt,

14 and those riches were lost in a misfortunate business deal;

and although he has a son,

there is nothing at all to put in his hand.

15 As he came from his mother’s womb,

naked shall he return, to go as he came;

he shall take nothing from his labor

which he may carry away in his hands.

16 This also is a grievous evil:

Just as he came, so shall he go.

And what profit is there to him who toils for the wind?

17 Moreover, in all his days he eats in darkness,

while he is greatly irritated in sickness and anger.

18 This is what I have seen to be good: It is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life, which God has given to him; for this is his reward. 19 And also everyone to whom God has given wealth and possessions, and given him power to enjoy them, and to receive his reward and to rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Chapter 6

1 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor so that there is no want in his life from among anything that he desires; yet God does not give him ability to eat from them because another man eats and enjoys from his possessions. This is vanity and a tormenting injustice.

3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he— 4 for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered up. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Though the man may live a thousand years, twice over, yet he does not see the good things. Does not everyone go to the same place?

7 All the labor of man is for his mouth,

yet his appetite is not satisfied.

8 For what benefit is there for the wise

over the fool?

And what more does the poor man know

who walks before others?

9 Better to be content with the sight of eyes

than to have a wandering appetite.

This is vanity

and like chasing the wind.

10 Whatever happens, it has already been given a name,

and it is known what man is;

he cannot contend with Him who is stronger than he.

11 The more words,

the more vanity,

so what profit is there to mankind?

12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life which pass like a shadow? For who can tell men what will be after them under the sun?

2 Corinthians 12

1 Doubtless it is not profitable for me to boast. So I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ over fourteen years ago—whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew that such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words not permitted for a man to say. 5 Of such a person, I will boast. Yet of myself I will not boast, except in my weaknesses. 6 For if I desire to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But now I resist, lest anyone should think of me above that which he sees me to be or hears from me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 I asked the Lord three times that this thing might depart from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in hardships, in persecutions, and in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

11 I have become a fool in boasting. You have compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you, for I am in no way inferior to the leading apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were performed among you in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For in what respect were you inferior to other churches, unless it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 I am ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be burdensome to you, for I do not seek what is 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 you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But be that as it may. I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?

19 Again, do you think that we are defending ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. We do all things, beloved, for your edifying. 20 For I fear that 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. I fear there are debates, envying, wrath, strife, backbiting, whispering, arrogance, and disorder. 21 And I fear that when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall mourn for many who have sinned already, who have not repented of uncleanness, sexual immorality, and lasciviousness which they have committed.