Wisdom of Ben Sira 37

Chapter 37

True and False Friends[a]

1 Every friend can say, “I too am your friend,”
but some are friends in name only.
2 Is it not a sorrow comparable to that of death
when a dear friend turns into an enemy?
3 O inclination to evil, why were you created
to blanket the earth with deceit?
4 A false friend will rejoice in your prosperity
but turn against you when misfortune strikes.
5 A good friend will help you for his stomach’s sake
but will serve as your shield-bearer against your enemies.
6 Do not forget your friend in your heart,
and remember him in your prosperity.

Be Wary of One Who Offers Advice[b]

7 All counselors praise the advice they offer,
but some provide counsel with their own interests in mind.
8 Be wary of one who offers advice;
find out first what his interest is.
For he may be thinking only of his own best interests,
and his advice may not be to your advantage.
9 He may tell you how good your way will be
and then stand aside to see what happens to you.
10 Do not consult anyone who regards you with suspicion
or reveal your plans to those who are jealous of you.
11 Never consult with a woman about her rival
or with a coward about war,
with a merchant about business
or with a buyer about selling,
with a miser about generosity
or with a cruel person about goodness of heart,
with an idler about any kind of work
or with a casual worker about completing the job,
with a lazy servant about a large undertaking:
do not depend on these for any counsel.
12 Rather, associate with a devout person
whom you know to be a keeper of the commandments,
who is of one mind with you
and who will sympathize with you if you fall.
13 In addition, trust your own judgment,
for you have no counselor more reliable for you.
14 Your own conscience will sometimes give you a more accurate warning
than seven watchmen stationed on a high tower.
15 But above all, pray to the Most High,
asking that he direct your steps on the path of truth.

Those Who Are Truly Wise[c]

16 Reason should precede every work,
and deliberation should come before every undertaking.
17 Thoughts are rooted in the heart,
which sprouts forth four branches:
18 good and evil, life and death,
and their mistress is always the tongue.
19 One man may be clever enough to teach many
and yet be useless to himself.
20 Another may be a brilliant speaker and be detested,
then end up by starving to death,
21 if the Lord has withheld grace and charm
by depriving him of wisdom.
22 When one is wise to his own advantage,
the fruits of his knowledge are seen in his own person.
23 When one is wise to his people’s advantage,
the fruits of his knowledge will be enduring.
24 One who is truly wise has praise heaped upon him,
and all who see him will call him blessed.
25 The days of a man’s life are numbered,
but the days of Israel are without number.
26 One who is truly wise will gain the confidence[d] of his people,
and his name will endure forever.

Be Vigilant over Your Life[e]

27 My child, test yourself throughout your life;
determine what is bad for you and do not indulge in it.
28 For not everything is good for everyone,
nor do we all enjoy the same things.
29 Do not go to excess with any enjoyment,
and do not be greedy for food.
30 For overeating leads to illness,
and gluttony brings on nausea.
31 Many have died as a result of gluttony,
but one who guards against it prolongs his life.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 37:1 The touchstone of friendship is fidelity in difficult times. So strongly does the author believe this that he here proposes it for the third time (see Sir 12:8-18; 22:19-26).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 37:7 It is better to address oneself to a sage, i.e., a just and disinterested person. However, in the final analysis, it is in fidelity to themselves and in reflection before God that people must make their decision.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 37:16 True wisdom does not lie in the art of beautiful speech; it is a gift of God given to the people of Israel.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 37:26 Will gain the confidence: some early MSS read: “will inherit the honor.”
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 37:27 Being vigilant over one’s life is also part of the art of living, with which the sage is concerned (see Sir 31:19-22).

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