Wisdom of Ben Sira 7

The Conduct of the Wise in Public Life[a]

Chapter 7

Do No Evil, and No Evil Will Befall You[b]

1 Do no evil, and no evil will befall you;
2 avoid wickedness, and it will turn away from you.
3 My child, do not sow in the furrows of injustice
so that you will not reap a sevenfold crop.
4 Do not ask the Lord for a position of authority
or the king for a seat of honor.
5 Do not flaunt your righteousness before the Lord,
or assert your wisdom in the presence of the king.
6 Do not seek to become a judge,
for you may not be strong enough to root out injustice,
or you may show favoritism to the powerful
and thereby compromise your integrity.
7 Commit no offense against the people of the city,
thereby disgracing yourself before everyone.
8 Never fall into the trap of repeating a sin,
for not even for one will you go unpunished.
9 Do not say, “He will take into consideration the great number of my gifts,
and when I make an offering to God Most High he will accept it.”
10 Do not grow tired of praying,
or neglect to give alms.
11 Do not deride anyone whose heart has become embittered,
for there is One who both humbles and exalts.[c]
12 Do not make up lies about your brother,
or do the same to a friend.
13 Refuse to ever tell a lie,
for it is a habit that never has a positive result.
14 Do not babble on[d] in the assembly of the elders,
and in your prayers do not repeat yourself.
15 Do not shun laborious tasks
or farming, an occupation ordained by the Most High.
16 Do not attach yourself to the ranks of sinners;
remember that retribution will not tarry.
17 Humble yourself to the greatest possible degree,
for the godless will suffer the punishment of fire and worms.[e]
18 Do not exchange a friend for the sake of money,
or a true brother for the gold of Ophir.[f]
19 Do not turn against a wise and good wife;
her gracious demeanor is worth more than gold.
20 Refrain from the ill-treatment of a servant who performs his duties faithfully,
or of a hired laborer who devotes himself to his task.
21 Love a diligent slave with deep affection,
and do not refuse to grant him freedom.[g]

Family Duties

22 [h]Do you have cattle? Look after them,
and if they prove profitable, keep them.
23 Do you have sons? Discipline them,
and insist on their obedience[i] from their childhood.
24 Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their chastity,
and do not allow yourself to be over-indulgent toward them.
25 When you give your daughter in marriage, you have completed a great task,
but give her to a sensible man.
26 If you have a wife who pleases you, do not divorce her,
but do not trust yourself to one whom you are unable to love.[j]
27 [k]Honor your father with all your heart,
and never forget the birth pangs suffered by your mother.
28 Remember that you were born of these parents;
how can you repay them for all that they have done for you?

Fear God and Revere His Priests[l]

29 With all your soul fear God,
and revere his priests.[m]
30 With all your strength love your Maker,
and do not abandon his ministers.
31 Fear God and honor the priest,
and give him his portion[n] as you have been commanded:
the firstfruits, the guilt offering, and the shoulder of the sacrificial victim,
the sacrifice of sanctification and the firstfruits of holy things.

Let Your Generosity Extend to All[o]

32 Be generous in your gifts to the poor
so that your blessing may be complete.
33 Let your generosity also extend to all the living,
and do not let your kindness be withheld even from the dead.
34 Do not turn your back on those who weep,
but mourn with those who mourn.
35 Do not neglect to visit the sick,
for as a result of such deeds you will be loved.
36 In everything you do, remember your end,[p]
and you will never sin.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:1 Many of the formulas in this Book seem to characterize a right way of acting rather than a right way of thinking, and for the most part, it is concerned with customs and conceptions of an age gone by. But the author seeks to preserve the values of Jewish life against the encroachment of what is easy. Beyond the difference of conditions of life, as well as the diversity of our options, we must continually verify our courage as humans and as believers.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:1 Do No Evil, and No Evil Will Befall You: in these varied counsels, which place us on guard against ambition, intrigues, pretense, and the like, we rediscover the fundamental attitude: know your limitations, and do not believe anyone, yet do not let yourself despise others in social life. This Book that often announces the mercy of God does not want it to be dishonored by stressing the ease of its attainment: Christ thus issued a threat to those who mock God and their brothers and sisters (see v. 6; Mk 9:48). We should note the respect given to manual labor (v. 15). Placed in the context of the time, the last verses concerning wives and servants bear witness to much humanity.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:11 It is God who humbles and exalts, for he is sovereign in judgment and in redemption (see 1 Sam 2:7; Ps 75:8; Lk 1:32).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:14 Babble on: brevity of words was regarded as a sign of respect (see Eccl 5:1; Mt 6:7).
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:17 For . . . worms: Hebrew reads: “for the expectation of men is worms.”
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:18 Gold of Ophir: i.e., gold of first quality (see 1 Ki 9:28; 10:11; Job 22:24). Ophir is not identified with certainty; it may have been in central Arabia.
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:21 Freedom had to be granted after six years (see Ex 21:2-6).
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:22 This text comes to us from a civilization that had a far different approach to education than we do. However, its main principle is completely apropos—a sense of responsibility and the refusal to flee from the pedagogical task.
  9. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:23 Insist on their obedience: Greek, “bend their necks.”
  10. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:26 For the sage, finding the woman of one’s heart and knowing how to keep her (see v. 17) is a joy. We recall the praise of the valiant woman (Prov 31:10-31). For that day and age, it was a veritable acknowledgment of women. However, it had not yet reached reflection on the mutual support of spouses in the journey of the couple to eliminate misunderstandings and mistrust.
  11. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:27 The author holds a sublime idea of fatherhood and motherhood; parents share in the creative power of God.
  12. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:29 To revere priests means to cling to the cult at Jerusalem of which the priests are the depositaries, to help maintain—in the liturgical structure of that time—the sign of faith in one God. The offerings enumerated in verse 31 are prescribed by the laws of worship that are found in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  13. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:29 The author has much reverence for the liturgy and its priests (see ch. 50).
  14. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:31 His portion: the different gifts mentioned here are: the firstfruits (Num 18:11-18); the guilt offering (Lev 5:6); the shoulder of the sacrificial victim (Ex 29:27; Lev 7:32-33; Deut 18:3); and the sacrifice of sanctification (Lev 2:1-16).
  15. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:32 The objects of generosity are the poor, the afflicted, the sick, and the dead: concern for burial (see Tob 1:17f; 2:1-7; 12:12) as well as prayers and sacrifices on their behalf (see 2 Mac 12:38-46).
  16. Wisdom of Ben Sira 7:36 Remember your end: the Hebrew reads: “remember the end,” i.e., “pay attention to the consequences of your acts.” The Greek substitutes your for the thus giving this maxim an eschatological sense. The realization that the end of a sinner is bound to be a sad one should serve as a powerful deterrent against sin.

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