Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Over a thousand years later, Martin Luther, a German Augustinian religious monk and Roman Catholic priest at Wittenberg appeared.  He was a bible scholar, so that biblical influences dominated him and his followers.  The epistles of Paul showed that righteousness was a gift that was not earned.  Faith alone, not works or even indulgences to be used in purgatory, was necessary for salvation.  In 1517, he posted his printed objections, since half a century earlier the printing press had been invented.  He translated and published the New Testament in German, so that people could read the Bible themselves.  This led to the Protestant Reformation, which actually maintained many of the medieval Catholic practices.  The Counter Reformation resulted in the Roman Catholic Council of Trent.  Instead of just accepting being excommunicated, these protesters formed their own community in northern Germany and Scandinavia.  Other groups also broke off from the Roman Catholic Church.

The prince can give to his sons (Ezek 46:16-46:16)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘If the prince

Makes a gift

To any of his sons,

Out of his inheritance,

It shall belong

To his sons.

It is their property

By inheritance.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, got into the question of inheritances. If the prince wanted to give a gift to any of his sons, it would then become the property of that son by inheritance, since it was out of the prince’s inheritance.

The problems in lending money (Sir 29:4-29:7)

“Many persons regard a loan

As a windfall.

This causes trouble

To those who help them.

One kisses another’s hands

Until he gets a loan.

He is very deferential

In speaking of his neighbor’s money.

But at the time

For repayment,

He delays.

He pays back

With empty promises.

He finds fault with the time.

If he can pay,

His creditor

Will hardly get back half.

The borrower will regard

That as a windfall.

If he cannot pay,

The borrower has robbed

The other of his money.

He has needlessly

Made him an enemy.

He will repay him

With curses.

He will repay him

With reproaches.

Instead of glory,

He will repay him

With dishonor.

Many refuse to lend,

Not because of meanness,

But from fear of being defrauded needlessly.”

Sirach says that this ideal of lending money to your neighbor as giving a helping hand has a few hiccups. Some people think that the loan is a gift, so that they never pay it back. They go around being very deferential to the people with money, kissing their hands. However, when it comes time to repay the loan all they give back are empty promises. They say that they need more time. Sometimes they only pay half of it back, since they think the rest of it was a gift to them. If they do not pay it back, they have robbed their neighbor. They have needlessly made him an enemy. Curses and reproaches will follow with dishonor and anger on all sides. This had led many people to refuse to lend money because they are afraid of being defrauded. Thus there are less and less no interest loans happening.

The good and bad wife (Sir 26:22-26:27)

“A prostitute is regarded as spittle.

A married woman

Is a tower of death to her lovers.

A godless wife is given as a portion

To a lawless man.

But a pious wife is given

To a man who fears the Lord.

A shameless woman constantly

Acts disgracefully.

A modest daughter will even

Be embarrassed before her husband.

A headstrong wife is regarded as a dog.

But one who has a sense of shame

Will fear the Lord.

A wife honoring her husband

Will seem wise to all.

But if she dishonors him

In her pride,

She will be known to all

As ungodly.

Happy is the husband

Of a good wife.

The number of his years

Will be doubled.

A loud voiced wife is

Like a trumpet sound.

A garrulous wife is

Like a trumpet sounding the charge.

Every person like this,

Lives in the anarchy of war.”

This section, like the preceding, does not appear in some editions. Sirach once again distinguishes between the good and the bad wife. Of course, prostitutes are like spit. A married wife who has lovers is like the tower of death to them. These godless wives belong with lawless husbands. On the other hand, a pious wife is a gift to a husband who fears the Lord. The shameless wife consistently acts disgraceful, so that even her daughter is embarrassed when her husband is around. A headstrong wife is a like a dog. She needs to be brought under control. The wife who has a sense of shame fears the Lord. Wives who honor their husbands are seen as wise. However, the ungodly wives dishonor their husbands. If a man has a good wife, as above, his life span will be doubled. A loud and talky wife is like a trumpet sound in battle. They deserve to live in a war of anarchy. Thus the humble wife is the ideal.

The ideal wife (Sir 26:13-26:18)

“A wife’s charm

Delights her husband.

Her skill puts flesh

On his bones.

A silent wife is a gift

From the Lord.

There is nothing so precious

As her self-discipline.

A modest wife

Adds charm to charm.

No scales can weigh

The value of her chastity.

Like the sun rising

In the heights of the Lord,

So is the beauty

Of a good wife,

In her well-ordered home.

Like the shining lamp

On the holy lamp stand,

So is a beautiful face

On a stately figure.

Like golden pillars

On sliver bases,

So are shapely legs

With steadfast feet.”

Sirach describes the ideal wife. Her charms delight her husband. Her skills keep him in good health. If she is silent, she is a gift from the Lord. Her self-discipline is precious. Her modesty adds further charms. There is no way to measure her chastity. Her beauty is like a sunrise on the mountains. She keeps a well ordered house. She has a beautiful face on a stately figure, like the holy lamp stand in the Temple. Her legs and feet are like golden pillars on silver bases. Thus we have the ideal wife, charming, disciplined, orderly, and beautiful. There is no indication where you might find such a women.

The foolish giver (Sir 20:13-20:17)

“The wise make themselves beloved

By only a few words.

But the courtesies of fools are wasted.

A fool’s gift will profit nothing.

So it is with the envious

Who give under compulsion.

He looks for recompense sevenfold.

He has many eyes instead of one.

He gives little.

He upbraids much.

He opens his mouth

Like a town crier.

Today he lends.

Tomorrow he asks it back.

Such a one is a hateful man.

Such a one is hateful to God.

Such a one is hateful to humans.

The fool says.

‘I have no friends.

I get no thanks for my good deeds.

Those who eat my bread

Are evil-tongued.’

How many will ridicule him!

How often will they ridicule him!”

Wise people can make themselves loved with a few words. However, fools have a difficult time. Courtesies and gifts do not bring them any gain. The same is true of the envious people that are forced to give a gift. They are looking for a reward. These fools are looking to be compensated. They are looking all over with their many eyes. They give little. They are always criticizing. They are like town criers, shouting all the time. One day they lend things. Then the next day, they want them back again. These fools are hateful people to God and their fellow humans. These foolish people think that they have no friends. They get no thanks for their good deeds. They think that the people who eat with them are evil people. Thus they are often ridiculed by many people.

Paradoxes (Sir 20:9-20:12)

“There may be good fortune

For a man in adversity.

A windfall may result in a loss.

There is the gift

That profits you nothing.

There is the gift

That has to be paid back double.

There are losses

For the sake of glory.

There are some

Who have raised their heads

From humble circumstances.

Some buy much for little.

But they pay for it

Seven times over.”

When you are in adversity, you may find a good fortune. A windfall profit might result in a later loss for you. You may get a gift that does not help you. Sometimes you may have to give back twice as much as the gift you received. For the sake of glory, people will lose things. Some people have raised themselves from humble beginnings. There are times when you get a lot for your money, but then you might have to pay it back seven times as much.