Wisdom of Ben Sira 40

Chapter 40

The Painful Destiny Given to Human Beings[a]

1 Strenuous labor is the lot of everyone,
and a heavy yoke has been laid on the children of Adam,
from the day when one emerges from his mother’s womb
until the day when he returns to the earth, the mother of all the living.[b]
2 Matter for his reflection and anxiety for his heart
are offered by the thought of what awaits him and the day of death.
3 Whether he sits in splendor on a throne
or grovels in dust and ashes,
4 whether he wears the purple and a crown
or is clothed in burlap,
5 his life is filled with anger and envy, trouble and unrest,
fear of death, fury and strife.
Even when he goes to bed at night,
his sleep is disturbed by confusion and worry.
6 He receives little if any rest,
struggling while he dreams as he does when he is awake.
Terrified by nightmares,
he is like someone who has fled from the battlefield.
7 Just as he reaches safety, he wakes up,
astonished to realize that his fears were groundless.
8 To all flesh, human and animal—
but to sinners seven times more—
9 come death and bloodshed, strife and sword,
disasters and famine, affliction and plague.
10 All these calamities were created for the wicked,
and the flood came because of them.
11 All that is of the earth returns to the earth,
and all that is from the waters returns to the sea.[c]

What Passes Away and What Remains[d]

12 All bribery and injustice will be blotted out,
but good faith will stand forever.
13 That wealth whose source is wickedness will dry up like a river
and vanish as quickly as a clap of thunder during a storm.
14 As the righteous man rejoices in opening his hands,
so transgressors will come to ruin.
15 The children of the godless put forth very few branches,
for tainted roots are planted only on sheer rock.
16 They are like reeds along the riverbank
that are plucked before any other plants.
17 However, goodness is a paradise of blessings.

Better Still Is the Fear of God[e]

18 Wealth and wages make life sweet,
but better than either is finding a treasure.
19 Children and the founding of a city will preserve one’s name,
but better than either is finding wisdom.
Cattle and orchards make a man well known,[f]
but better than either is a perfect wife.
20 Wine and music gladden the heart,
but better than either is the love of wisdom.
21 The flute and the harp make sweet melody,
but better than either is a pleasant voice.
22 The eye delights to gaze upon grace and beauty,
but better than either are the green shoots in a cornfield.
23 A friend and a companion are encountered in good time,
but better than either is a sensible wife.[g]
24 A brother and a helper are cherished in times of stress,
but better than either is the aid provided by almsgiving.
25 Gold and silver make one’s way secure,
but better than either is sound advice.
26 Riches and vigor build up self-confidence,
but better than either is fear of God.
With the fear of the Lord, nothing is lacking;
whoever has it does not need to seek any further help.
27 The fear of God is a paradise of blessings
and offers greater protection than any possible glory able to be achieved.

It Is Better To Die than To Beg[h]

28 My child, do not lead the life of a beggar;
it is better to die than to beg.
29 When you start to eye someone else’s table,
your life truly is not worth calling a life.
The gullet is defiled with the food of strangers;
anyone who is wise and well-instructed will guard against doing that.
30 In the mouth of the shameless, begging is sweet,
but inside him the fires of resentment burn.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:1 The author is a decided optimist, but he bows down before reality: the shadow of death stretches out over creation, and human sin has destroyed the beautiful harmony of the origins. And since he has hardly an inkling of redemption and even less of everlasting life, the author finds in the common lot of human beings a lesson of realism and humility (see Sir 10:6-18).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:1 Mother of all the living: i.e., the earth (see Gen 2:7; 3:19-20; Job 1:21; Ps 139:15).
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:11 And all that is from the waters returns to the sea: Hebrew reads: “and what comes from above returns above” (see Eccl 12:7).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:12 Side by side with so much crying injustice, there is good faith, charity, and grace. One day, order will be reestablished in everything once again, and then only authentic values will remain.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:18 In diverse ways, freedom, progeny, wisdom, love, music, fortune, beauty, and other advantages endow existence with a certain charm. Ultimately, only filial respect toward God can fulfill the aspirations of human beings.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:19 But better than either is finding wisdom . . . make a man well known: lacking in Greek.
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:23 A sensible wife: Greek reads: “a wife with her husband.”
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 40:28 The author attaches too much importance to work and reputation not to regard begging as an insupportable disgrace.

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