The use of the Bible

We all stand within a cultural tradition with concepts, ideals and values of what is a meaningful life.  Christianity transmits the wisdom of the past and is always conservative, but sometimes prophetic.  All Christian traditions use the Bible in their worship services and as a source of wisdom and spiritual development.

The final blessing (Sir 51:37-51:38)

“May your soul rejoice

In God’s mercy!

May you never be ashamed

To praise him!

Do your work in good time!

In God’s own time,

He will give you your reward.

The wisdom of Jesus,

Son of Sira.

May the name of the Lord

Be blessed now and forever!”

We now have the final blessing from Sirach. In fact, he kind of signs off on this when he says that this is the wisdom of Jesus, son of Sira, Ben Sira, or Sirach. He wanted our souls to rejoice in God’s mercy. We should never be ashamed to praise God. However, we were to continue our work. God would then reward us in his time schedule. Therefore the name of the Lord should be blessed forever.

The scribes (Sir 39:1-39:5)

“How different is

The one who devotes himself

To the study

Of the law of the Most High.

He seeks out the wisdom

Of all the ancients.

He is concerned with prophecies.

He preserves the sayings

Of the famous.

He penetrates the subtleties

Of the parables.

He seeks out the hidden meanings

Of proverbs.

He is at home

With the obscurities of parables.

He serves among the great men.

He appears before rulers.

He travels in foreign lands.

He learns what is good and evil

In the human lot.

He sets his heart to rise early.

He seeks the Lord who made him.

He petitions the Most High.

He opens his mouth in prayer.

He asks pardon for his sins.”

Sirach is more interested in the scholarly scribes. This seems like a defense of his own life, and what he is doing. He devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High God. He seeks the wisdom of the ancients and the current prophecies. He preserves the ancient sayings or writings. He penetrates and finds the hidden meanings of the parables and the proverbs. He serves among and appears before the rulers. He even travels in foreign lands so that he can learn about good and evil among all humans. He rises early to seek the Lord. He prays with petitions and penitence to the Most High God. In other words, he is a great righteous man, fully dedicated to the law of God and living it out in his daily life. He is Sirach!

The vanity of pleasure (Eccl 2:1-2:3)

“I said to myself.

‘Come now!

I will make a test of pleasure.

Enjoy yourself!’

But again,

This also was vanity.

I said of laughter.

‘It is mad.’

I said of pleasure.

‘What use is it?’

I searched with my mind

How to cheer my body with wine.

My mind was still guiding me with wisdom.

How am I am to lay hold of folly?

I wanted to see

What was good for mortals

To do under heaven

During the few days of their life.”

Qoheleth was once again talking to himself. He wanted to enjoy pleasure. However, he found that it too was useless and in vain. He laughed, but it was kind of a mad laughter. What was the use of all this pleasure? He tried to cheer his body with wine, even though he was able to maintain the wisdom in his mind. He wanted to enjoy folly and foolishness. What kind of things can mortals do during their short span of life under the heavens?