The negative power of gold (Sir 31:5-31:7)

“Whoever loves gold

Will not be justified.

Whoever pursues money

Will be led astray by it.

Many have come to ruin

Because of gold.

Their destruction has met them

Face to face.

It is a stumbling block

To those who are avid for it.

Every fool

Will be taken captive by it.”

Sirach warns that those who love gold will not be justified. Pursuing money will simply lead you astray. A lot of lives have been ruined over gold. Destruction has come to many, since gold is a stumbling block for those who seek it. Every fool seems to be captivated by a gold rush or the search for gold. Don’t fall in love with gold since it will take hold of you.

The wealthy (Sir 31:1-31:4)

“Wakefulness over wealth

Wastes away one’s flesh.

Anxiety about wealth

Drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber.

A severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils

To amass a fortune.

When he rests,

He fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils

To make a meager living.

If ever he rests,

He becomes needy.”

Sirach believes that the wealthy worry too much about their wealth. They are awake all the time, because their anxiety forces them to not get enough sleep. Their worries waste away their bodies, so that they probably will get a severe illness. Then Sirach has a contrast between the rich person who stops working, only to enjoy his delicacies, and the poor person who can hardly stop working because he would fall into poverty. The rich work to amass a fortune, while the poor work to earn a meager living.

Joy (Sir 30:21-30:25)

“Do not give yourself over

To sorrow!

Do not distress yourself deliberately!

A joyful heart is life itself.

Rejoicing lengthens

One’s life span.

Indulger yourself!

Take comfort!

Remove sorrow far from you!

Sorrow has destroyed many.

No advantage ever comes from it.

Jealousy shortens life.

Anger shortens life.

Anxiety brings on premature old age.

Whoever is cheerful at table,

Whoever is merry at table,

Will benefit from their food.”

Sirach reminds us not to give into sorrow. Do not deliberately distress yourself. If you are happy, you will lengthen your lifespan. Indulge yourself and take comfort in what you do. Stay away from sorrow, because it has destroyed many people, since there is no advantage to being sorrowful. Jealousy and anger will shorten your life. Anxiety brings on old age prematurely. Look at all the happy old people. If you are cheerful and merry when you eat, the food will seem that much better.

Idol food offerings (Sir 30:18-30:20)

“Good things poured out

Upon a mouth that is closed

Are like offerings of food

Placed upon a grave.

Of what use to an idol

Is a sacrifice?

The idol can neither eat

Nor smell.

Thus this one

Is punished

By the Lord.

He sees

With his eyes.

He groans.

As a eunuch groans

When embracing a girl.

So is the person

Who does right

Under compulsion.”

Why would you bring food offerings to the idols? This would be like giving food to someone who does not open their mouth. This would be like bringing food to a grave site. What is the use of this sacrifice? However, the various biblical books often talked about food offerings for Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, these idols cannot eat or smell. Thus the Lord will punish those who worship at these idols. He sees with his eyes. He groans like a eunuch when he embraces a young woman. Eunuchs were men whose testicles were removed or not working. They were impotent so that they would not be excited about embracing a girl. Sirach has a condemnation of someone who does the right thing because he is forced to do so.

Health (Sir 30:14-30:17)

“Better off is a poor person

Who is healthy and fit

Than a rich person

Who is afflicted in his body.

Health is better

Than any gold.

Fitness is better

Than any gold.

A robust body is better

Than countless riches.

There is no wealth better

Than the health of a body.

There is no gladness

Above joy of the heart.

Death is better

Than a miserable life.

Eternal sleep is better

Than chronic sickness.”

Sirah proclaims that a poor healthy fit person is better off than an afflicted sickly rich person. Good health and fitness are better than any gold. A robust healthy body is better than wealth. A joyful heart is full of gladness. Death is better than a miserable life. Eternal death is better than a chronic sickness. Sirach almost seems to imply that euthanasia would be better than life with a chronic illness.

Avoid a spoiled son (Sir 30:7-30:13)

“Whoever spoils his son,

Will bind up his wounds.

You will suffer heartache

At every cry.

An unbroken horse

Turns out stubborn.

An unchecked son

Turns out headstrong.

Pamper a child,

Then he will terrorize you.

Play with him,

Then he will give you grief.

Do not laugh with him,

Lest you have sorrow with him.

In the end

You will gnash your teeth.

Give him no freedom

In his youth.

Do not ignore his errors.

Bow down his neck

In his youth.

Beat his sides

While he is young,

Lest he become stubborn.

He will disobey you.

You will have sorrow of soul

From him.

Discipline your son.

Make his yoke heavy.

Thus you may not be offended

By his shamelessness.”

Once again, Sirach reflects the ideals of his time about the importance of discipline and corporal punishment of children. Above all, do not spoil your son! Otherwise, you will spend a lifetime healing his wounds and suffering heartaches at his every cry. The young boy is compared to a horse that is unbroken, stubborn, and headstrong. If you pamper your son, then he will terrorize you. Do not laugh or play with your son! Otherwise, you will end up gnashing your teeth. Do not give him any freedom when he is young! Do not ignore his mistakes! Beat him up on his sides when he is young! If not, he will become stubborn and disobey you. Then you will have a sorrowful soul. Make his iron collar heavy so that he does not end up shameless. Be tough on those kids!

The son replaces the father (Sir 30:4-30:6)

“When the father dies,

He will not seem to be dead.

Because he has left behind him

One like himself.

While alive

He was looked upon

With joy.

At death,

There is no grief.

He has left behind him

An avenger

Against his enemies.

He has left behind him

One to repay

The kindness of his friends.”

When the father dies, it will not seem like he died, since his son will be like him. Although there was rejoicing in life, there is no grief at death. His son will be an avenger of his enemies and be kind to his friends. Once again Sirach has this repeated theme of friends and enemies.