Wisdom of Ben Sira 12

Chapter 12

If You Do Good, Know for Whom You Are Doing It[a]

1 If you do good, know for whom you are doing it,
and your good deeds will have their desired effect.
2 Good deeds performed for the righteous man will be repaid—
if not by him, then by the Most High.
3 No good comes to the one who persists in evil,
or to one who refuses to give alms.
4 Give to the devout man,
but never aid the sinner.
5 Give aid to the humble man,
but give nothing to a godless man.
Do not even offer him bread,
for that might enable him to subdue you.
For every good deed you do for him
you will be repaid twofold with evil.
6 For the Most High himself also hates sinners
and inflicts on the godless the punishment they deserve.
[And he is keeping them for the day of their punishment.][b]
7 Give to one who is deserving,
but never offer help to a sinner.

If You Get Bitten, It Is Your Fault[c]

8 When you are enjoying prosperity it is not easy to know who your friends are,
but in times of adversity there is no problem in discerning your enemies.
9 When you prosper even your enemies are grieved,[d]
but in adversity even your friends will shun you.
10 Never trust your enemy;
just as bronze tarnishes, so does his wickedness.
11 Even if he acts humbly and in a subservient manner,
take care to be on your guard against him.
Behave toward him as if you were polishing a mirror,
and you will see that his tarnish does not last.
12 Do not allow him to stand near you,
lest he overthrow you and take your place.
Do not let him sit on your right hand
or he may oust you and take your seat,
and in the end you will realize the truth of my warning
and recall my admonition with regret.
13 Who has sympathy for a snake charmer when he is bitten,
or for those who go near wild animals?
14 In the same way, no one pities a person who associates with sinners
and becomes involved in their evil deeds.
15 He may stand by you for a while,
but if you falter, he will not stay around.
16 An enemy utters honeyed words,
but his heart is scheming to cast you into a pit.
The eyes of an enemy may be filled with tears,
but if an opportunity arises, he will never have enough of your blood.
17 If misfortune overtakes you, you will find him there ahead of you,
and, pretending to help, he will trip you up.
18 Then he will shake his head[e] and clap his hands,
go about whispering, and change his countenance.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 12:1 Here the morality of the sage is a little narrow. Even the Mosaic Law invites people to be more generous (Ex 23:4f; Lev 19:17f), and the new law of Christ preaches a charity without limits (Mt 5:43-48).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 12:6 Added by some early MSS.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 12:8 Nothing but misfortune can overtake those who keep bad company. Flatterers in good times await only bad times to supplant the one whom in the past they touted as their friend.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 12:9 Grieved: Greek; Hebrew reads: “friendly.”
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 12:18 He will shake his head: a sign of derision (see Job 16:4; Pss 22:8; 109:25).

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