1* Happy those whose mouth causes them no grief,
those who are not stung by remorse for sin.a
2Happy are those whose conscience does not reproach them,
those who have not lost hope.
The Use of Wealth
3Wealth is not appropriate for the mean-spirited;*
to misers, what use is gold?
4What they deny themselves they collect for someone else,
and strangers will live sumptuously on their possessions.b
5To whom will they be generous that are stingy with themselves
and do not enjoy what is their own?
6None are worse than those who are stingy with themselves;
they punish their own avarice.
7If ever they do good, it is by mistake;
in the end they reveal their meanness.
8Misers are evil people,
they turn away and disregard others.
9The greedy see their share as not enough;
greedy injustice dries up the soul.
10The eye of the miserly is rapacious for food,
but there is none of it on their own table.
11* My son, if you have the means, treat yourself well,
and enjoy life as best you can.c
12Remember that death does not delay,
and you have not been told the grave’s appointed time.
13Before you die, be good to your friends;
give them a share in what you possess.d
14Do not deprive yourself of good things now
or let a choice portion escape you.
15Will you not leave your riches to others,
and your earnings to be divided by lot?
16Give and take, treat yourself well,
for in Sheol there are no joys to seek.
17All flesh grows old like a garment;
the age-old law is: everyone must die.e
18As with the leaves growing on a luxuriant tree—
one falls off and another sprouts—
So with the generations of flesh and blood:
one dies and another flourishes.f
19All human deeds surely perish;
the works they do follow after them.
The Search for Wisdom and Her Blessings*
20Happy those who meditate on Wisdom,
and fix their gaze on knowledge;g
21Who ponder her ways in their heart,
and understand her paths;
22Who pursue her like a scout,
and watch at her entry way;
23Who peep through her windows,
and listen at her doors;
24Who encamp near her house
and fasten their tent pegs next to her walls;
25Who pitch their tent beside her,
and dwell in a good place;*
26* Who build their nest in her leaves,
and lodge in her branches;
27Who take refuge from the heat in her shade
and dwell in her home.
* [14:1–2] A clear conscience, the result of honoring personal commitments and responsibilities, brings contentment and peace.
* [14:3–10] Ben Sira offers a case study about the miserable life of the “small-hearted” (Heb. leb qaṭan) to verify vv. 1–2. They are evil because they do not use their wealth properly to benefit themselves or others. While they are never satisfied that they have enough, they ignore their own needs and hospitality itself, feeding on the generosity of others, in order to protect their own resources. Ironically, after their death, strangers, with no obligation to keep their memory alive, enjoy their wealth.
* [14:11–19] Three realities govern Ben Sira’s attitude toward a proper use of wealth: the inevitability and uncertainty of death, the ephemeral nature of human accomplishments, the lack of reward or punishment after death. He advises generous enjoyment of God’s gift of wealth before death.
* [14:20–15:10] This poem charts the growing intimacy between those seeking Wisdom and Wisdom herself. They move from static reflection to playful pursuit, from camping outside the walls of her house to nesting inside her leafy shade. Ben Sira portrays Wisdom as both mother and bride, a feminine figure who is the fullness of womanhood according to his androcentric society.
* [14:25] In a good place: i.e., where Wisdom dwells.
* [14:26–27] The shift in imagery creates a more intimate relationship. Those seeking Wisdom dwell within her as a bird nests within a leafy tree.
a. [14:1] Sir 5:13–14; 19:16; 25:8; Jas 1:26; 3:2.
d. [14:13] Prv 3:27–28; Tb 4:7.
e. [14:17] Ps 103:14–16; Jb 14:1–2; Is 40:6; Jas 1:10; 1 Pt 1:24.