by Larry Stockstill
Unity is a God-given tool that enables us to attain common goals and to encourage one another during difficult times. Solomon saw that two people working together could help each other if one of them fell, grew cold, or was overpowered in an attack (Ecclesiastes 4:10-12). If we are in a spiritual battle, the best thing we can do is to find a prayer partner who will come into instant agreement with us against the enemy's attack.
The opposite of this beautiful expression of unity is the disunity experienced by Christians who unwisely join with unbelievers. Verses 14-16 of 2 Corinthians emphatically state that there can be no union between Christians and unbelievers. What a tragedy it is to see believers ignore this admonition and lean upon unbelievers in marriage or business! Far too many times, they trip each other up and both fall when encountering moral and spiritual pressure.
Choose your close friends, marriage partner, and business associates carefully, knowing that God ordained your partnerships to be a source of protection, not destruction.
4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
5 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
and chasing after the wind.
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
3 A dream
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it.
8 If you see the poor oppressed
10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
that they can carry in their hands.
16 This too is a grievous evil:
As everyone comes, so they depart,
and what do they gain,
since they toil for the wind?
17 All their days they eat in darkness,
with great frustration, affliction and anger.
18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink
6 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind:2 God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them,
3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn
7 Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
yet their appetite is never satisfied.
8 What advantage have the wise over fools?
What do the poor gain
by knowing how to conduct themselves before others?
9 Better what the eye sees
than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless,
a chasing after the wind.
10 Whatever exists has already been named,
and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?
12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days
4 Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.2 So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living.3 But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
5 “Fools fold their idle hands,
leading them to ruin.”
6 And yet,
“Better to have one handful with quietness
than two handfuls with hard work
and chasing the wind.”
7 I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun.8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice.14 Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison.15 But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth
3 Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.
4 When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him.5 It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.6 Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved.
7 Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.
8 Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy.9 Even the king milks the land for his own profit!
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!
12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.
13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver.14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children.15 We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.
16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind.17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.
18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.
6 There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity.2 God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.
3 A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead.4 His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name,5 and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man.6 He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?
7 All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough.8 So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?
9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
10 Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.
11 The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they?
12 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?
4 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
5 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
15 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?
17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
6 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
10 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
14 Do not be yoked together
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
“I will be a Father to you,
says the Lord Almighty.”
7 Therefore, since we have these promises,
2 Make room for us in your hearts.
5 For when we came into Macedonia,
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
18 And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.
7 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
2 Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone.3 I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you.4 I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.
5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.7 His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
7 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.
3 I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.
4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
7 And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
peoples under our feet.
6 Sing praises
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
1 Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves. Interlude
5 God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm.
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere.
47 O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
2 For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.
5 God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
9 The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.
16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
16 A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor
or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.
16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.