Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Corinthians 12

1 Then I looked again at all the injustice that goes on in this world. The oppressed were crying, and no one would help them. No one would help them, because their oppressors had power on their side. 2 I envy those who are dead and gone; they are better off than those who are still alive. 3 But better off than either are those who have never been born, who have never seen the injustice that goes on in this world. 4 I have also learned why people work so hard to succeed: it is because they envy the things their neighbors have. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind. 5 They say that we would be fools to fold our hands and let ourselves starve to death. 6 Maybe so, but it is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind. 7 I have noticed something else in life that is useless. 8 Here is someone who lives alone. He has no son, no brother, yet he is always working, never satisfied with the wealth he has. For whom is he working so hard and denying himself any pleasure? This is useless, too - and a miserable way to live. 9 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11 If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12 Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. 13 Someone may rise from poverty to become king of his country, or go from prison to the throne, but if in his old age he is too foolish to take advice, he is not as well off as a young man who is poor but intelligent. 15 I thought about all the people who live in this world, and I realized that somewhere among them there is a young man who will take the king's place. 16 There may be no limit to the number of people a king rules; when he is gone, no one will be grateful for what he has done. It is useless. It is like chasing the wind.
1 Be careful about going to the Temple. It is better to go there to learn than to offer sacrifices like foolish people who don't know right from wrong. 2 Think before you speak, and don't make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don't say any more than you have to. 3 The more you worry, the more likely you are to have bad dreams, and the more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish. 4 So when you make a promise to God, keep it as quickly as possible. He has no use for a fool. Do what you promise to do. 5 Better not to promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. 6 Don't let your own words lead you into sin, so that you have to tell God's priest that you didn't mean it. Why make God angry with you? Why let him destroy what you have worked for? 7 No matter how much you dream, how much useless work you do, or how much you talk, you must still stand in awe of God. 8 Don't be surprised when you see that the government oppresses the poor and denies them justice and their rights. Every official is protected by someone higher, and both are protected by still higher officials. 9 Even a king depends on the harvest. 10 If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. It is useless. 11 The richer you are, the more mouths you have to feed. All you gain is the knowledge that you are rich. 12 Workers may or may not have enough to eat, but at least they can get a good night's sleep. The rich, however, have so much that they stay awake worrying. 13 Here is a terrible thing that I have seen in this world: people save up their money for a time when they may need it, 14 and then lose it all in some bad deal and end up with nothing left to pass on to their children. 15 We leave this world just as we entered it - with nothing. In spite of all our work there is nothing we can take with us. 16 It isn't right! We go just as we came. We labor, trying to catch the wind, and what do we get? 17 We get to live our lives in darkness and grief, worried, angry, and sick. 18 Here is what I have found out: the best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for during the short life that God has given us; this is our fate. 19 If God gives us wealth and property and lets us enjoy them, we should be grateful and enjoy what we have worked for. It is a gift from God. 20 Since God has allowed us to be happy, we will not worry too much about how short life is.
1 I have noticed that in this world a serious injustice is done. 2 God will give us wealth, honor, and property, yes, everything we want, but then will not let us enjoy it. Some stranger will enjoy it instead. It is useless, and it just isn't right. 3 We may have a hundred children and live a long time, but no matter how long we live, if we do not get our share of happiness and do not receive a decent burial, then I say that a baby born dead is better off. 4 It does that baby no good to be born; it disappears into darkness, where it is forgotten. 5 It never sees the light of day or knows what life is like, but at least it has found rest - 6 more so than the man who never enjoys life, though he may live two thousand years. After all, both of them are going to the same place. 7 We do all our work just to get something to eat, but we never have enough. 8 How are the wise better off than fools? What good does it do the poor to know how to face life? 9 It is useless; it is like chasing the wind. It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else. 10 Everything that happens was already determined long ago, and we all know that you cannot argue with someone who is stronger than you. 11 The longer you argue, the more useless it is, and you are no better off. 12 How can anyone know what is best for us in this short, useless life of ours - a life that passes like a shadow? How can we know what will happen in the world after we die?
1 I have to boast, even though it doesn't do any good. But I will now talk about visions and revelations given me by the Lord. 2 I know a certain Christian man who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the highest heaven (I do not know whether this actually happened or whether he had a vision - only God knows). 3 I repeat, I know that this man was snatched to Paradise (again, I do not know whether this actually happened or whether it was a vision - only God knows), and there he heard things which cannot be put into words, things that human lips may not speak. 5 So I will boast about this man - but I will not boast about myself, except the things that show how weak I am. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not boast, because I do not want any of you to have a higher opinion of me than you have as a result of what you have seen me do and heard me say. 7 But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: "My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak." I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 I am acting like a fool - but you have made me do it. You are the ones who ought to show your approval of me. For even if I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to those very special "apostles" of yours. 12 The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience. 13 How were you treated any worse than the other churches, except that I did not bother you for financial help? Please forgive me for being so unfair! 14 This is now the third time that I am ready to come to visit you - and I will not make any demands on you. It is you I want, not your money. After all, children should not have to provide for their parents, but parents should provide for their children. 15 I will be glad to spend all I have, and myself as well, in order to help you. Will you love me less because I love you so much? 16 You will agree, then, that I was not a burden to you. But someone will say that I was tricky, and trapped you with lies. 17 How? Did I take advantage of you through any of the messengers I sent? 18 I begged Titus to go, and I sent the other believer with him. Would you say that Titus took advantage of you? Do not he and I act from the very same motives and behave in the same way? 19 Perhaps you think that all along we have been trying to defend ourselves before you. No! We speak as Christ would have us speak in the presence of God, and everything we do, dear friends, is done to help you. 20 I am afraid that when I get there I will find you different from what I would like you to be and you will find me different from what you would like me to be. I am afraid that I will find quarreling and jealousy, hot tempers and selfishness, insults and gossip, pride and disorder. 21 I am afraid that the next time I come my God will humiliate me in your presence, and I shall weep over many who sinned in the past and have not repented of the immoral things they have done - their lust and their sexual sins.
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