Ecclesiastes 4–6; 2 Corinthians 12

Evil Under the Sun

uAgain I vsaw all wthe oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had xno one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I ythought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But zbetter than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is avanity1 and a striving after wind.

The fool bfolds his hands and ceats his own flesh.

dBetter is a handful of equietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

uAgain, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his feyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, gFor whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure? This also is vanity and an unhappy hbusiness.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, ibut how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better was ja poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how kto take advice. 14 For he went lfrom prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that2 youth who was to stand in the king’s3 place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is mvanity and a striving after wind.

4

Fear God

nGuard your steps when you go to othe house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to poffer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 5 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore qlet your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with rmany words.

When syou vow a vow to God, tdo not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. uPay what you vow. vIt is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you6 into sin, and do not say before wthe messenger7 that it was xa mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity;8 but9 yGod is the one you must fear.

The Vanity of Wealth and Honor

zIf you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, ado not be amazed at the matter, bfor the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.10

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 cThere is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 dAs he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what egain is there to him who ftoils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he geats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be hgood and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment11 in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his ilot. 19 Everyone also to whom jGod has given kwealth and possessions land power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toilthis is mthe 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.

nThere is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man oto whom pGod gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he qlacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God rdoes not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity;12 it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that sthe days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s tgood things, and he also has no uburial, I say that va stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not wseen the sun or known anything, yet it finds xrest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy13 no gooddo not all go to the one place?

yAll the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.14 For what advantage has the wise man zover the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better ais the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is bvanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has calready been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to ddispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his evain15 life, which he passes like fa shadow? For who can tell man what will be gafter him under the sun?


Paul’s Visions and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and xrevelations of the Lord. I know a man yin Christ who fourteen years ago was zcaught up to athe third heavenwhether in the body or out of the body I do not know, bGod knows. And I know that this man was caught up into cparadisewhether in the body or out of the body I do not know, bGod knows and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, dexcept of my weaknesses though if I should wish to boast, eI would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So fto keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,1 ga thorn was given me in the flesh, ha messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. iThree times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, jMy grace is sufficient for you, for kmy power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that lthe power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 mFor the sake of Christ, then, nI am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For owhen I am weak, then I am strong.

Concern for the Corinthian Church

11 pI have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was qnot at all inferior to these super-apostles, reven though I am nothing. 12 sThe signs of a true apostle were performed among you twith utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that uI myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Here vfor the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for wI seek not what is yours but you. For xchildren are not obligated to save up for their parents, but yparents for their children. 15 zI will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If aI love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that bI myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you cthrough any of those whom I sent to you? 18 dI urged Titus to go, and sent ethe brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is fin the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and gall for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps hwhen I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wishthat perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those iwho sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, jsexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.