Ecclesiastes 7-12 The Message Bible

Wisdom and Folly Compared

7 1  good reputation is better than a fat bank account. Your death date tells more than your birth date. 2  You learn more at a funeral than at a feast - After all, that's where we'll end up. We might discover something from it. 3  Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face but it scours the heart. 4  Sages invest themselves in hurt and grieving. Fools waste their lives in fun and games. 5  You'll get more from the rebuke of a sage Than from the song and dance of fools. 6  The giggles of fools are like the crackling of twigs Under the cooking pot. And like smoke.

7  Brutality stupefies even the wise And destroys the strongest heart. 8  Endings are better than beginnings. Sticking to it is better than standing out. 9  Don't be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head. 10  Don't always be asking, "Where are the good old days?" Wise folks don't ask questions like that.

11  Wisdom is better when it's paired with money, Especially if you get both while you're still living. 12  Double protection: wisdom and wealth! Plus this bonus: Wisdom energizes its owner. 13  Take a good look at God's work. Who could simplify and reduce Creation's curves and angles To a plain straight line? 14  On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days So that we won't take anything for granted. Stay in Touch with Both Sides 15  I've seen it all in my brief and pointless life - here a good person cut down in the middle of doing good, there a bad person living a long life of sheer evil. 16  So don't knock yourself out being good, and don't go overboard being wise. Believe me, you won't get anything out of it. 17  But don't press your luck by being bad, either. And don't be reckless. Why die needlessly? 18  It's best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it. 19  Wisdom puts more strength in one wise person Than ten strong men give to a city. 20  There's not one totally good person on earth, Not one who is truly pure and sinless. 21  Don't eavesdrop on the conversation of others. What if the gossip's about you and you'd rather not hear it? 22  You've done that a few times, haven't you - said things Behind someone's back you wouldn't say to his face?

23  I tested everything in my search for wisdom. I set out to be wise, but it was beyond me, 24  far beyond me, and deep - oh so deep! Does anyone ever find it? 25  I concentrated with all my might, studying and exploring and seeking wisdom - the meaning of life. I also wanted to identify evil and stupidity, foolishness and craziness. 26  One discovery: A woman can be a bitter pill to swallow, full of seductive scheming and grasping. The lucky escape her; the undiscerning get caught. 27  At least this is my experience - what I, the Quester, have pieced together as I've tried to make sense of life. 28  But the wisdom I've looked for I haven't found. I didn't find one man or woman in a thousand worth my while. 29  Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we're the ones who've made a mess of things.

8 1  here's nothing better than being wise, Knowing how to interpret the meaning of life. Wisdom puts light in the eyes, And gives gentleness to words and manners. 2  Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. 3  Don't worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You're serving his pleasure, not yours. 4  The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, "What are you doing?" 5  Carrying out orders won't hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately.

6  Yes, there's a right time and way for everything, even though, unfortunately, we miss it for the most part. 7  It's true that no one knows what's going to happen, or when. Who's around to tell us? 8  No one can control the wind or lock it in a box. No one has any say-so regarding the day of death. No one can stop a battle in its tracks. No one who does evil can be saved by evil.

9  All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that's going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.

The Inequalities of Life

10  One time I saw wicked men given a solemn burial in holy ground. When the people returned to the city, they delivered flowery eulogies - and in the very place where wicked acts were done by those very men! More smoke. Indeed. 11  ecause the sentence against evil deeds is so long in coming, people in general think they can get by with murder. 12  Even though a person sins and gets by with it hundreds of times throughout a long life, I'm still convinced that the good life is reserved for the person who fears God, who lives reverently in his presence, 13  and that the evil person will not experience a "good" life. No matter how many days he lives, they'll all be as flat and colorless as a shadow - because he doesn't fear God.

14  Here's something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what's coming to the wicked, and bad people get what's coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense. It's smoke. 15  So, I'm all for just going ahead and having a good time - the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time - compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth. 16  When I determined to load up on wisdom and examine everything taking place on earth, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, 17  you'll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you're not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won't get to the bottom of it.

9 1  Well, I took all this in and thought it through, inside and out. Here's what I understood: The good, the wise, and all that they do are in God's hands - but, day by day, whether it's love or hate they're dealing with, they don't know. 2  It's one fate for everybody - righteous and wicked, good people, bad people, the nice and the nasty, worshipers and non-worshipers, committed and uncommitted. 3  I find this outrageous - the worst thing about living on this earth - that everyone's lumped together in one fate. Is it any wonder that so many people are obsessed with evil? Is it any wonder that people go crazy right and left? Life leads to death. That's it.

4  Still, anyone selected out for life has hope, for, as they say, "A living dog is better than a dead lion." 5  The living at least know something, even if it's only that they're going to die. But the dead know nothing and get nothing. They're a minus that no one remembers. 6  Their loves, their hates, yes, even their dreams, are long gone. There's not a trace of them left in the affairs of this earth. 7  Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes - God takes pleasure in your pleasure! 8  Dress festively every morning. Don't skimp on colors and scarves. 9  Relish life with the spouse you love Each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange For the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! 10  Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, For there's neither work to do nor thoughts to think In the company of the dead, where you're most certainly headed.

11  I took another walk around the neighborhood and realized that on this earth as it is - The race is not always to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor satisfaction to the wise, Nor riches to the smart, Nor grace to the learned. Sooner or later bad luck hits us all. 12  No one can predict misfortune. Like fish caught in a cruel net or birds in a trap, So men and women are caught By accidents evil and sudden. Wisdom Is Better than Muscle

13  One day as I was observing how wisdom fares on this earth, I saw something that made me sit up and take notice. 14  There was a small town with only a few people in it. A strong king came and mounted an attack, building trenches and attack posts around it. 15  There was a poor but wise man in that town whose wisdom saved the town, but he was promptly forgotten. (He was only a poor man, after all.) 16  All the same, I still say that wisdom is better than muscle, even though the wise poor man was treated with contempt and soon forgotten. 17  The quiet words of the wise are more effective Than the ranting of a king of fools. 18  Wisdom is better than warheads, But one hothead can ruin the good earth.

The Excellence of Wisdom

10 1  Dead flies in perfume make it stink, And a little foolishness decomposes much wisdom. 2  Wise thinking leads to right living; Stupid thinking leads to wrong living. 3  Fools on the road have no sense of direction. The way they walk tells the story: "There goes the fool again!"

4  If a ruler loses his temper against you, don't panic; A calm disposition quiets intemperate rage. 5  Here's a piece of bad business I've seen on this earth, An error that can be blamed on whoever is in charge: 6  Immaturity is given a place of prominence, While maturity is made to take a back seat. 7  I've seen unproven upstarts riding in style, While experienced veterans are put out to pasture. 8  Caution: The trap you set might catch you. Warning: Your accomplice in crime might double-cross you. 9  Safety first: Quarrying stones is dangerous. Be alert: Felling trees is hazardous. 10  Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work; Use your head: The more brains, the less muscle. 11  If the snake bites before it's been charmed, What's the point in then sending for the charmer?

12  The words of a wise person are gracious. The talk of a fool self-destructs - 13  He starts out talking nonsense And ends up spouting insanity and evil. 14  Fools talk way too much, Chattering stuff they know nothing about. 15  A decent day's work so fatigues fools That they can't find their way back to town.

16  Unlucky the land whose king is a young pup, And whose princes party all night. 17  Lucky the land whose king is mature, Where the princes behave themselves And don't drink themselves silly. 18  A shiftless man lives in a tumbledown shack; A lazy woman ends up with a leaky roof. 19  Laughter and bread go together, And wine gives sparkle to life - But it's money that makes the world go around. 20  Don't bad-mouth your leaders, not even under your breath, And don't abuse your betters, even in the privacy of your home. Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide.

11 1  e generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. 2  Don't hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night. 3  When the clouds are full of water, it rains. When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls. 4  Don't sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don't stare at the clouds. Get on with your life. 5  Just as you'll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you'll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. 6  Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock. You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end. Before the Years Take Their Toll

7  Oh, how sweet the light of day, And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! 8  Even if you live a long time, don't take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour, Remembering that there will also be many dark days And that most of what comes your way is smoke.

Advice to the Young

9  You who are young, make the most of your youth. Relish your youthful vigor. Follow the impulses of your heart. If something looks good to you, pursue it. But know also that not just anything goes; You have to answer to God for every last bit of it. 10  Live footloose and fancy free - You won't be young forever. Youth lasts about as long as smoke.

12 1  onor and enjoy your Creator while you're still young, Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes, 2  Before your vision dims and the world blurs And the winter years keep you close to the fire. 3  In old age, your body no longer serves you so well. Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen. The shades are pulled down on the world. 4  You can't come and go at will. Things grind to a halt. The hum of the household fades away. You are wakened now by bird-song. 5  Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past. Even a stroll down the road has its terrors. Your hair turns apple-blossom white, Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body. Yes, you're well on your way to eternal rest, While your friends make plans for your funeral. 6  Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. 7  The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

8  It's all smoke, nothing but smoke. The Quester says that everything's smoke.

The Whole Duty of Man

9  Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. 10  The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth. 11  The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. 12  But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else.

13  The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. 14  And that's it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil.

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