Ecclesiastes 1-5 [Clear Word]
26B. PERSONAL MANAGEMENT
Ecclesiastes 1:1 These are the words of Solomon the teacher, son of David and king of Israel in Jerusalem. 2 When you look at this earthly life only, futility is written on everything a man does. The efforts of generation after generation will pass away. In fact, life itself is futile, for it doesn't last. 3 A man works hard all his life, laboring every day in the hot sun, but when his life work is over, what has he accomplished that will last? 4 One generation comes and another goes, and the earth simply keeps spinning in space as if nothing has happened. 5 Look at nature. The sun rises and the sun sets; as soon as it reaches it's height in the sky, it seems to hurry to return to where it came from. 6 The wind blows toward the south and again toward the north. It swirls in a circle one way; then it turns and swirls the other way. 7 The rivers of the earth find their way to the sea and keep flowing into it, yet the oceans never fill up. In turn, the oceans supply the rivers with water and the cycle begins all over again. 8 Everything is in motion but nothing is ever finished. The eye is never satisfied by looking and the ear is never filled by hearing. 9 The things that have happened will happen again and what has been done before will be done again. Man doesn't seem to learn. There's nothing new under the sun. There is no permanent change about the way things go. 10 Someone says, "Look at that! There's something new that's never happened before!" But it has. In fact, that something happened long before our time. 11 Somehow people don't remember or learn from what happened before, and things that will happen in the future won't be remembered or serve as a lesson to those who follow. Each generation has to learn life's lessons all over again. 12 I'm talking to you as your teacher and king. I want to tell you about life and the things I have done right here in Jerusalem. 13 One day I decided to get as much out of life as possible. So I studied all the things that are done in this world to find out what life is all about. When I got done, it seemed to me that God has given man a lot of work to do, none of which will really last. 14 I looked into almost everything that man does on earth and it seems that man is just chasing rainbows. A man's life begins and ends, and in spite of all his efforts, he doesn't really make a change in the natural order of things. 15 Man can't straighten out things that are all twisted up, and while he knows that something is missing, he can't figure out what it is. 16 One day I said to myself, "Look, I've become a great man in Jerusalem. I'm wiser than anyone who has ruled before me, and I have much insight and knowledge." 17 So I decided to find out what the real difference was between knowledge and ignorance, wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and sin. 18 I've found out that the more knowledge you have, the more concerns you have about things, and the more insight you have, the more sensitive to pain you are. I thought that a life without concern and pain would be happier.
Ecclesiastes 2:1 So I decided to enjoy myself. I wanted to be happy and not worry--to be free from responsibilities. But I soon found that if all you do is live to enjoy yourself, life has no meaning. 2 I also discovered that incessant laughing and having a good time turns you into a fool. When the party is over, the fun is gone. 3 I tried it. I decided to cheer myself with wine and still do my work, letting my wisdom guide me. I wanted to see if this was the best way for people to enjoy themselves while they lived. 4 I also decided to see if doing big things would bring happiness. I built palaces and developed acre upon acre of vineyards. 5 I built orchards and filled them with every variety of fruit trees. I developed parks and filled them with all kinds of ornamental trees. 6 Then I constructed huge dams with reservoirs to water those trees. 7 I bought talented slaves, both men and women. There were also numerous slaves born in my household. I owned more cattle than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem. 8 I collected silver and gold as taxes from the colonies I ruled and put it all into the royal treasury. I employed men and women singers. My harem was bigger than that of any other king. I had all the women a man could want. 9 I was greater than anyone in Jerusalem and felt good about it. In all of this I still had wisdom. It seemed to work. 10 I denied myself no pleasure. Whatever I wanted, I got. I felt good about everything I had accomplished and felt that pleasure was the legitimate reward for man. 11 Then one day I looked at all my achievements and realized that none of it would last. In that sense my efforts were meaningless. They were as useless as chasing a rainbow. Everything I had done had in one way or another been tried by other kings. In all my attempts I had discovered nothing new. 12 So I decided to give my energies to philosophy and learning, examining the questions of life. Also, I thought about what the next king could do that I had not already done. 13 It was obvious that wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 A wise man looks ahead and knows where he's going, while a fool can't see beyond the nose on his face. Yet, they're both heading for the same destiny. 15 Then I concluded that the same destiny that awaits a fool awaits me, no matter how wise I am or how much I've accomplished. So I said to myself, "What's the use?" 16 After the wise and the foolish die, who pays any attention to what they've done? In that sense both are the same and will not be long remembered. There's really no difference between the wise and the foolish. In the end they both will die. 17 I hated life with its meaninglessness. A man works diligently and struggles with problems throughout his life, and when it's over, what has he done that really lasts and is never forgotten? Finding meaning to life is like chasing the wind. 18 That's why I hated everything I had worked for here on earth, not to mention all the trouble and headaches that searching for happiness and pleasure had given me. I told myself, "Before I know it, I'll have to die and leave everything to those who follow me." 19 Who knows whether the next leader will be wise or foolish and whether he'll build up or tear down everything I've done. I won't be around to see it or to know whether I was wise or foolish. In that sense, my work has been useless and without meaning. 20 Then I began to feel depressed. The more I thought about how hard I had worked and that nothing would last, the more discouraged I became. 21 A man may work wisely and skillfully, he may look ahead and plan carefully, but in the end he has to leave everything to those who never worked for it. So what's the use? 22 What does a person really get out of life? What does he get for all his work, anxiety and stress? 23 A person who works hard all his life goes through a lot of pain and grief to accomplish what he wants, but for what? There are nights when he can't sleep because so much is on his mind, but what good does it really do? 24 I decided that the most rewarding things in this life are satisfaction in your work and enjoyment of your food, and even these simple pleasures are gifts from God. 25 Without Him we wouldn't ever live to enjoy these. 26 God is the source of all knowledge as well as all joy. He gives wisdom and happiness to those who please Him and takes it away from those who keep on sinning. Evil men work hard to store up riches which one day will be given to those who please God. All that man does to accomplish great things or to gain riches is useless. I concluded that life without God has no more purpose than chasing the wind.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There are other things I've learned about life. There are times to do specific things and different seasons in which to do them. 2 There is a certain day when you're born and then comes a certain day when you die. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest what was planted. 3 There are times when we must let things die, and there are also times to bring about healing. There are times to tear things down and times to build again. 4 There are times in life when we need to weep and other times when we need to laugh. There are times of sorrow and times of joy. 5 There are times to love and times not to love. There are times to hug and times not to hug. 6 There are times when we find things and times when we lose things. There are times to keep things and times to throw them away. 7 There are times when we must part and times when we come together again. There are times to speak and times to keep silent. 8 There are times to express love and times to express disapproval. There are times to go to war and times to make peace. 9 So what is it that we get from all our efforts to do everything at the right time? 10 I have seen the hard work that God has given men to do in this life. 11 But this was not God's original plan. In the beginning He made everything beautiful and created man in His own image. He put in man's heart a sense of time and eternity, but man will never understand everything that God plans and does. 12 There is nothing better in life than for man to do good, which will produce true happiness. 13 God wants man to be happy, to enjoy life and to find satisfaction in his work. 14 Everything that God does lasts. There is nothing man can do to add to it or take away from it. Whatever God does, He does to help us love Him even more. 15Whatever happens to a man in his lifetime has happened before. And God takes the past, present and future into account when He makes His decisions. 16 Now there is another thing I've learned about life: Wickedness has pushed out fairness, and evil has replaced justice. 17 When I saw this, I said to myself, "God will have to step in to straighten things out. When He does, He will judge the actions and motives of the righteous and the wicked and will consider the time and place of their actions." 18 So I concluded that in everything God does He is trying to show man that he has no more power to keep himself alive than does an animal. 19 Man's future without God is no better than that of a beast. The same destiny awaits both. As one dies and turns to dust, so does the other. Man's life without God is meaningless. 20 All life ends the same. We all came from dust and will return to dust. 21 Who can prove that the spirit of man lives on after death while the spirit of a beast disappears? 22 I concluded that there is nothing better than for man to enjoy his work, because there's nothing he can do to change the cycle of life. Who's going to bring him back to see what's happening the day after he dies?
Ecclesiastes 4:1 Next, I took a careful look at all the injustice and oppression that goes on in this world. Those who are oppressed cry out for help but no one seems to pay attention. They have no power to change their situation because power is in the hands of the oppressors. 2 When I saw this, I realized that those who have died are better off than those who are still alive. 3 Looking at it another way, I concluded that those who haven't been born yet are even better off than those who have died or those who are still alive, because they've never seen the injustice and oppression that goes on in this world. 4 Another thing I noticed is that man's drive to succeed usually comes from wanting to have what his neighbors have. This, too, is useless. It's like chasing the wind. 5 Man tells himself that he would be foolish just to sit around with folded hands and starve when he can work and get ahead in life. 6 Maybe so, but I concluded that it's better to have a little and be content than to have much and never be satisfied. 7 I've noticed something else in life that's hard to understand. 8 An old man who lives alone with no brothers or sisters and no sons or daughters is always working, yet never seems content with what he has. Why is he working so hard? Why doesn't he slow down and enjoy life? This is very sad and senseless. 9 Two people are always better off than one because they can work toether and enjoy each other's company. 10 If one of them falls, the other can help him up. But I pity the man who walks alone, because when he falls, he has no one to help him. 11 When two people sleep together, they can keep each other warm, which is much better than if each one sleeps alone and is cold. 12 Two can resist an attack better than one trying to do it alone. A rope made from three strands is much stronger than a rope made from one. 13A poor young man who is wise is better off than an old king who is foolish. 14 A teachable young man will overcome his obstacles and could become king, even if he was born in poverty or had once spent time in prison. 15 As I carefully considered the matter, I realized that though a young man like that could become king, a second youth also born in obscurity could come along and replace him as king. 16 There might be no limit to the new king's subjects, but he could be rejected by an even younger generation looking for other heroes. So this, too, is like chasing the wind.
Ecclesiastes 5:1 Let me give you some suggestions on how to live. Be humble and ready to listen when you go to the house of God. It's better to listen than to bring sacrifices. It's foolish not to listen to what's right and wrong. 2 Think before you speak and don't make any rash promises to God that you can't keep. God is in heaven and owns the whole universe. You're only a creature living on one little planet. Recognize your place, be humble and don't play games with God by making promises you don't intend to keep. 3 The more you talk, the more likely you'll end up saying something foolish or something you didn't want to say. Too much talk feeds on itself, just as problems do. The more problems you have, the more you'll worry, and the more you worry, the more bad dreams you'll have. 4 When you promise God that you'll do something, don't put t off or you'll forget it. He's not pleased with people who make foolish commitments. Do what you tell Him you will do. 5It's better not to make a promise than to make a promise and not keep it. 6 Be careful not to let your emotions lead you into making rash promises you can't keep. This would be a sin. Don't tell the priest that you've made a mistake or changed your mind. Why should you play games with God and end up displeasing Him with your foolishness? He can't bless you when you do this and might even take away everything you worked so hard for. 7 Empty talk is like a dream; it accomplishes nothing. One of the best ways to honor God is to be careful what you say. 8 If you see a provincial governor oppressing the poor, perverting justice and denying people their rights, don't be surprised. A lower official is usually watched by the one above him, and he, in turn, is watched by the one above him, and so on. 9 But they don't seem to realize that there is Someone above us all. They're all subject to God because He's the One who provides us with the food we need. Even the king depends on God to feed him. But power seems to be what these people want, so they go ahead and do their thing. 10 It's the same with money. Anyone in love with it never has enough, no matter how much he has, and he's never satisfied no matter how much he makes. All the effort that goes into making money just to get it is meaningless. 11 As a person's money increases, so do the wants that consume it. The only benefit he receives is to know that he has it. 12 A working man may have little or nothing and barely enough food to feed his family, but at night he sleeps well. A rich man has more than he needs but worries so much about his investments that he seldom sleeps well. 13 There's another terrible thing I have noticed about life. People work too hard to accumulate money to their own spiritual harm. 14 When misfortune strikes, the money is gone, and their children are left with nothing. 15When a man is born, he has nothing. When he dies, it's the same way. Regardless of all his hard work, he takes nothing with him. 16 There's another terrible thing I've noticed. A man comes into this world with nothing and leaves this world with nothing. He slaves away all his life, and what does he get from all his work? 17 He receives frustration, sickness and often bitterness and resentment. When his life is over, he seems to have done nothing but chase the wind. 18 I concluded that the best thing that a man can do is to enjoy each day as it comes. There's nothing wrong if he enjoys the fruits of his labor during the few years that God gives him. 19 If God gives a man wealth, possessions and health, there's nothing wrong with enjoying them. They are gifts from God. 20 And since God has given him happiness, a man ought to view each day as a gift and be thankful. He shouldn't keep thinking about how long he's going to live.