Today our passages are Ecclesiastes 10:1–12:14; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Psalm 49:1-20; and Proverbs 22:20-21. 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 10-12:14 (The Message)
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. 5-7 Here's a piece of bad business I've seen on this earth, An error that can be blamed on whoever is in charge:
Immaturity is given a place of prominence,
While maturity is made to take a backseat.
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?
12-13 The words of a wise person are gracious.
The talk of a fool self-destructs—
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.
16-17 Unlucky the land whose king is a young pup,
And whose princes party all night.
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.
2 Don't hoard your goods; spread them around.
Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.
3-4 When the clouds are full of water, it rains.
When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.
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 Toll7-8 Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
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.
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.
Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire.
3-5 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.
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.
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.
6-7 Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
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 Final Word9-10 Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. 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. 12-13 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. The last and final word is this:
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.
2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (The Message)
2 Corinthians 8
The Offering1-4Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. 5-7This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. That's what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up. You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you're articulate, you're insightful, you're passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.
8-9I'm not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians' enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
10-20So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,
Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.
I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We're sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there's far more to him than popularity. He's rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God's gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.
Psalm 49:1-20 (The Message)
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah1-2 Listen, everyone, listen— earth-dwellers, don't miss this.
All you haves
All together now: listen.
3-4 I set plainspoken wisdom before you,
my heart-seasoned understandings of life.
I fine-tuned my ear to the sayings of the wise,
I solve life's riddle with the help of a harp.
5-6 So why should I fear in bad times,
hemmed in by enemy malice,
Shoved around by bullies,
demeaned by the arrogant rich?
7-9 Really! There's no such thing as self-rescue,
pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The cost of rescue is beyond our means,
and even then it doesn't guarantee
Life forever, or insurance
against the Black Hole.
10-11 Anyone can see that the brightest and best die,
wiped out right along with fools and dunces.
They leave all their prowess behind,
move into their new home, The Coffin,
The cemetery their permanent address.
And to think they named counties after themselves!
12 We aren't immortal. We don't last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.
13-15 This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
who only look out for themselves:
Death herds them like sheep straight to hell;
they disappear down the gullet of the grave;
They waste away to nothing—
nothing left but a marker in a cemetery.
But me? God snatches me from the clutch of death,
he reaches down and grabs me.
16-19 So don't be impressed with those who get rich
and pile up fame and fortune.
They can't take it with them;
fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they've arrived
and folks praise them because they've made good,
They enter the family burial plot
where they'll never see sunshine again.
20 We aren't immortal. We don't last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.
Proverbs 22:20-21 (The Message)
The Thirty Precepts of the Sages
Don't Move Back the Boundary Lines17-21 Listen carefully to my wisdom;
take to heart what I can teach you.
You'll treasure its sweetness deep within;
you'll give it bold expression in your speech.
To make sure your foundation is trust in God,
I'm laying it all out right now just for you.
I'm giving you thirty sterling principles—
tested guidelines to live by.
Believe me—these are truths that work,
and will keep you accountable
to those who sent you.
Verse of the Day
“Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” - Matthew 28:18-20
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist, Rudyard Kipling wrote, “All the people like us are we, and everyone else is They.”