Pleasure has no purpose
1 I said to myself, ‘I will enjoy the good things of life. I will see if that helps me to be happy.’ But I realized that this too had no purpose. 2 I said, ‘It is foolish to laugh all the time. If I only try to please myself, it does not really help me.’
3 I thought about wine. If I drink a lot of wine, I thought that might make me happy. I might enjoy foolish things. I used wisdom to think about this. People only live for a short time on the earth. I thought this might be the best way for people to enjoy life.
4 I also did a lot of great things for myself. I built houses. I planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and fields of trees. I planted many different kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made large pools of water. I used the water to help my trees to grow well. 7 I bought male slaves and female slaves. Their children became my slaves too. I had many animals, including sheep, goats and cows. I had more animals than any of the rulers in Jerusalem who lived before me. 8 I stored a lot of silver and gold for myself. Other kings and rulers paid me with many valuable things. I had men and women who would sing for me. I had many beautiful slave wives to give me as much pleasure as any man could want. 9 As a result, I was greater than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem before me. And I continued to follow the way of wisdom.
10 If I saw something that I wanted
I took it for myself.
If something would give me pleasure,
I did it.
So all my work made me very happy.
My hard work gave me things to enjoy.
11 Then I thought about everything that I had done,
and all my hard work.
After all that, I realized that none of these things had a purpose.
I was like somebody who tries to catch the wind.
None of the things on earth have any value.
12 Then I decided to think about wisdom.
I also thought about foolish ways to live.
I thought, ‘The next king will not do any more
than I have already done.’
13 I realized that it is better to be wise than foolish.
In the same way, the light is better than the dark.
14 Wise people can see where they are going.
Foolish people walk in the dark.
But at the end of their lives, there is no difference.
They both die.
15 Then I thought, ‘I will also die, as foolish people do.
So what value have I received from my great wisdom?’
I said to myself, ‘Wisdom too has no purpose.’
16 People forget about wise people
as quickly as they forget about fools.
One day, nobody will remember any of them.
It is true! As fools all have to die, wise people will also die.
17 So I hated life. Everything that happens on the earth only brings me trouble. Nothing has any purpose. It is as useless as somebody who tries to catch the wind.
Work has no purpose
18 I thought about all the hard work that I have done here on the earth. When I die, all the things that I worked so hard to get will belong to the next king. So I hated all my hard work. 19 The next king may be a wise man, or he may be a foolish man. Nobody knows! But all the things that I used my wisdom and hard work to get will belong to him. All this has no purpose. 20 So I was very upset when I thought about all my hard work on the earth. 21 Some people are very wise and clever. They use their knowledge to provide good things for themselves. But after they die, someone else will have all their things. Their good things will belong to someone who did not have to work to get them. This also has no purpose. It only brings trouble.
22 People have to do a lot of hard work on this earth and it causes them to worry. But in the end, they have nothing. 23 Every day, their work causes their bodies to suffer. At night, their minds do not have any rest. All this has no purpose.
24 So I decided what is best for us to do. We should be happy to eat and to drink. And we should enjoy our work. I realized that all these things are gifts from God. 25 Without God's help, nobody can eat anything or enjoy anything. 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy to people who please him. Wicked people may work hard and become rich. But God takes away their valuable things and he gives them to someone who pleases him. So their hard work has no purpose. It is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.