What is better? (Sir 40:21-40:25)

“The flute makes

A sweet melody.

The harp makes

A sweet melody,

But a pleasant voice is

Better than either.

The eye desires grace.

The eye desires beauty.

But the eye desires

Green shoots of grain

More than either.

A friend is always welcome

A companion is always welcome.

But a sensible wife is

Better than either.

Kindred are for a time of trouble.

Helpers are for a time of trouble.

But almsgiving rescues

Better than either.

Gold makes one stand firm.

Silver makes one stand firm.

But good counsel is

Esteemed more than either.”

Sirach continues with his questions about what is better. However, here the answer is not wisdom. While wine and music gladden the heart, the love of friends is actually better for a happy heart. While the flute and the harp make sweet melodies, a pleasant singing voice is sweeter than both. While the eye desires grace and beauty, the eye, especially of a farmer, prefers to see the green sprouts of grain in the fields. Everyone welcomes a friend or companion in their house, but a sensible wife in the house is much better. In troubled times, family members and helpers can be supportive, but actually almsgiving helps you better than both family and friends. While gold and silver can help you stand firm, good counsel is better than both gold and silver.

False friends (Sir 37:1-37:6)

“Every friend says.

‘I too am a friend.’

But some friends

Are friends only in name.

Is it not a sorrow

Like death itself?

A dear friend

Turns into an enmity.

O inclination to evil!

Why were you formed?

Why do you cover the land

With deceit?

Some companions rejoice

In the happiness of a friend.

But in times of trouble,

They are against him.

Some companions help a friend

For their stomach’s sake.

Yet in battle

They will carry his shield.

Do not forget a friend

In your heart

During the battle.

Do not be unmindful of him

When you distribute your spoils.”

Sirach reminds us about false friends. Some friends are such in name only. Sometimes a friend turns into an enemy. Sirach wondered why there was this inclination to evil. Why was the land covered with deceit? Some companions are happy when you are happy. However, in troubled times, they may be against you. Some people help for the sake of a good meal, while others will go to battle with you. You should not forget the friends who went out to battle with you, especially when you distribute the rewards or spoils of victory.