Wisdom of Ben Sira 5

Chapter 5

Do Not Be Overconfident[a]

1 Do not rely on your wealth
or say, “Now I am self-sufficient.”
2 Do not follow your inclinations and energy
in pursuing the desires of your heart.
3 Do not say, “Who can prevail against me?”[b]
for the Lord will certainly punish your arrogance.
4 Do not say, “Even though I have sinned, nothing has befallen me,”[c]
for the Lord is patient.
5 Do not be so confident of pardon[d]
that you add sin upon sin.
6 Do not say, “His mercy is great;
he will forgive[e] my many sins.”
For from him will come both mercy and retribution,
and upon sinners his anger will fall.
7 Do not delay your return to the Lord,
and do not put it off from one day to the next.
For suddenly the wrath of the Lord will descend upon you,
and on the day of punishment you will be destroyed.
8 Do not rely upon ill-gotten gains,
for they will avail you nothing on the day of disaster.

Be Resolute and in Control of Yourself[f]

9 Do not winnow in every wind,
or walk along every road.[g]
10 Be steadfast in your convictions
and consistent in your speech.
11 Be quick to listen
but deliberate in offering your answer.
12 If you have understanding, reply to your neighbor,
but if not, put your hand over your mouth.[h]
13 Both honor and dishonor can result from speaking;
the tongue[i] can be the cause of a person’s downfall.
14 Do not gain a reputation for spreading scandal,
or set traps with your tongue.
For shame lies in store for the thief,
and severe condemnation for the double-tongued.
15 Do not be the cause[j] of harm in either great or small matters,
and do not become an enemy instead of a friend.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:1 The temptation to be proud of one’s riches and to flee from inner demands is stronger when success seems within easy reach. Riches and presumption usually go hand in hand.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:3 Do not say, “Who can prevail against me?”: i.e., like a fool who does not believe in God’s providence (see Ps 53:2).
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:4 Do not say, “Even though I have sinned, nothing has befallen me,”: i.e., like the skeptic who is defiant of God’s justice when it is delayed.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:5 Pardon: or “atonement.”
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:6 Forgive: or “atone for.”
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:9 Those who have few words are appreciated by all. This wisdom is suspicious of the dynamism of human beings and leads, above all, to condemnation of opportunism and instability. People must “be” rather than “seem to be.”
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:9 Do not winnow in every wind, or walk along every road: this is the author’s way of condemning duplicity. Some early MSS add: “as is the way of the double-tongued sinner,” which appears to be a doublet of verse 1.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:12 Put your hand over your mouth: a graphic expression to indicate one should keep silent inasmuch as one has no competency to speak.
  9. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:13 The tongue: The author will return frequently to the theme of the use and abuse of the tongue (Sir 19:6-17; 20:17-20; 22:27—23:15; 28:13-26).
  10. Wisdom of Ben Sira 5:15 Be the cause: Hebrew; Greek reads: “be ignorant.”

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