Wisdom of Ben Sira 11

Chapter 11

Do Not Trust in Appearances[a]

1 Wisdom enables the poor man to hold his head high
and to take his seat among the great.
2 Do not praise anyone for his good looks,
or despise any on the basis of his appearance.
3 Among the winged creatures the bee is small,
but its produce is the choicest of sweet harvests.
4 Do not boast about your elegant clothes,
or become proud when you receive honors.
For the works of the Lord are marvelous,
but his works are hidden from humans.
5 Many kings have been forced to sit on the ground,
while others who were never considered worthy of respect have worn a crown.
6 Many rulers have fallen into complete disgrace,
and those who have received honors have fallen into the power of others.

Think before Acting, and Act Calmly

7 Do not find fault before checking out the evidence;
examine first, and then criticize.
8 Do not answer without first listening,
and do not interrupt while someone else is speaking.
9 Do not engage in arguing about something that does not concern you,
or become involved in the disputes of sinners.
10 My child, do not become involved in too many matters;
if you attempt too much, you will suffer the consequences.
No matter how much you pursue, you will never overtake,
nor will you escape by attempting to flee.
11 Some people toil away and struggle and press on,
and yet fall farther behind.

Trust in the Lord and Remain at Your Task[b]

12 There is also the slow kind of person in need of help,
lacking in strength and abounding in poverty.
Yet the eyes of the Lord look favorably upon him;
he lifts him out of his wretched condition
13 and raises up his head,
to the amazement of many.
14 Good fortune and bad, life and death,
poverty and wealth—all come from the Lord.[c]
[15 [d]Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the law come from the Lord;
love and the performance of good works are the gift of the Lord.
16 Error and darkness were created with sinners from their birth,
and evil grows old with those who take delight in it.]
17 To the devout the Lord’s gift remains constant,
and his favor brings unending success.
18 A man may become rich through caution and self-denial,
and this is the reward he receives for it:
19 although he says, “Now I have found rest
and I can live on my possessions,”
he does not know how long it will be
before he must die and leave his possessions to others.
20 Know your obligations and fulfill them;
grow old at your work.
21 Do not admire the achievements of the wicked,
but trust in the Lord and remain at your task.
For it is no problem for the Lord
suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor person rich.
22 The blessing of the Lord is the reward of the righteous,
and he quickly causes his blessing to multiply.
23 Do not say, “What do I need,
and what further benefits can be mine?”
24 Do not say, “I am self-sufficient;
what harm can come to me now?”
25 In prosperous times disasters are forgotten,
and in times of hardship prosperity is not remembered.
26 [e]For on the day of death it is easy for the Lord
to reward individuals according to what they deserve.
27 A moment’s affliction causes former pleasures to be forgotten,
and at the close of one’s life, one’s deeds are revealed.
28 Call no one happy before his death,
for it is by his end that a person becomes known for what he is.

Beware of Scoundrels and Their Evil Schemes[f]

29 Do not invite everyone into your home,
for many are the snares of the devious man.
30 Like a decoy partridge in a cage is the mind of the proud man,
and like a spy he looks for your downfall.[g]
31 For he lies in wait for an opportunity to turn good into evil,
and to characterize praiseworthy deeds as blameworthy.
32 A single spark can set many coals afire,
and a sinner lies in wait to spill blood.
33 Beware of a scoundrel and his evil schemes,
for he may smear your reputation forever.
34 If you invite a stranger into your home, he will stir up trouble for you
and will estrange you from your own family.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:1 People should be judged on their true worth rather than on appearances; it is wisdom that enables one to do this.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:12 Trust in God, even if it can sometimes be called the “duty of the unforeseeable,” is a more profound security than the precarious possessions and honor of humans. Jesus may have been inspired by this passage in proposing the parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:16-21): “You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. And who then will get to enjoy the fruit of your labors?”
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:14 God’s providence governs the lives of all, and he can bring good out of evil (see Rom 8:28).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:15 Added by some early MSS.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:26 Writing before the revelation brought by Christ, the author expected divine retribution to be meted out on the day of one’s death. By his end: Greek reads: “through his children.”
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:29 Hospitality is a virtue of the East. Guests are more than occasional visitors. This is not without consequence for the welcoming home. At an age when Greek families embraced all cults easily, the entrance of a non-Jew into a believing family was bound to present problems.
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 11:30 Downfall: Greek reads: “weak spots.”

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