“I will say
To my soul!
You have ample goods
Laid up for many years.
καὶ ἐρῶ τῇ ψυχῇ μου Ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά· ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου.
Luke uniquely continued with this story as Jesus indicated that this rich fool said to his soul (καὶ ἐρῶ τῇ ψυχῇ μου). He spoke to his soul (Ψυχή) to say that he had ample goods laid up for many years (ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά). Therefore, he would relax (ἀναπαύου), eat (φάγε), drink (πίε), and be merry (εὐφραίνου), the classical saying for indulging yourself with the pleasures of this world. Thus, this foolish greedy man thought that his abundant resources meant that he no longer had to work hard. Now he could enjoy an easygoing permissive lifestyle. He could retire in luxury. Do you have enough resources to retire to the good life?
“The ironsmith fashions it.
He works it over the coals.
He shapes it with hammers.
He forges it with his strong arm.
He becomes hungry.
His strength fails.
He drinks no water.
He is faint.”
Second Isaiah calls out the ironsmith for special attention. He has to work hard to produce this idol. He uses coal, hammers, and a strong arm. However, this blacksmith gets hungry and thirsty, so that his strength fails and he faints.
“Fodder is for a donkey.
A stick is for a donkey.
A burden is for a donkey.
Bread is for a slave.
Discipline is for a slave.
Work is for a slave.
Set your slave to work.
You will find rest.
If you leave his hands idle,
He will seek liberty.
A yoke will bow his neck.
A thong will bow his neck.
A wicked servant should have
Rack and tortures.
Put him to work.
Thus he may not be idle.
Idleness teaches much evil.
Set him to work,
As is fitting for him.
If he does not obey,
Make his fetters heavy.
Do not be overbearing
Do nothing unjust.”
Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.
“Who can learn the counsel of God?
Who can discern what the Lord wills?
The reasoning of mortals is worthless.
Our designs are likely to fail.
A perishable body weighs down the soul.
This earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth.
What is at hand
We find with labor.
But who has traced out
What is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
Unless you have given wisdom?
You sent your Holy Spirit from on high.
Thus the paths of those on earth
Were set right.
People were taught
What pleases you.
They were saved by wisdom.”
What is the will of the Lord (θέλει ὁ Κύριος)? How can you have counsel with God (βουλὴν Θεοῦ)? What man is able to know (ἄνθρωπος γνώσετα) these things because human reasoning is worthless? By our own designs we are likely to fail. Then we have the Platonic thought about how our perishable body (σῶμα) weighs down our souls (ψυχήν) as our earthly tent holds back our minds. We can only guess what is going on even when we work hard here on earth (γῆς). We have no idea what is going on in heaven (οὐρανοῖς). The only way that we know anything is with the counsel and the wisdom (σοφίαν) that your Holy Spirit (τὸ ἅγιόν σου πνεῦμα) gives to us. Here is a clear rare explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament books. This is the only way that we can stay on the right path. We are saved by wisdom (τῇ σοφίᾳ).
“A wise child makes a glad father.
But a foolish child is a mother’s grief.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit anyone.
But righteousness delivers from death.
Yahweh does not let the righteous go hungry,
But he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty.
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
A child who gathers in summer is prudent,
But a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame.”
Right from the start of these sayings there is the contrast between the wise and the foolish child. Wickedness did not bring profit, but righteousness would save you from death. Early death was considered a punishment for sin. Yahweh would not let the righteous go hungry, but the wicked would be hungry. Notice the contrast and the idea of ‘but’. Here we have the classic explanation of poverty. You are poor because you do not work hard. You are rich because you have worked hard. There is never any mention of circumstances. Once again, we are back at the prudent child who gathers in the summer, while the other shameful child sleeps during the harvest time.