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.

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The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.

Prudence (Sir 8:1-8:3)

“Do not contend with the powerful.

Otherwise you may fall into their hands.

Do not quarrel with the rich.

Otherwise their resources may outweigh yours.

Gold has ruined many.

Gold has perverted the minds of kings.

Do not argue with the loud of mouth.

Do not heap wood on their fire.”

Sirach has some common sense prudent statements about life. Do not argue with powerful people or you might fall into their hands. Do not quarrel with the rich because they have more resources than you have. Don’t let your life be ruined by gold, as some kings have. Don’t argue with loud-mouthed people because you are only putting more wood on their fire.

Take care of your farm animals (Prov 27:23-27:27)

“Know well the condition of your flocks.

Give attention to your herds.

Riches do not last forever.

A crown does not endure for all generations.

When the grass is gone,

The new growth appears.

The herbage of the mountains is gathered.

The lambs will provide your clothing.

The goats provide the price of a field.

There will be enough goats’ milk for your food.

This is the food of your household.

This will nourish your servant-girls.”

You have to take good care of your farm animals. You should know the condition of your flock and your herds. Wealth, like the crown of a king, does not last forever. When the grass is gone, a new growth will appear. The vegetables or herbage of the mountains will be gathered. The lamb’s wool will be made into clothing. The goat’s milk will provide you with food. There will be enough food for your household and your servants. This is a warning to the rich not to take their situation too lightly since things could change.

The good wife (Prov 18:22-18:24)

“He who finds a wife

Finds happiness.

He obtains favor from Yahweh.

The poor use entreaties.

But the rich answer roughly.

Some friends play at friendship.

But a true friend sticks closer

Than one’s nearest relative.”

You will be happy if you find a good wife. Yahweh will favor you. Even though the poor use entreaties to beg, the rich usually answer roughly. Some people play at friendship, but a true friend stays closer to you than your own relatives.

The fleeting nature of the wealthy (Ps 49:16-49:20)

“Do not be afraid

When one becomes rich!

Do not be afraid

When the wealth of their houses increases!

When they die,

They will carry nothing away.

Their wealth will not go down after them.

Even though in their lifetime,

They count themselves happy.

You are praised,

When you do well for yourself.

They will go to the company of their ancestors.

They will never again see the light.

Mortals cannot abide in their pomp.

They are like the animals that perish.”

This psalm ends with a warning about richness. You should never be afraid of the rich people. Even if someone’s wealth increases, they cannot take it with them. Their wealth stays here on earth while they go down to death. They can take nothing with them. Even if they had a happy life, they still have to live with their ancestors in eternal death where they will never see the light of day. No matter how pompous one was, they still die like animals. This is a repeat of what was said earlier. The message was clear. Do not be bothered by rich men since they are going to die anyway.