True and false wisdom (Sir 19:20-19:22)

“The whole of wisdom

Is fear of the Lord.

In all wisdom,

There is the fulfillment

Of the law.

There is knowledge

Of his omnipresence.

When a slave cries

To his master.

‘I will not act

As you wish’

Even if later he does it,

He angers the one

Who supports him.

The knowledge of wickedness

Is not wisdom.

There is not prudence

In the counsel of sinners.”

Sirach reminds us of the difference between true and false wisdom. True and all wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord. True wisdom follows the law, knowing that God is everywhere. Sirach uses a comparison between a slave and us. We should never say to the Lord that we are not going to do something, even if we do it later. We will anger God, the one who supports us. On the other hand, the knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom. There is no prudence among the counsel of sinners.

Self control (Sir 18:30-18:33)

“Do not follow

Your base desires!

Restrain your appetites!

If you allow your soul

To take pleasure

In base desire,

It will make you

The laughingstock of your enemies.

Do not revel

In great luxury!

You might become impoverished

By its expense.

Do not become a beggar

By feasting with borrowed money,

When you have nothing in your purse.”

Sirach reminds us that we should have self control. You should not follow your base desires, because you should restrain your various appetites. Do not let your soul take pleasure in these base desires. Otherwise, you will be the laughing stock of your enemies. Do not get caught up in luxuries. You might be impoverished by this attempt to enjoy luxury. Do not become a beggar by feasting on borrowed money, when you have nothing. Try a little self control.

Vows and the Lord (Sir 18:22-18:26)

“Let nothing hinder you

From paying a vow promptly.

Do not wait until death

To be released from it.

Before making a vow,

Prepare yourself.

Do not be like one

Who puts the Lord

To the test.

Think of his wrath

On the day of death.

Think of his wrath

In the moment of vengeance,

When he turns away his face.

In the time of plenty,

Think of the time of hunger.

In the days of wealth

Think of poverty,

Think of need.

From morning to evening

Conditions change.

All things move swiftly

Before the Lord.”

Sirach reminds us about the problems of making vows. You should prepare yourself before you make a vow to give an offering or payment. Then you should pay your vows promptly. Don’t wait until your death, so that it will be forgotten. Don’t test the Lord. Think of his wrath on the day of your death, if you have not fulfilled your vows. He will turn his face away from you. So also remember when you have plenty to eat, about the times when you were hungry. In the days of your wealth, remember the days of your needy poverty. Remember that things change quickly before the Lord, sometimes as quickly as from morning to evening of the same day.

The miser (Sir 14:3-14:10)

Riches are inappropriate

For a small minded person.

What use is wealth to a miser?

What he denies himself,

He collects for others.

Others will live in luxury on his goods.

If one is mean to oneself,

To whom will one be generous?

He will not enjoy his own riches.

No one is worse

Than one who is grudging to himself.

This is the punishment for their meanness.

If ever they do good,

It is my mistake.

In the end,

They reveal their meanness.

The miser is an evil person.

They turn away.

They disregard people.

The eye of the greedy person

Is not satisfied with their share.

Greedy injustice withers the soul.

A miser begrudges bread.

Thus it is lacking at his table.”

Sirach reminds us of the miser or the stingy greedy person. Wealth is wasted on these people. These misers deny themselves the pleasure of their own wealth. In fact, others live in luxury on the goods that they collected. If you are mean to yourself, how will you be generous to others. You should enjoy your own riches. The misers are punished for their meanness by themselves and their begrudging ways. If misers ever do anything good, it is by mistake, because they are evil people. They turn away and disregard other people. These greedy people are never satisfied with their share. They never share their bread with anyone.

Immortal spirit (Wis 12:1-12:2)

“Your immortal spirit is in all things.

Therefore you correct little by little

Those who trespass.

You remind them.

You warn them

Of the things through which they sin.

Thus they may be freed from wickedness.

They put their trust in you!

O Lord!”

God’s immortal spirit is in all things (σου πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἐν πᾶσι). This is almost pantheistic. God corrects little by little those who trespass against him. He reminds them and warns them about sin. Thus they may stay away from wickedness, if they put their trust in the Lord (Κύριε). Once again, this a prayer addressed to the Lord, God.

Planting seeds (Eccl 11:4-11:6)

“Whoever observes the wind

Will not sow.

Whoever regards the clouds

Will not reap.

Just as you do not know

How the breath comes to the bones

In the mother’s womb,

So you do not know

The work of God

Who makes everything.

In the morning,

Sow your seed.

At evening,

Do not let your hand be idle.

You do not know

Which will prosper,

This or that,

Whether both alike will be good.”

If you wait for the perfect wind or the perfect clouds, you will never sow or reap. You have no idea how breath comes to bones in a mother’s womb. So too you have no idea how crops grow. Qoheleth reminds us that God made everything. In the morning, you sow your seeds, but you should not be idle in the evening. You are not sure which seeds will prosper, this one, that one, or both, only God knows.

The uncertainty of life (Eccl 11:1-11:3)

“Send out your bread upon the waters.

After many days

You will get it back.

Divide your means seven ways,

Or even eight.

You do not know

What disaster may happen on earth.

When clouds are full,

They empty rain on the earth.

Whether a tree falls to the south

Or to the north,

In the place where the tree falls,

There it will lie.”

Qoheleth reminds us of the uncertainty of life itself. He wanted people to put their bread on the waters. He wanted people to take chances because it might return to them with some kind of profit. You should not keep all your eggs in one basket. You should spread out your resources into 7 or 8 places. You never know when some disaster might hit. The clouds could send rain. When a tree falls, no matter in what direction, it will lie there where it fell.

Be careful about what you say (Eccl 10:18-10:20)

“Through negligent sloth

The roof sinks in.

Through negligent indolence

The house leaks.

Feasts are made for laughter.

Wine gladdens life.

Money meets every need.

Do not curse the king,

Even in your thoughts.

Do not curse the rich,

Even in your bedchamber.

A bird of the air

May carry your voice.

Some winged creature tells the matter.”

Qoheleth reminds us that if we negligent and lazy, the roof will sink in and our house will leak. In an interesting comment on life, he says that feasts were made for laughter. Wine adds gladness to our lives, just as money meets every need, or more or less solves all problems. Then he reminded people to be careful about their words and thoughts. Do not even think about cursing the king. Don’t say anything about the rich even in your bedroom. The reason is that a little bird may carry you voice to someone who might not like what you are thinking or saying. The same is true for some winged creature who might reveal what you were saying and thinking.

Have a long life (Prov 4:10-4:13)

“Hear!

My child!

Accept my words!

Thus the years of your life may be many.

I have taught you the way of wisdom.

I have led you in the path of uprightness.

When you walk,

Your step will not be hampered.

If you run,

You will not stumble.

Keep hold of this instruction!

Do not let go!

Guard her!

She is your life.”

This parental instruction continues. This time if they follow his advice, they will have a long life. This father has taught them the way of wisdom and the path of righteousness. When they walked, they would not be interfered with. If they ran, they would not stumble. He reminds them to hold fast to his instruction and not let it go. They were to guard his advice on wisdom so that lady wisdom would lead them to a long productive life.

The old man remembers God (Ps 71:17-71:19)

“O God!

From my youth

You have taught me!

I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

So even to old age and gray hairs.

O God!

Do not forsake me!

I proclaim your might

To all the generations to come.

O God!

Your power,

Your righteousness,

Reach the high heavens!”

This old psalmist reminds God that from his youth he had proclaimed the wondrous deeds of God even up to his present old age. Despite his grey hairs, he does not want God to leave him. This old psalmist will continue to proclaim the might of God for generations to come. The power and righteousness of God reaches to the high heavens.