Wisdom of Ben Sira 19

Chapter 19

1 A drunken workman[a] will never grow rich,
and carelessness in small matters will lead to one’s ruin.
2 Wine and women lead intelligent men astray,
and the man who consorts with prostitutes becomes ever more reckless.
3 Decay and worms will take possession of him,
and because of his recklessness he will lose his life.

Discretion in Believing and Repeating Gossip[b]

4 One who too readily trusts others displays a shallow intelligence,
and one who sins does serious harm to himself.
5 One who rejoices in wickedness will suffer condemnation,
[5b [c]but one who resists pleasures crowns his life.
6a One who curbs the tongue lives without strife],
6 but by hating gossip he avoids evil.
7 Never repeat gossip,
and you will come to no harm.
8 Report nothing accusatory to friend or foe;
do not reveal anything unless it would be sinful for you not to do so.
9 For one may hear it and mistrust you
and in time come to hate you.
10 Have you heard a rumor? Let it die with you;
be assured, if you hold it in, it will not cause you to burst asunder.
11 A fool who has heard something suffers birth pangs
like a woman in labor with a child.
12 Like an arrow lodged in a person’s thigh
is gossip in the heart of a fool.

You Cannot Believe Everything You Hear[d]

13 Question your friend—perhaps he may not have done what he is accused of,
and if he has, your action may ensure that he will not do it again.
14 Question your neighbor—perhaps he may not have said what he is accused of,
and if he has, your action may ensure that he will not say it again.
15 Question your friend—often he may be the victim of slander;
you cannot believe everything you hear.
16 And of course a man may let something slip without intending to do so;
is anyone’s tongue free of guilt?
17 Question your neighbor before you break with him,
and thereby you will give due place to the law[e] of the Most High.
17c [f]Do not give in to anger.
18 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of his clemency,
and wisdom wins his love.
19 The knowledge of the Lord’s commandments is life-giving instruction,
and those who do what pleases him exult in the fruit of the tree of immortality.]

Do Not Confuse Wisdom with Cleverness[g]

20 All wisdom is the fear of the Lord,
and it derives from the fulfillment of the law.
[h][It also derives from the knowledge of his universal sovereignty.
21 If a servant says to his master,
“I will not do what you want,”
even if later he does it,
he angers the man who has him in his care.]
22 The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom,
nor is there prudence in the advice of sinners.
23 There is a cleverness that is foul;
however, he who does not have wisdom is a fool.
24 It is better to be short of sense and God-fearing
than to be highly intelligent and violate the law.
25 There is a cleverness that is scrupulous but dishonest,
and there are those who abuse favors to win a favorable decision.
26 There is a wicked man who bows his head in mourning
but is filled with guile within.
27 He hides his face and pretends not to hear,
but when no one is paying attention, he will take advantage of you.
28 And if lack of strength prevents him from sinning,
he will nevertheless do evil deeds at the first opportunity.
29 You can learn a great deal about a man simply by observing his appearance;
a sensible man is recognized as such when he is first encountered.
30 A man’s attire and his hearty laughter,
as well as the way he walks, reveal his character.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:1 A drunken workman: Hebrew reads: “The one who does this.”
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:4 Those who babble are prone to slander. Under every sky, the wise have stressed the misdeeds of the tongue. The author seems to have made a special effort not to dishonor the human word.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:5 Added by some early MSS.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:13 These verses deal with the charitable concern we owe friends after hearing gossip about them. Above all, if the gossip turns out to be true, we should admonish them so that they will avoid making the same mistake in the future.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:17 You will give due place to the law: a reference to Lev 19:17-18.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:17 Added by some early MSS.
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:20 Not all clever people are wise, neither are all sinners fools. But guile has nothing in common with humility except habit; there are certain airs that do not deceive.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 19:20 Added by some early MSS.

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