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

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Ecclesiastes 4

1 Next, I turned to look at all the acts of oppression that make people suffer under the sun. Look at the tears of those who suffer! No one can comfort them. Their oppressors have [all] the power. No one can comfort those who suffer.
2 I congratulate the dead, who have already died, rather than the living, who still have to carry on.
3 But the person who hasn't been born yet is better off than both of them. He hasn't seen the evil that is done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Even this is pointless. [It's like] trying to catch the wind.
5 A fool folds his hands and wastes away.
6 One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind.
7 Next, I turned to look at something pointless under the sun:
8 There are people who are all alone. They have no children or other family members. So there is no end to all the hard work they have to do. Their eyes are never satisfied with riches. But [they never ask themselves] why they are working so hard and depriving themselves of good things. Even this is pointless and a terrible tragedy.
9 Two people are better than one because [together] they have a good reward for their hard work.
10 If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is [all] alone when he falls. There is no one to help him get up.
11 Again, if two people lie down together, they can keep warm, but how can one person keep warm?
12 Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken.
13 A young man who is poor and wise is better than an old, foolish king who won't take advice any longer.
14 A young man came out of prison to rule as king, even though he had been born in poverty in that same kingdom.
15 I saw all living people moving about under the sun. They sided with the second young man, the king's successor.
16 There was no end to all those people, everyone whom he led. But those who will come later will not be happy with the successor. Even this is pointless. [It's like] trying to catch the wind.

Ecclesiastes 5

1 Watch your step when you go to the house of God. It is better to go there and listen than to bring the sacrifices fools bring. Fools are unaware that they are doing [something] evil.
2 Don't be in a hurry to talk. Don't be eager to speak in the presence of God. Since God is in heaven and you are on earth, limit the number of your words.
3 Daydreaming comes when there are too many worries. Careless speaking comes when there are too many words.
4 When you make a promise to God, don't be slow to keep it because God doesn't like fools. Keep your promise.
5 It is better not to make a promise than to make one and not keep it.
6 Don't let your mouth talk you into committing a sin. Don't say in the presence of a [temple] messenger, "My promise was a mistake!" Why should God become angry at your excuse and destroy what you've accomplished?
7 In spite of many daydreams, pointless actions, and empty words, you should still fear God.
8 Don't be surprised if you see poor people being oppressed, denied justice, or denied their rights in any district. One authority is watching over another, and they both have authorities watching over them.
9 Yet, a king is an advantage for a country with cultivated fields.
10 Whoever loves money will never be satisfied with money. Whoever loves wealth will never be satisfied with more income. Even this is pointless.
11 As the number of goods increase, so do the number of people who consume them. What do owners gain [from all their goods] except [the opportunity] to look at them?
12 The sleep of working people is sweet, whether they eat a little or a lot. But the full stomachs that rich people have will not allow them to sleep.
13 There is a painful tragedy that I have seen under the sun: Riches lead to the downfall of those who hoard them.
14 These hoarded riches were then lost in bad business deals. The owners had children, but now they have nothing to give them.
15 They came from their mother's womb naked. They will leave as naked as they came. They won't even be able to take a handful of their earnings with them from all their hard work.
16 This also is a painful tragedy: They leave exactly as they came. What advantage do they gain from working so hard for the wind?
17 They spend their entire lives in darkness, in constant frustration, sickness, and resentment.
18 At last I have seen what is good and beautiful: It is to eat and drink and to enjoy the good in all our hard work under the sun during the brief lives God gives us. That is our lot [in life].
19 It is a gift from God when God gives some people wealth and possessions, the power to enjoy them, [the ability] to accept their lot in life, and [the ability] to rejoice in their own hard work.
20 These people won't give much thought to their brief lives because God keeps them occupied with the joy in their hearts.

Ecclesiastes 6

1 There is a tragedy that I have seen under the sun. It is a terrible one for mortals.
2 God gives one person riches, wealth, and honor so that he doesn't lack anything he wants. Yet, God doesn't give him the power to enjoy any of them. Instead, a stranger enjoys them. This is pointless and is a painful tragedy.
3 Suppose a rich person wasn't satisfied with good things [while he was alive] and didn't even get an honorable burial [after he died]. Suppose he had a hundred children and lived for many years. No matter how long he would have lived, it [still] would have been better for him to have been born dead.
4 A stillborn baby arrives in a pointless birth and goes out into the darkness. The darkness then hides its name.
5 Though it has never seen the sun or known anything, the baby finds more rest than the rich person.
6 Even if the rich person lives two thousand years without experiencing anything good--don't we all go to the same place?
7 Everything that people work so hard for goes into their mouths, but their appetite is never satisfied.
8 What advantage does a wise person have over a fool? What advantage does a poor person have in knowing how to face life?
9 It is better to look at what is in front of you than to go looking for what you want. Even this is pointless. [It's like] trying to catch the wind.
10 Whatever has happened [in the past] already has a name. Mortals are already known for what they are. Mortals cannot argue with the one who is stronger than they.
11 The more words there are, the more pointless they become. What advantage do mortals gain from this?
12 Who knows what may be good for mortals while they are alive, during the brief, pointless days they live? Mortals pass by like a shadow. Who will tell them about their future under the sun?

2 Corinthians 12

1 I must brag, although it doesn't do any good. I'll go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.
2 I know a follower of Christ who was snatched away to the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don't know whether this happened to him physically or spiritually. Only God knows.
3 I know that this person
4 was snatched away to paradise where he heard things that can't be expressed in words, things that humans cannot put into words. I don't know whether this happened to him physically or spiritually. Only God knows.
5 I'll brag about this person, but I won't brag about myself unless it's about my weaknesses.
6 If I ever wanted to brag, I wouldn't be a fool. Instead, I would be telling the truth. But I'm going to spare you so that no one may think more of me than what he sees or hears about me,
7 especially because of the excessive number of revelations that I've had. Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan's messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited.
8 I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me.
9 But he told me: "My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak." So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ's power will live in me.
10 Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It's clear that when I'm weak, I'm strong.
11 I have become a fool. You forced me to be one. You should have recommended me to others. Even if I'm nothing, I wasn't inferior in any way to your super-apostles.
12 While I was among you I patiently did the signs, wonders, and miracles which prove that I'm an apostle.
13 How were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I didn't bother you for help? Forgive me for this wrong!
14 I'm ready to visit you for a third time, and I won't bother you for help. I don't want your possessions. Instead, I want you. Children shouldn't have to provide for their parents, but parents should provide for their children.
15 I will be very glad to spend whatever I have. I'll even give myself for you. Do you love me less because I love you so much?
16 You agree, then, that I haven't been a burden to you. Was I a clever person who trapped you by some trick?
17 Did I take advantage of you through any of the men I sent you?
18 I encouraged Titus to visit you, and I sent my friend with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Didn't we have the same motives and do things the same way?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we're trying to defend ourselves to you? We speak as Christ's people in God's sight. Everything we do, dear friends, is for your benefit.
20 I'm afraid that I may come and find you different from what I want you to be, and that you may find me different from what you want me to be. I'm afraid that there may be rivalry, jealousy, hot tempers, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly conduct.
21 I'm afraid that when I come to you again, my God may humble me. I may have to grieve over many who formerly led sinful lives and have not changed the way they think and act about the perversion, sexual sins, and promiscuity in which they have been involved.