Prudence in Dealing with Others*
1Do not contend with the mighty,
lest you fall into their power.
2Do not quarrel with the rich,
lest they pay out the price of your downfall.
For gold has unsettled many,
and wealth perverts the character of princes.a
3Do not quarrel with loud-mouths,
or heap wood upon their fire.* b
4Do not associate with the senseless,
lest your ancestors be insulted.
5Do not reproach one who turns away from sin;c
remember, we all are guilty.*
6Do not insult one who is old,
for some of us will also grow old.
7Do not rejoice when someone dies;
remember, we are all to be gathered in.
8Do not neglect the discourse of the wise,d
but busy yourself with their proverbs;
For in this way you will acquire the training
to stand in the presence of princes.
9Do not reject the tradition of the elders
which they have heard from their ancestors;
For from it you will learn
how to answer when the need arises.
10Do not kindle the coals of sinners,
lest you be burned in their flaming fire.
11Do not give ground before scoundrels;
it will set them in ambush against you.*
12Do not lend to one more powerful than yourself;
or if you lend, count it as lost.e
13Do not give collateral beyond your means;
consider any collateral a debt you must pay.
14Do not go to court against a judge,
for the case will be settled in his favor.
15Do not travel with the ruthless
lest they weigh you down with calamity;
For they will only go their own way,
and through their folly you will also perish.
16Do not defy the quick-tempered,
or ride with them through the desert.
For bloodshed is nothing to them;
when there is no one to help, they will destroy you.
17Do not take counsel with simpletons,
for they cannot keep a confidence.
18Before a stranger do nothing that should be kept secret,
for you do not know what it will produce later on.* f
19Open your heart to no one,
do not banish your happiness.
* [8:1–19] The prudent will be circumspect, avoiding conflict with the powerful, the rich and insolent, the impious, the irascible, and judges (vv. 1–3, 10–12, 14, 16). They will not associate with the undisciplined (v. 4) or the ruthless (v. 15), with fools or strangers (vv. 17–19), but with the wise and the elders of the people (vv. 8–9). Caution is a recurring theme in Ben Sira.
* [8:3] One should avoid increasing the ire of those who are hotheaded; cf. vv. 10, 16.
* [8:5] We all are guilty: cf. 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Jb 25:4; Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:9–10; 5:12; 1 Jn 1:8.
* [8:11] Giving in to the wicked only encourages them to take advantage.
* [8:18] To keep a secret, or a confidence, is a major concern of Ben Sira; cf. 1:30; 22:22; 27:16–21; 37:10; 42:1.
a. [8:2] Sir 31:5–6; Dt 16:19.
c. [8:5] 1 Kgs 8:46; 1 Jn 1:8.
e. [8:12] Sir 29:4–7; Prv 17:18.