The Word Made Fresh
1So, I told myself, “I will test pleasure and enjoy myself.” But this was vanity as well. 2Of laughter I said, “It is insane.” Of pleasure I said, “What good is it?” 3I thought about how wine cheers the body, even while still guided by my mind, and how to hold on to foolishness until I could see what good we mortals could do here on earth during our short lives. 4I did great things – built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I formed pools to use for watering the forest of trees I planted. 7I bought servants – male and female – and even had some who were born in my house. I owned huge herds and flocks, more than any who had come before me in Jerusalem. 8I collected silver and gold for myself, and accumulated treasures of kings and provinces. I brought in singers – men and women – and enjoyed the delights of the flesh with many concubines.
9So, I became powerful, greater than all who had come before me in Jerusalem, and my wisdom stayed with me. 10I did not shun anything my eyes desired but kept no pleasure from my heart. My heart found pleasure in all my work and was the reward for all my effort.
11Then I looked at all the things my hands had done, and all the work I had done, and saw that it was all vain and chasing after the wind. I saw there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
12Then I turned to consider wisdom and madness and foolishness, for what else was there to do? Only what has already been done. 13I saw then that wisdom is better than folly just as light is better than darkness. 14Those who are wise can see, but fools walk in darkness.
Yet, I saw that the same fate befalls all of them. 15So, I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then did I think I was being so wise?” And I told myself this was also nothing but vanity, 16because there is no lasting memory either of the wise or of fools. In days to come all will have been long forgotten. The wise die as well, just like fools. 17So, I hated life because what is done under the sun was pointless to me. It was all vain, nothing but chasing after the wind.
18Then I began to hate all the work I had done under the sun because I saw that I would have to leave it to those who come after me. 19And who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? They would be the master of everything I had worked for and for everything I had used my wisdom for under the sun. This is nothing but vanity. 20Then I gave up my heart to despair when I thought of all the work I had done under the sun, 21because sometimes someone who has worked with wisdom and skill must leave it all to be enjoyed by another who didn’t work for it. This is nothing but vanity. It is a great disservice. 22What do we mortals receive from all the work and strain for which we labor under the sun? 23Our days are filled with pain and our work is an aggravation. Even at night our minds find no rest. This is also meaningless.
24There is nothing better for us mortals than that we should eat and drink and find some enjoyment in our work. I could see that this, too, was from God’s own hand, 25for apart from God who can enjoy anything? 26God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to whomever God is pleased with; but to the sinner God gives the toil of work gathering and heaping, only to be passed on to the one who pleases God.
This is also nothing but a vain chasing after the wind.
1-3: The Preacher describes his continuing search for the meaning of life in drunken pleasures and finds nothing of use.
4-11: He continues his search with building and the accumulation of wealth and all the advantages that accrue to being rich, but, having kept his wisdom about him finds that none of these things are ultimately satisfying.
12-17: He considers wisdom and folly and concludes that there really is no advantage to either, since they both come to the same end and are forgotten.
18-23: Worst of all, he realizes that when he is dead and gone, everything he has worked for will go to someone else.
24-26: And so, he arrives at his first conclusion: the enjoyment of life is a gift from God, and God chooses to give it to whoever pleases him, and that just isn’t fair.
In fact, I think it is fair. God gives blessings to whomever God wishes to bless. We can’t question God’s choices, can we?