Wisdom of Ben Sira 31

Chapter 31

The Right Attitude toward Riches[a]

1 Sleeplessness over wealth causes a man to lose weight,
and the resultant anxiety drives away sleep.
2 Apprehension prevents slumber
just as a serious illness banishes sleep.
3 The rich man toils to amass a fortune,
and when he relaxes he enjoys every kind of luxury.
4 The poor man toils to eke out a meager living,
and if he ever rests he finds himself in want.
5 The man who loves gold will not be free from sin;
the man who pursues wealth will be led astray by it.
6 Many have come to their downfall as the result of gold,
finding themselves face to face with ruin.
7 It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it,
and every fool is trapped by it.
8 Blessed is the rich man who is found to be blameless
and who does not chase after gold.
9 Who is he, that we may praise him?
For he has done wonders among his people.
10 Who has been tested by it and escaped unscathed?
This should be a cause of pride for him.
He could have sinned, but he refrained from doing so;
he could have done evil and did not do it.
11 His prosperity will be established,
and the assembly will proclaim his charitable acts.

Social Conventions and Correctness[b]

Table Etiquette

12 When you are seated at a lavish table,[c]
do not display your greed
or exclaim: “Look at all this!”
13 Remember that a greedy eye is a bad thing.
Is any creature more greedy than the eye?
Therefore, it sheds tears at the slightest provocation.
14 Do not reach out for anything your host is eyeing,
or dip in the dish together with him.
15 Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your own,
and be thoughtful in every respect.
16 Eat what is set before you like a well-bred person;
do not gulp down your food and make yourself objectionable.
17 Be the first to stop eating, as befits good manners,
and do not be a glutton, lest you give offense.
18 If you are dining with a large group,
do not reach out your hand before the others.
19 A small portion is sufficient for someone of good upbringing;
when he lies down, he experiences no discomfort.
20 Moderate eating ensures sound sleep;
such a man rises early and feels refreshed.
However, sleeplessness, nausea, and colic
are the lot of the glutton.
21 If perchance you have eaten too much,
get up and empty your stomach, and you will find relief.
22 Listen to me, my child, and do not disregard me;
eventually you will find that my advice is on the mark.
Be moderate[d] in everything you do,
and no illness will befall you.

Praise for Munificent Hosts

23 Much praise is given to the man who is liberal in serving food,
and the testimony to his generosity is fulsome.
24 The man who is miserly with food is denounced universally,
and the testimony to his stingy nature is substantial.

The Right Attitude toward Wine[e]

25 Do not try to prove your strength with wine,
for wine has been the ruin of many.
26 As the furnace tests the tempering of steel,
so wine tests the hearts in the disputes of the insolent.
27 Wine is a source of life
if taken in moderation.
What is life to someone who has been deprived of wine?
It was created to make men happy.
28 Wine is the cause of a joyful heart and cheerful spirits
when consumed at the right time and in the proper amount.
29 However, wine drunk to excess causes bitter feelings
and leads to quarrels and retaliation.
30 Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own harm,
sapping his strength and exposing him to injury.
31 Do not rebuke your neighbor when wine is served,
or ridicule him when he is enjoying himself.
Speak no words of reproach to him,
or distress him by making demands of him.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 31:1 If gold seduces by its prestige, it undermines the health of its devotees and exposes them to sin, as Jesus will also indicate later: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 31:12 The author is a practical educator; he has left us an agreeable code of table etiquette. He does not denigrate either good meals or gaiety; as a well-educated person, he finds pleasure in social conventions and correctness.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 31:12 At a lavish table: Greek reads: “at the table of the great.”
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 31:22 Be moderate: Greek reads: “Be industrious.”
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 31:25 Wine is one of God’s good creations (see Ps 104:15). It is a joy when taken in moderation (see Sir 40:20), but if drunk to excess, it can lead to ruin (see Prov 20:1; 23:29-35; Am 6:6). Misuse of wine violates the divine order and brings its own recompense (vv. 29-30). The author is reminded of an allied concept on the proper use of words and applies it to wine: one should use words carefully to those who are “merry,” that is, lighthearted but not drunk (v. 31).

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