Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8; Ecclesiastes 9; 2 Corinthians 13

1 A good reputation is better than expensive perfume; and the day you die is better than the day you are born. 2 It is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter; it may sadden your face, but it sharpens your understanding. 4 Someone who is always thinking about happiness is a fool. A wise person thinks about death. 5 It is better to have wise people reprimand you than to have stupid people sing your praises. 6 When a fool laughs, it is like thorns crackling in a fire. It doesn't mean a thing. 7 You may be wise, but if you cheat someone, you are acting like a fool. If you take a bribe, you ruin your character. 8 The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride. 9 Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbor a grudge. 10 Never ask, "Oh, why were things so much better in the old days?" It's not an intelligent question. 11 Everyone who lives ought to be wise; it is as good as receiving an inheritance 12 and will give you as much security as money can. Wisdom keeps you safe - this is the advantage of knowledge. 13 Think about what God has done. How can anyone straighten out what God has made crooked? 14 When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next. 15 My life has been useless, but in it I have seen everything. Some good people may die while others live on, even though they are evil. 16 So don't be too good or too wise - why kill yourself? 17 But don't be too wicked or too foolish, either - why die before you have to? 18 Avoid both extremes. If you have reverence for God, you will be successful anyway. 19 Wisdom does more for a person than ten rulers can do for a city. 20 There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake. 21 Don't pay attention to everything people say - you may hear your servant insulting you, 22 and you know yourself that you have insulted other people many times. 23 I used my wisdom to test all of this. I was determined to be wise, but it was beyond me. 24 How can anyone discover what life means? It is too deep for us, too hard to understand. 25 But I devoted myself to knowledge and study; I was determined to find wisdom and the answers to my questions, and to learn how wicked and foolish stupidity is. 26 I found something more bitter than death - the woman who is like a trap. The love she offers you will catch you like a net, and her arms around you will hold you like a chain. A man who pleases God can get away, but she will catch the sinner. 27 Yes, said the Philosopher, I found this out little by little while I was looking for answers. 28 I have looked for other answers but have found none. I found one man in a thousand that I could respect, but not one woman. 29 This is all that I have learned: God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.
1 Only the wise know what things really mean. Wisdom makes them smile and makes their frowns disappear. 2 Do what the king says, and don't make any rash promises to God. 3 The king can do anything he likes, so depart from his presence; don't stay in such a dangerous place. 4 The king acts with authority, and no one can challenge what he does. 5 As long as you obey his commands, you are safe, and a wise person knows how and when to do it. 6 There is a right time and a right way to do everything, but we know so little! 7 None of us knows what is going to happen, and there is no one to tell us. 8 No one can keep from dying or put off the day of death. That is a battle we cannot escape; we cannot cheat our way out. 9 I saw all this when I thought about the things that are done in this world, a world where some people have power and others have to suffer under them. 10 Yes, I have seen the wicked buried and in their graves, but on the way back from the cemetery people praise them in the very city where they did their evil. It is useless. 11 Why do people commit crimes so readily? Because crime is not punished quickly enough. 12 A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and still live. Oh yes, I know what they say: "If you obey God, everything will be all right, 13 but it will not go well for the wicked. Their life is like a shadow and they will die young, because they do not obey God." 14 But this is nonsense. Look at what happens in the world: sometimes the righteous get the punishment of the wicked, and the wicked get the reward of the righteous. I say it is useless. 15 So I am convinced that we should enjoy ourselves, because the only pleasure we have in this life is eating and drinking and enjoying ourselves. We can at least do this as we labor during the life that God has given us in this world. 16 Whenever I tried to become wise and learn what goes on in the world, I realized that you could stay awake night and day 17 and never be able to understand what God is doing. However hard you try, you will never find out. The wise may claim to know, but they don't.
1 I thought long and hard about all this and saw that God controls the actions of wise and righteous people, even their love and their hate. No one knows anything about what lies ahead. 2 It makes no difference. The same fate comes to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the bad, to those who are religious and those who are not, to those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. A good person is no better off than a sinner; one who takes an oath is no better off than one who does not. 3 One fate comes to all alike, and this is as wrong as anything that happens in this world. As long as people live, their minds are full of evil and madness, and suddenly they die. 4 But anyone who is alive in the world of the living has some hope; a live dog is better off than a dead lion. 5 Yes, the living know they are going to die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward; they are completely forgotten. 6 Their loves, their hates, their passions, all died with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens in this world. 7 Go ahead - eat your food and be happy; drink your wine and be cheerful. It's all right with God. 8 Always look happy and cheerful. 9 Enjoy life with the one you love, as long as you live the useless life that God has given you in this world. Enjoy every useless day of it, because that is all you will get for all your trouble. 10 Work hard at whatever you do, because there will be no action, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom in the world of the dead - and that is where you are going. 11 I realized another thing, that in this world fast runners do not always win the races, and the brave do not always win the battles. The wise do not always earn a living, intelligent people do not always get rich, and capable people do not always rise to high positions. Bad luck happens to everyone. 12 You never know when your time is coming. Like birds suddenly caught in a trap, like fish caught in a net, we are trapped at some evil moment when we least expect it. 13 There is something else I saw, a good example of how wisdom is regarded in this world. 14 There was a little town without many people in it. A powerful king attacked it. He surrounded it and prepared to break through the walls. 15 Someone lived there who was poor, but so clever that he could have saved the town. But no one thought about him. 16 I have always said that wisdom is better than strength, but no one thinks of the poor as wise or pays any attention to what they say. 17 It is better to listen to the quiet words of someone wise than to the shouts of a ruler at a council of fools. 18 Wisdom does more good than weapons, but one sinner can undo a lot of good.
1 This is now the third time that I am coming to visit you. "Any accusation must be upheld by the evidence of two or more witnesses" - as the scripture says. 2 I want to tell those of you who have sinned in the past, and all the others; I said it before during my second visit to you, but I will say it again now that I am away: the next time I come nobody will escape punishment. 3 You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. When he deals with you, he is not weak; instead, he shows his power among you. 4 For even though it was in weakness that he was put to death on the cross, it is by God's power that he lives. In union with him we also are weak; but in our relations with you we shall share God's power in his life. 5 Put yourselves to the test and judge yourselves, to find out whether you are living in faith. Surely you know that Christ Jesus is in you? - unless you have completely failed. 6 I trust you will know that we are not failures. 7 We pray to God that you will do no wrong - not in order to show that we are a success, but so that you may do what is right, even though we may seem to be failures. 8 For we cannot do a thing against the truth, but only for it. 9 We are glad when we are weak but you are strong. And so we also pray that you will become perfect. 10 That is why I write this while I am away from you; it is so that when I arrive I will not have to deal harshly with you in using the authority that the Lord has given me - authority to build you up, not to tear you down. 11 And now, my friends, good-bye! Strive for perfection; listen to my appeals; agree with one another; live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with the kiss of peace. All of God's people send you their greetings. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
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