Today our passages are Ecclesiastes 4:1–6:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:7; Psalm 47:1-9; and Proverbs 22:16. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Ecclesiastes 4-6:12 (The Message)
Slow Suicide1-3 Next I turned my attention to all the outrageous violence that takes place on this planet—the tears of the victims, no one to comfort them; the iron grip of oppressors, no one to rescue the victims from them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead instead of the living who are still alive. But luckier than the dead or the living is the person who has never even been, who has never seen the bad business that takes place on this earth. 4 Then I observed all the work and ambition motivated by envy. What a waste! Smoke. And spitting into the wind.
5 The fool sits back and takes it easy,
His sloth is slow suicide.
6 One handful of peaceful repose
Is better than two fistfuls of worried work—
More spitting into the wind.
Why Am I Working Like a Dog?7-8 I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, "Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?" More smoke. A bad business.
9-10 It's better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there's no one to help, tough!
11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
12 By yourself you're unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped. 13-16 A poor youngster with some wisdom is better off than an old but foolish king who doesn't know which end is up. I saw a youth just like this start with nothing and go from rags to riches, and I saw everyone rally to the rule of this young successor to the king. Even so, the excitement died quickly, the throngs of people soon lost interest. Can't you see it's only smoke? And spitting into the wind?
God's in Charge, Not You1 Watch your step when you enter God's house.
Enter to learn. That's far better than mindlessly offering
Doing more harm than good.
2 Don't shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.
Don't be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.
God's in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.
3 Overwork makes for restless sleep.
Overtalk shows you up as a fool.
4-5 When you tell God you'll do something, do it—now.
God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble. Vow it, then do it.
Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.
6 Don't let your mouth make a total sinner of you.
When called to account, you won't get by with
"Sorry, I didn't mean it."
Why risk provoking God to angry retaliation?
7 But against all illusion and fantasy and empty talk
There's always this rock foundation: Fear God!
A Salary of Smoke8-9 Don't be too upset when you see the poor kicked around, and justice and right violated all over the place. Exploitation filters down from one petty official to another. There's no end to it, and nothing can be done about it. But the good earth doesn't cheat anyone—even a bad king is honestly served by a field.
10 The one who loves money is never satisfied with money,
Nor the one who loves wealth with big profits. More smoke.
11 The more loot you get, the more looters show up.
And what fun is that—to be robbed in broad daylight?
12 Hard and honest work earns a good night's sleep,
Whether supper is beans or steak.
But a rich man's belly gives him insomnia.
13-17 Here's a piece of bad luck I've seen happen:
A man hoards far more wealth than is good for him
And then loses it all in a bad business deal.
He fathered a child but hasn't a cent left to give him.
He arrived naked from the womb of his mother;
He'll leave in the same condition—with nothing.
This is bad luck, for sure—naked he came, naked he went.
So what was the point of working for a salary of smoke?
All for a miserable life spent in the dark?
Make the Most of What God Gives18-20 After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It's useless to brood over how long we might live.
Things Are Bad1-2 I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything—money, property, reputation—all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn't let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It's more of what I'm calling smoke. A bad business. 3-5 Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I'd say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.
6 Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn't enjoy anything, what's the point? Doesn't everyone end up in the same place?
7 We work to feed our appetites;
Meanwhile our souls go hungry.
8-9 So what advantage has a sage over a fool, or over some poor wretch who barely gets by? Just grab whatever you can while you can; don't assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind.
10 Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed.
You can't argue with fate.
11-12 The more words that are spoken, the more smoke there is in the air. And who is any better off? And who knows what's best for us as we live out our meager smoke-and-shadow lives? And who can tell any of us the next chapter of our lives?
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7 (The Message)
14-18Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way:
"I'll live in them, move into them;
I'll be their God and they'll be my people.
So leave the corruption and compromise;
leave it for good," says God.
"Don't link up with those who will pollute you.
I want you all for myself.
I'll be a Father to you;
you'll be sons and daughters to me."
The Word of the Master, God.
2 Corinthians 71 With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.
More Passionate, More Responsible2-4Trust us. We've never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone. Don't think I'm finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I'm with you all the way, no matter what. I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles. 5-7When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn't settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn't relax because we didn't know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!
Psalm 47:1-9 (The Message)
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah1-9 Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo! Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!
God Most High is stunning,
astride land and ocean.
He crushes hostile people,
puts nations at our feet.
He set us at the head of the line,
prize-winning Jacob, his favorite.
Loud cheers as God climbs the mountain,
a ram's horn blast at the summit.
Sing songs to God, sing out!
Sing to our King, sing praise!
He's Lord over earth,
so sing your best songs to God.
God is Lord of godless nations—
sovereign, he's King of the mountain.
Princes from all over are gathered,
people of Abraham's God.
The powers of earth are God's—
he soars over all.
Proverbs 22:16 (The Message)
16 Exploit the poor or glad-hand the rich—whichever,
you'll end up the poorer for it.
Verse of the Day
“[It Is Best To Obey the LORD]with this message: People of Israel, I am the holy LORD God, the one who rescues you. For your own good, I teach you, and I lead you along the right path.” - Isaiah 48:17
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”