1 Everyone who acts vengefully will have to face the vengeance of the Lord,
for he keeps a strict account of his sins.
2 Forgive your neighbor for any wrongs he has done to you;
then, when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.
3 Anyone who harbors anger against another
can hardly expect healing from the Lord.
4 Anyone who refuses mercy to his peers
cannot rightfully seek pardon for his own sins.
5 If a mere creature cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
6 Keep in your thoughts the end of your own life and set enmity aside;
remember corruption and death, and be faithful to the commandments.
7 Remember the commandments and do not bear ill-will toward your neighbor;
keep in mind the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.
Strife Disturbs Peace[a]
8 If you refrain from quarreling, your sins will be fewer,
for a hot-tempered man provokes strife.
9 A sinner disrupts friendships
and sows discord among those who are peacefully disposed.
10 The more fuel there is, the fiercer the fire will burn;
the greater the obstinacy shown, the fiercer will be the strife.
The greater is the power of a man, the greater will be his anger;
the greater his wealth, the greater his wrath will be.
11 A sudden quarrel kindles a fire,
and a hasty dispute leads to bloodshed.
12 If you blow on a spark, it will flare into a flame;
if you spit on it, it will die out;
yet you achieve both results with your mouth.
The Greatest Scourge Is the Tongue[b]
13 Cursed be the gossipers and the double-tongued,
for they destroy many who live in harmony.
14 [c]An intrusive tongue has disrupted the peace of many
and driven them from country to country.
It has resulted in the destruction of strong cities
and overthrown the houses of the great.
15 An intrusive tongue can drive out virtuous women
and deprive them of the fruit of their labors.
16 Anyone who pays heed to it will never find rest
or achieve peace of mind.
17 A blow from a whip raises a welt,
but a blow from the tongue breaks bones.
18 Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,
but not as many as have fallen by the tongue.
19 Blessed is the one who has been sheltered from it,
who has not been exposed to its fury,
who has not borne its yoke
or been bound with its chains.
20 For its yoke is a yoke of iron,
and its chains are chains of bronze.
21 The death it inflicts is a horrible death;
the netherworld is preferable to it.
22 It has no power over the righteous;
they will not be burned in its flames.
23 However, those who forsake the Lord will fall victim to it;
it will blaze among them and will never be extinguished.
It will be launched forth against them like a lion;
like a leopard it will tear them to pieces.
24 Just as you enclose your property with a hedge of thorns
and lock up your silver and gold,
25 set a bolted door over your mouth
and weigh and measure your every word.
26 Take care not to err with your tongue
and thereby fall victim to your enemy who lies in wait.
[For your case will then become incurable, leading to death.][d]
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 28:8 The author has observed how from time to time a whole group of people can be brought down by a conflict.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 28:13 The evil tongue inflames conflicts and destroys reputations; it is evil personified. The just preserve themselves from its blows and refrain from lending a willing ear to it. James was surely thinking of this advice when he wrote his Letter (Jas 3:1-12).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 28:14 Intrusive tongue: literally, “third tongue.” The phrase “third tongue” may refer to a tongue that inserts itself into a quarrel or a tongue that makes three victims: the one who utters slander, the one who listens to the slander, and the one who is slandered.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 28:26 Added by some early MSS.