Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2; Ecclesiastes 3; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

1 These are the words of the Philosopher, David's son, who was king in Jerusalem. 2 It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. 3 You spend your life working, laboring, and what do you have to show for it? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. 5 The sun still rises, and it still goes down, going wearily back to where it must start all over again. 6 The wind blows south, the wind blows north - round and round and back again. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 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.
1 I decided to enjoy myself and find out what happiness is. But I found that this is useless, too. 2 I discovered that laughter is foolish, that pleasure does you no good. 3 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. 4 I accomplished great things. I built myself houses and planted vineyards. 5 I planted gardens and orchards, with all kinds of fruit trees in them; 6 I dug ponds to irrigate them. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.
1 Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. 2 He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, 3 the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. 4 He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, 5 the time for making love and the time for not making love, the time for kissing and the time for not kissing. 6 He sets the time for finding and the time for losing, the time for saving and the time for throwing away, 7 the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. 8 He sets the time for love and the time for hate, the time for war and the time for peace. 9 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. 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." 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. There is no way for us to know what will happen after we die.
16 I repeat: no one should think that I am a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool, just so I will have a little to boast of. 17 Of course what I am saying now is not what the Lord would have me say; in this matter of boasting I am really talking like a fool. 18 But since there are so many who boast for merely human reasons, I will do the same. 19 You yourselves are so wise, and so you gladly tolerate fools! 20 You tolerate anyone who orders you around or takes advantage of you or traps you or looks down on you or slaps you in the face. 21 I am ashamed to admit that we were too timid to do those things! But if anyone dares to boast about something - I am talking like a fool - I will be just as daring. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23 Are they Christ's servants? I sound like a madman - but I am a better servant than they are! I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often. 24 Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; 25 three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water. 26 In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. 27 There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. 28 And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress. 30 If I must boast, I will boast about things that show how weak I am. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus - blessed be his name forever! - knows that I am not lying. 32 When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me. 33 But I was let down in a basket through an opening in the wall and escaped from him.
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