The wise ones (Sir 21:11-21:13)

“Whoever keeps the law

Controls his thoughts.

Wisdom is the fulfillment

Of the fear of the Lord.

The one who is not clever

Cannot be taught.

But there is cleverness

That increases bitterness.

The knowledge of the wise

Will increase like a flood.

Their counsel is

Like a life-giving spring.”

If you keep the law, you will control your thoughts. Wisdom completes those who fear the Lord. If you are not clever, you cannot be taught. Yet there is cleverness that increases bitterness. The knowledge of the wise people increases like a flood. Their counsel is like a refreshing spring of water that saves lives.

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The clever ones (Sir 19:23-19:30)

“There is cleverness

That is detestable.

There is a fool

Who merely lacks wisdom.

Better are the God-fearing

Who lacks understanding

Than the highly intelligent

Who transgresses the law.

There is cleverness

That is exact

But unjust.

There are people

Who abuse favors

To gain a verdict.

There is a villain

Bowed down in mourning.

But inwardly

He is full of deceit.

He hides his face.

He pretends not to hear.

But when no one notices,

He will take advantage of you.

Even if he lacks strength

It does not keep him from sinning.

He will nevertheless do evil

When he finds the opportunity.

A person is known

By his appearance.

A sensible person is known

When first met,

Face to face.

A person’s attire shows what he is.

His hearty laughter shows what he is.

The way he walks shows what he is.”

Sirach then attacks the clever ones with their cleverness, who are really detestable fools who lack wisdom. It is better to be a God fearing person without intelligence than an intelligent transgressor of the law. There are exacting clever people who are unjust. These clever people use the legal system to avoid a bad verdict. They pretend to bow down before you, but there is only deceit in their hearts. They pretend not to hear and not to care, until the right time comes along. Then they take advantage of you. Even if these clever fools are not strong, they will try to do as much evil as they can. They will find any opportunity to be wicked. Look at the appearances of people. See what clothes they are wearing. See how they laugh and walk. Thus you can spot these clever wicked fools.