On Laziness and Foolishness

1* The sluggard is like a filthy stone;*

everyone hisses at his disgrace.

2The sluggard is like a lump of dung;

whoever touches it shakes it off the hands.

3An undisciplined child is a disgrace to its father;

if it be a daughter, she brings him to poverty.a

4A thoughtful daughter obtains a husband of her own;

a shameless one is her father’s grief.

5A hussy shames her father and her husband;

she is despised by both.

6Like music at the time of mourning is ill-timed talk,*

but lashes and discipline are at all times wisdom.

9Teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot,b

or rousing another from deep sleep.

10Whoever talks with a fool talks to someone asleep;

when it is over, he says, “What was that?”

11Weep over the dead, for their light has gone out;

weep over the fool, for sense has left him.

Weep but less bitterly over the dead, for they are at rest;

worse than death is the life of a fool.

12Mourning for the dead, seven days—c

but for the wicked fool, a whole lifetime.

13Do not talk much with the stupid,

or visit the unintelligent.

Beware of them lest you have trouble

and be spattered when they shake themselves off.

Avoid them and you will find rest

and not be wearied by their lack of sense.

14What is heavier than lead?

What is its name but “Fool”?

15Sand, salt, and an iron weight

are easier to bear than the stupid person.d

16A wooden beam firmly bonded into a building*

is not loosened by an earthquake;

So the mind firmly resolved after careful deliberation

will not be afraid at any time.

17The mind solidly backed by intelligent thought

is like a stucco decoration on a smooth wall.

18Small stones lying on an open height

will not remain when the wind blows;

So a timid mind based on foolish plans

cannot stand up to fear of any kind.

The Preservation of Friendship*

19Whoever jabs the eye brings tears;

whoever pierces the heart bares its feelings.

20Whoever throws a stone at birds drives them away;

whoever insults a friend breaks up the friendship.

21Should you draw a sword against a friend,

do not despair, for it can be undone.

22Should you open your mouth against a friend,

do not worry, for you can be reconciled.

But a contemptuous insult, a confidence broken,

or a treacherous attack will drive any friend away.

23Win your neighbor’s trust while he is poor,

so that you may rejoice with him in his prosperity.

In time of trouble remain true to him,

so that you may share in his inheritance when it comes.

24The billowing smoke of a furnace precedes the fire,

so insults precede bloodshed.

25I am not ashamed to shelter a friend,

and I will not hide from him.

26But if harm should come to me because of him,

all who hear of it will beware of him.


27Who will set a guard over my mouth,

an effective seal on my lips,

That I may not fail through them,

and my tongue may not destroy me?e

* [22:115] To Ben Sira, a lazy person and an unruly child are a cause of shame and disgrace; everyone wishes to be rid of them (vv. 15). Speaking with a wicked fool is as senseless as talking with someone who is asleep or dead (v. 10). The fool is an intolerable burden that merits a lifetime of mourning (v. 12). Seven days was the usual mourning period. Cf. Gn 50:10; Jdt 16:24.

* [22:1] Stone: used then and even today for wiping oneself after a bowel movement.

* [22:6] As a joyful song is out of place among mourners so a rebuke may be insufficient when corporal punishment is called for.

† [22:6] Other ancient texts read as vv. 7–8:

7 Children whose upbringing leads to a wholesome life

veil over the lowly origins of their parents.

8 Children whose pride is in scornful misconduct

besmirch the nobility of their own family.

* [22:1618] A prudent mind firmly resolved is undisturbed by violent and conflicting thoughts, whereas a foolish person is tossed about by the winds of fear, like small stones whipped about by high winds.

* [22:1926] Disputes and violence weaken friendship, and disloyalty and abuse of confidence destroy it utterly (vv. 1922, 24, 26); but kindness to a poor person in time of poverty and adversity builds up friendship and merits a share in his prosperity and inheritance (vv. 23, 25).

* [22:2723:6] Ben Sira implores the divine assistance to preserve him through stern discipline from sins of the tongue (22:27; 23:1), from ignorance of mind and weakness of will (vv. 23), and from inclinations of the senses and the flesh, lest he fall into the hands of his enemies or become a prey of shameful desires (vv. 46).

a. [22:3] Prv 10:1; 17:21, 25; 19:13.

b. [22:912] Prv 23:9.

c. [22:12] Gn 50:10; Jdt 16:24.

d. [22:15] Prv 27:3.

e. [22:27] Ps 141:3.

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