Passage: Ecclesiastes 4, 5, 6 (RSV)

Ecclesiastes 4

1Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
2And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive;
3but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5The fool folds his hands, and eats his own flesh.
6Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
7Again, I saw vanity under the sun:
8a person who has no one, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
10For 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.
11Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone?
12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who will no longer take advice,
14even though he had gone from prison to the throne or in his own kingdom had been born poor.
15I saw all the living who move about under the sun, as well as that youth, who was to stand in his place;
16there was no end of all the people; he was over all of them. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 5

1Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil.
2Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.
3For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.
4When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.
5It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.
6Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your voice, and destroy the work of your hands?
7For when dreams increase, empty words grow many: but do you fear God.
8If you see in a province the poor oppressed and justice and right violently taken away, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them.
9But in all, a king is an advantage to a land with cultivated fields.
10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth, with gain: this also is vanity.
11When goods increase, they increase who eat them; and what gain has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much; but the surfeit of the rich will not let him sleep.
13There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt,
14and those riches were lost in a bad venture; and he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
15As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry away in his hand.
16This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go; and what gain has he that he toiled for the wind,
17and spent all his days in darkness and grief, in much vexation and sickness and resentment?
18Behold, what I have seen to be good and to be fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has given him, for this is his lot.
19Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil -- this is the gift of God.
20For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Ecclesiastes 6

1There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon men:
2a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them; this is vanity; it is a sore affliction.
3If a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but he does not enjoy life's good things, and also has no burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he.
4For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered;
5moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he.
6Even though he should live a thousand years twice told, yet enjoy no good -- do not all go to the one place?
7All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.
8For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?
9Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire; this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
10Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.
11The more words, the more vanity, and what is man the better?
12For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

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