Wisdom of Ben Sira 29

Chapter 29

Lending to Others Is Full of Risks[a]

1 He who is compassionate lends to his neighbor;
by offering a helping hand, he fulfills the commandments.
2 Lend to your neighbor in his hour of need,
and repay him when a loan to you falls due.
3 Keep your promise and be honest with him,
and you will find that your needs will always be met.
4 Many treat a loan as a windfall
and cause problems for those who helped them out.
5 Until he gets a loan, a man will kiss his neighbor’s hand
and speak with respect of his benefactor’s wealth.
However, when the repayment of the loan is due, he delays,
repays with empty words, and asserts that the times are hard.
6 If the borrower can be forced to pay, the creditor will get back barely half,
and will regard that as an unexpected windfall.
But otherwise such a creditor will be cheated of his money
and will gain an enemy in the bargain.
The borrower will repay him with curses and insults,
and with abuse instead of honor.
7 Hence, many refuse to lend, not out of malice,
but out of fear of being needlessly defrauded.

Spend Your Money on Others[b]

8 Nevertheless, be patient with someone in humble circumstances,
and do not keep him waiting for his alms.
9 In obedience to the commandment, help the poor,
and in their need do not send them away empty-handed.
10 Spend your money on your brother or your friend;
do not hide it under a stone where it will rust away.
11 Dispose of your treasure according to the commandment of the Most High,
and it will profit you more than gold.
12 Store up almsgiving in your treasury,
and it will deliver you from every misfortune.
13 Better than a stout shield and a weighty spear,
it will fight for you against the enemy.

Standing Surety for Others Can Lead to Ruin[c]

14 A good man will stand surety for his neighbor;
only a shameless wretch would let him down.
15 Do not forget the kindness of your benefactor
for he has staked his very life for you.
16 A sinner wastes the property of his benefactor;
17 an ungrateful schemer abandons his rescuer.
18 Going surety has ruined many who were prosperous
and tossed them about like waves of the ocean.
It has driven influential people into exile
and caused them to wander through foreign lands.
19 A sinner comes to grief through surety;
his headlong pursuit of profit will result in lawsuits.
20 Therefore, assist your neighbor according to your means,
but be careful not to fall yourself.

Rather Be Poor at Home than a Guest-Servant[d]

21 The basic necessities of life are water, bread, and clothing,
as well as a house to ensure privacy.
22 Preferable is the life of a poor man in a crude hut
than sumptuous banquets in someone else’s home.
23 Be content with what you have, whether much or little,
and you will not be scorned as a guest.
24 It is a miserable life to go from house to house,
realizing that as a guest you dare not open your mouth.
25 You receive no gratitude for serving the drinks,
and in addition you must listen to bitter words like these:
26 “Come here, stranger, and set the table;
let me eat the food you have there.”
27 “Leave now, stranger, for someone more important has arrived;
my brother has come for a visit, and I need the guest room.”
28 A sensitive man finds two things difficult to bear:
criticism from members of his household and the insults of his creditors.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 29:1 The author respects the law that prescribes lending without interest in order to help those who are in need (Ex 22:24; Lev 25:35-37). Nonetheless, persons of experience know also that lending often leads to severing the best of relationships.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 29:8 The law prescribes the necessity of aiding the poor (Deut 15:7-11). In the final analysis, human beings are the stewards rather than the owners of riches that they have.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 29:14 The author issues a rather obvious requirement—to be loyal to those who stand surety for one. Alas, the moralist must often recall what he had given, and on this subject, the Book of Proverbs (Prov 6:1-5) was even more mistrustful.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 29:21 The author does not like the obsequiousness of spongers and gives a lively critique of them.

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