1Whoever does this grows no richer;
those who waste the little they have will be stripped bare.
2Wine and women make the heart lustful,
and the companion of prostitutes becomes reckless.a
3Rottenness and worms will possess him,
and the reckless will be snatched away.b
4Whoever trusts others too quickly has a shallow mind,
and those who sin wrong themselves.
The Proper Use of Speech*
5Whoever gloats over evil will be destroyed,
6and whoever repeats gossip has no sense.
7Never repeat gossip,
and no one will reproach you.c
8Tell nothing to friend or foe;
and unless it be a sin for you, do not reveal a thing.d
9For someone may have heard you and watched you,
and in time come to hate you.
10Let anything you hear die with you;
never fear, it will not make you burst!
11Having heard something, the fool goes into labor,
like a woman giving birth to a child.
12Like an arrow stuck in a fool’s thigh,
so is gossip in the belly of a fool.
13Admonish your friend—he may not have done it;
and if he did, that he may not do it again.e
14Admonish your neighbor—he may not have said it;
and if he did, that he may not say it again.
15Admonish your friend—often it may be slander;
do not believe every story.
16Then, too, a person can slip and not mean it;
who has not sinned with his tongue?f
17Admonish your neighbor before you break with him;
and give due place to the Law of the Most High.† g
How to Recognize True Wisdom*
20All wisdom is fear of the LORD;
and in all wisdom, the observance of the Law.† h
22The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom,
nor is there prudence in the counsel of sinners.
23There is a shrewdness that is detestable,
while the fool may be free from sin.
24Better are the God-fearing who have little understanding
than those of great intelligence who violate the Law.
25There is a shrewdness keen but dishonest,
and there are those who are duplicitous to win a judgment.
26There is the villain bowed in grief,
but full of deceit within.
27He hides his face and pretends not to hear,
but when not observed, he will take advantage of you:
28Even if his lack of strength keeps him from sinning,
when he finds the right time he will do harm.
29People are known by their appearance;
the sensible are recognized as such when first met.
30One’s attire, hearty laughter, and gait
proclaim him for what he is.
* [19:5–17] An excellent commentary on bearing false witness (Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20). Ben Sira speaks harshly about calumny, rash judgment, and detraction (vv. 5–7), and urges discreet silence (vv. 8–12). Justice requires that an accused neighbor be given a hearing, and charity urges fraternal correction; both together fulfill the law of the Most High (vv. 13–17); cf. Mt 7:1–2; 18:15–16.
† [19:17] Other ancient texts read as vv. 18–19:
18 Fear of the Lord is the beginning of acceptance;
and wisdom from him obtains love.
19 Knowledge of the Lord’s commandments is life-giving instruction;
those who do what pleases him will harvest the fruit of the tree of immortality.
* [19:20–30] True wisdom is contrasted with a dishonest shrewdness.
† [19:20] Other ancient texts read as v. 21:
The slave who says to his master, “What pleases you I will not do”—
even if he does it later, provokes the one who feeds him.
e. [19:13] Lv 19:17; Mt 18:15; Lk 17:3.
h. [19:20] Sir 1:1, 12, 14; Jb 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10.