Saturday, February 17, 2018

Week One of Lenten Readings in the Wisdom of Sirach

Readings for Clean Week. PDF found here.

MONDAY:
CHAPTER 1.



1 All wisdom comes from the Lord
And is with Him forever.
2 Who can count the sand of the seas,
The drops of rain, and the days of eternity?
3 Who can search out the height of heaven,
The breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom?
4 Wisdom was created before all things,
And the insight of prudence was from eternity.
5 To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed?
And who has come to know her great deeds?
6 There is one who is wise and is feared exceedingly,
He who sits upon His throne.
7 The Lord Himself created wisdom.
He saw and numbered her
And poured her out on all His works,
8 In the midst of all flesh according to His gift;
And He provided her for those who love Him.
9 The fear of the Lord is glory and boasting,
And gladness and a crown of rejoicing.
10 The fear of the Lord will cheer the heart
And will give gladness, joy, and long life.
11 For those who fear the Lord, it shall be well to the utmost,
And on the day of his death, he will be blessed.
12 The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord,
And she was joined with the faithful in the womb.
13 She constructed a foundation of life among men
And will be trusted among their seed.
14 The gratification of wisdom is to fear the Lord,
And she intoxicates them with her fruits.
15 She will fill every house of theirs with objects of desire
And their storehouses with her harvest.
16 The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom,
Making peace and soundness of health to flourish.
17 The Lord saw and numbered her,
And poured out the power of comprehension;
And He exalted the glory of those who hold fast to her.
18 The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord,
And her branches are length of days.
19 Unjust anger cannot be justified,
For anger's decisive influence causes his fall.
20 A patient man will hold fast until the proper time,
Then afterwards gladness shall burst forth for him.
21 He shall conceal his words until the proper time,
And the lips of many will tell of his understanding.
22 In the treasures of wisdom are the parables of knowledge,
But godliness is an abomination to a sinner.
23 If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments,
And the Lord will supply it to you.
24 For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction,
And His good pleasure is faith and gentleness.
25 Do not disobey the fear of the Lord,
And do not come to Him with a divided heart.
26 Do not be a hypocrite in the sight of men,
And be careful with your lips.
27 Do not exalt yourself, lest you fall
And bring dishonor to your soul.
The Lord shall reveal your secrets,
And in the midst of the assembly He will strike you down,
Because you did not come in the fear of the Lord
And your heart was full of deceit.




Notes:
·         1 – 3: The beginning reminds us of God’s words to Job (cf. Job 38:4 – 39:30).
·         4 – 8: These verses are a prophecy of Christ and “created” wisdom is a prophecy of the Incarnation. Aspects of wisdom (insight and prudence) from eternity speak to the divine nature of wisdom. Through the Son of God (Logos) are the creative and sustaining energies (i.e. logoi) radiated to all Creation. St. Maximos the Confessor writes, “If by wisdom and a person has come to understand that what exists was brought out of non-being into being by God, he intelligently directs the soul’s imagination to the infinite differences and variety of things as they exist by nature and turns his questing eye with understanding towards the intelligible model (logos) according to which things have been made, would he now know that the one Logos is many logoi? This is evident in the many incomparable differences among created things. For each is unmistakably unique in itself and its identity remains distinct in relation to other things. He will also know that the many logoi are the one Logos to whom all things are related and who exists in himself without confusion, the essential and individually distinctive God, the Logos of God the Father. He is the beginning and cause of all things in whom all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… we affirm that the one Logos is many logoi and the many logoi are One. Because the One goes forth in goodness into individual being, creating and preserving them, the One is many. Moreover, the many are directed toward the One and are providentially guided in that direction. It is as though they were drawn to an all-powerful center that had built into it the beginnings of the lines that go out from it and that gathers them all together. In this way the many are one. Therefore we are called a portion of God because the logoi of our being pre-existed in God. Further, we are said to have slipped down from above because we do not move in accordance with the Logos…” (Ambiguum 7). We see more of this explained in Chapters XVI and XXIV.
·         After learning the source of wisdom, we receive instruction on how to acquire it—the very first point on this matter is the “fear of the Lord”.
·         9 – 11: These positive aspects of the fear of the Lord come from the slightest realization of the greatness of God. Our life is to be joined with him in purity. Without this pure joining, we create Hell for ourselves and He may judge us by proclaiming that as our final destination. If we realize this and work for purity in our lives, then we have some fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is the product of action from belief or practice from theory. Fear led Noah to build the ark (cf. Hebrew 11:7). Noah knew God was going to act and Noah altered his life as a result to participate in the great work of God to renew Creation. The “glory” here in Sirach (and in Scripture at large) is explicitly referring to the fear of the Lord bringing God’s uncreated energy to work in our life. The effects of His energy in our person are “boasting”, “gladness”, “rejoicing”, “cheer”, “joy”, “long life”, “well[ness] to the utmost” and “blessed[ness]”.
·         12: Wisdom literature stresses the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (cf. Proverbs 9:10). The fear a child has towards a loving father is the beginning of a training for that child. Eventually he will mature into a man who loves his father and no longer fears him. The innocence of childhood is a precious thing to preserve as many years as we can into adulthood. The innocence of children is a universally recognized characteristic of societies and cultures. The Lord creates each human with this innocence but also a relationship with Wisdom which we should nurture. The evils of the world make it possible for us to distance ourselves from God. However, following the commands of the Lord, we should acquire and keep that innocence (cf. Luke 18:15-17).
·         13 – 15: Obviously spiritual analogies are made here. Wisdom is the beginning (ἀρχὴ [cf. v.12]) of the spiritual life. All that comes after wisdom will be trustworthy. The spiritual longing of man for the eternal (for God), will be fulfilled with Wisdom.
·         16: By calling the fear of the Lord a crown, it shows the value the Lord places on this virtuous disposition. We should read “health” and “peace” to mean spiritual health and inner peace, which is a far superior thing to physical health and outward peace.
·         17: This same is retold from vv. 7, 8. Although, while the previous verses were speaking generally on creation, these speak specifically to man. “Power” and “glory” refer to God’s divine energies.
·         18: Another spiritual analogy: Our spiritual life grows from Wisdom.
·         The rest of this chapter gives warning and speaks to the importance of humility. Without humility in the godly life, a man will certainly need to be humbled.
·         19: A warning on the dangers of anger: unjust and unrighteous. When anger is unjust and unrighteous its inflexibility to correction brings about a man’s fall.
·         20 – 21: Patience is an important virtue. God often has a different timetable than man since He is long-suffering and desiring all men be saved (cf. I Timothy 2:4). Only He can take all these things into consideration and we must patiently endure through the work of God hidden from us. But when the man of God speaks with the Spirit, the truth of all these things may become known and we shall marvel at the greatness of God.
·         22: The evidence of this comes is found in the life of Christ when speaking to the penitent sinners and to the proud Jewish leaders.
·         23: This is our action, this is key for practical application for all that is being said: keep the commandments.
·         24: The fear of the Lord leads us to the other things needed to keep the commandments given by God. Instruction and Wisdom shows one who follows after God what He expects of the one who fears Him. This builds in man faith and gentleness as He goes about learning the will of God, which is the comprehensible joy of the Christian.
·         25 – 27: The dangers of hypocrisy, deceit, and a false presentation of oneself done with pride. Humiliation will follow such a disposition.

CHAPTER 2.



1 My son, if you draw near to serve the Lord,
Prepare your soul for temptation.
2 Set your heart right and be steadfast,
And do not strive anxiously in distress.
3 Cleave to Him and do not fall away,
That you may be honored at the end of your life.
4 Accept whatever is brought upon you,
And in exchange for your humiliation, be patient;
5 Because gold is tested in fire
And acceptable men in the furnace of abasement.
6 Believe in Him, and He will help you;
Make your ways straight and hope in Him.
7 You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy,
And do not turn aside, lest you fall.
8 You who fear the Lord, believe in Him,
And your reward will not fail.
9 You who fear the Lord, hope for good things
And for everlasting gladness and mercy.
10 Consider the ancient generations and see:
Who believed in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who stood fast in His fear and was forsaken?
Or who called upon Him and was overlooked?
11 Because the Lord is compassionate and merciful,
He forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.
12 Woe to cowardly hearts and weakened hands,
And to a sinner who walks on two paths!
13 Woe to a fainting heart, because it does not believe!
Therefore it will not be sheltered.
14 Woe to you who have lost your patient endurance!
What will you do when the Lord visits you?
15 Those who fear the Lord will not disobey His words,
And those who love Him will keep His ways.
16 Those who fear the Lord will seek His approval,
And those who love Him will be filled with the law.
17 Those who fear the Lord will prepare their hearts
And will humble their souls before Him.
18 We will fall into the hands of the Lord
And not into the hands of men;
For as His majesty is, so is His mercy.




Notes:
·         In this chapter we learn about God’s great dignity. He wishes to give men this dignity and His mercy is the means for receiving God’s divine gifts.
·         1: We cannot escape temptation. God invites all of mankind to Him and desires each of us to be spiritually strong and show our worth in our “service” to Him. At the same time, we experience His love more deeply through struggle. God does not want to invite us if we are going to come to Him weak and feeble because that will not prepare us to grow beyond our corrupted humanity. Also, the evil one and his demons attack those who struggle and pursue God. They desire to drag all of us to hell with themselves. When some ascend the ladder to heaven, the demon’s effort is to pull off God-seekers and bring them to a fall from grace.
·         2 – 3: Another translation: “Straighten your heart and endure…” This speaks to the idea of Orthodoxy meaning “straight glory” or sin meaning “to miss the mark.” The focus of our life, our heart, and all our powers ought to be fixed on God and not moved.
·         4: This is exactly how we handle temptation. The Lord said, “…he who endures to the end shall be saved…” (Matthew 24:13) and “…By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19).
·         5: The first verse in this chapter warns us to prepare for temptation. Why does God allow this? V. 5 gives us the answer: purification. In metalwork, fire purifies. The same is true for the spiritual life. Suffering purifies our souls. The Cross leads to the Resurrection.
·         6: We are not alone in the struggle. God helps us draw close to Him at every stage in our life. His help does not abandon us at any time. When we pray for mercy (which we should always be doing), His divine energy aids us. God helps by strengthening and providing for our needs (and He knows these needs better than we) by giving us His uncreated energy.
·         7 – 9: When we fear the Lord and realize that He helps us, then we have hope in the reward of His good things. What are these? Mercy and Gladness. Mercy is what is given (which in substance is divine energy), gladness is how a man who fears the Lord responds to His mercy.
·         10: Appeal to history. The Patriarchs, Judges, Seers, Prophets, and the Righteous all bear witness to God’s help, faithfulness, and mercy to those who fear Him. This is greatly expanded in the last few chapters of Sirach’s book.
·         11: Appeal to revelation about God. God is revealed as “merciful” and “compassionate” (His compassion or literally co-suffering revealed in full at His Incarnation). In our temptations, struggles, and hardships, we have God as our savior.
·         12 – 14: Those who are weak and do not endure will be unable to bear a visit from the Lord. Those who are cowardly, weak, sinful, double-minded-faint of heart, unbelieving, impatient will only experience God as a consuming fire (cf. Hebrews 12:29). The powers of our soul are healed to serve God. Our scattered attention and many thoughts are directed to the Jesus Prayer. Our fear turns into the fear of God and we build fortitude and courage to boldly defeat Satan and his demons. We put our trust not in men and their whims but in the providential care of God. When trusting in His providence, we are patient since we believe His way which works for the salvation of all men’s souls.
·         15 – 17: For those who do fear God, they give Him their obedience, their life, seek out His will, internalize the commandments of God, prepare their hearts as a clean house for God’s dwelling, and have a humble soul for the reception of God’s work within them.
·         18: When we fear the Lord, this brings us under the protection of God against the machinations of others. As great as God is in His incomprehensible majesty, so is the abundance of His divine energy pouring out for us who ask, seek, and knock. St. Hilary of Poitiers explains “fear of the Lord” similar to Sirach when he writes: “‘Fear’ is not to be taken in the sense that common usage gives it. Fear in this ordinary sense is the trepidation our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of suffering something it does not want to happen. We are afraid, or made afraid, because of a guilty conscience, the rights of someone more powerful, an attack from one who is stronger, sickness, encountering a wild beast, suffering evil in any form. This kind of fear is not taught: it happens because we are weak. We do not have to learn what we should fear: objects of fear bring their own terror with them. But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written: Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught. It does not arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth. For us the fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection. Our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his counsels, to obey his laws, to trust his promises. Let us hear what Scripture says: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God and walk in his ways and love him and keep his commandments with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that it may be well for you?”

TUESDAY:
CHAPTER 3.



1 Give heed to me, O children, for I am your father,
And do what I tell you, that you may be saved.
2 For the Lord honored the father over the children
And strengthened the judgment of the mother over her sons.
3 He who honors his father atones for his sins;
4 And he who honors his mother
Is like one who stores up treasure.
5 He who honors his father
Will be gladdened by his own children,
And when he prays, he will be heard.
6 He who honors his father will have a long life,
And he who obeys the Lord will give rest to his mother;
7 And he will serve his parents as his masters.
8 Honor your father and mother in word and deed,
That a blessing may come upon you from him.
9 For the blessing of a father establishes the houses of the children,
But the curse of a mother uproots their foundations.
10 Do not glory in the dishonor of your father,
For your father's dishonor is no glory to you.
11 For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.
12 My son, help your father in his old age,
And do not grieve him in his life;
13 And if his understanding fails, be considerate,
And do not dishonor him in your prime.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
And it will be credited to you instead of your sins.
15 It will be remembered in the day of your affliction;
Thus your sins will melt away like frost in warm weather.
16 He who forsakes his father is like a blasphemer,
And he who provokes his mother to wrath is cursed by God.
17 My son, accomplish your works with gentleness,
And you will be loved by people the Lord accepts.
18 The greater you are, the more humble you must be,
And you will find grace before the Lord;
19 Because great is the power of the Lord,
And He is honored by the humble.
20 Do not seek things too difficult for you,
Nor examine what is beyond your strength.
21 Think about what is commanded you,
For you do not need what the Lord keeps hidden.
22 Do not meddle in what is none of your business,
For things beyond human insight have been shown to you.
23 Speculation has led many astray,
And evil suppositions have caused their minds to slip and fall.
24 A hard heart will suffer ruin in the end,
And he who loves danger will perish in it.
25 A hard heart will be weighed down with pains,
And the sinner will add sin to sin.
26 There is no healing to aid an arrogant man,
For a plant of evil has taken root in him.
27 The heart of an intelligent man will ponder a parable,
And the ear of a pupil is a wise man's desire.
28 Water will quench a blazing fire,
And almsgiving will atone for sins.
29 He who repays kindnesses is mindful of the hereafter,
And at the time of his fall he will find support.




Notes:
·         The text now speaks to an audience of children for the first sixteen verses of this chapter. For Israel, the most precious part of the children’s inheritance was supposed to be the wisdom they acquired which would lead to the recognition of the incarnation of wisdom. Therefore, wisdom literature is often addressed to Israel’s sons and frequently gives attention to the youth.
·         1: This is a direct entreaty for children to listen to their father. Children need this entreaty. The opening verse calls their attention (“give heed”), appeals to authority (“I am your father”), gives a command (“do what I tell you”), and provides incentive (“you may be saved”).
·         2: Children ought to look to the experiences, lessons, and accomplishments of their father. Rash sons ought to give attention to their mother’s judgement.
·         3 – 6: The benefits of honoring one’s father and mother. To honor one’s father cleanses or covers one’s sins, brings gladness of his own children and long life. To glorify or give good things to one’s mother brings reward to oneself. A devout mother will be comforted by her child’s sensitivities to the ways of God. These benefits come to one who sees parents as the masters and humbles oneself as a slave.
·         8 – 9: The good order of things, for a household and family, comes from honor of one’s parents in everything (word and deed). This good order makes one attune to a greater order of serving God. The greatest achievement for a child is the blessing of the father and the greatest calamity is the curse of the mother.
·         10 – 11: When assessing a man, the relationship with his father is inherently a factor in such an assessment. Many factors make up a man through his relationship with his father: biological, social, and his personality. Even if it is a poor relationship this should be cause of grief, not anger or resentment. To dishonor the one who bore you and gave you birth is a lowliness that everyone should find repulsive.
·         12 – 16: Here, the Scriptures tell us the benefit of helping one’s father. God places such a high value in this. So much so, we are promised that failure by sin or in one’s trials will be relieved by such a good work.
·         The audience is now directed away from children and instruction is given in foundational aspects of life with God.
·         17: Gentleness is a very attractive virtue for those who try to love God. People recognize it and are drawn to it.
·         18 – 19: This is further developed and understood with the Lord and the Apostles. Humility attracts real power from God. We are commanded to humble ourselves. Humility is often called the mother of all virtues. With humility, we attract divine energy from God and it fills our souls, bringing our lives into a proper alignment with God. Oftentimes in the Christian life, this divine energy is called grace and Sirach defines it here. St. Gregory of Sinai teaches us: “...true humility does not say humble words, nor does it assume humble looks, it does not force oneself either to think humbly of oneself, or to abuse oneself in self-belittlement. Although all such things are the beginning, the manifestations and the various aspects of humility, humility itself is grace, given from above. There are two kinds of humility, as the holy fathers teach: to deem oneself the lowest of all beings and to ascribe to God all one's good actions. The first is the beginning, the second the end” (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 115).
·         20 – 23: After the command for humility, we are told that one’s responsibility is to follow the commandments that are before you and not commandments beyond one’s abilities at the time. God’s infinitely deep relationship grows by our finite abilities. We dare not presume to simply know all there is about God, because that would be blasphemy. Only God knows Himself in entirety, not any mere created man. We should not expect, seek, examine, meddle, speculate, or suppose the things which God hides from us. We do not need them nor could we bear them. We would lose humility.
·         24 – 26: A hard heart only brings incurable pain to man. Sin is often compared to a plant. While it is young and new to us, it is easy to uproot and kill. When it is nurtured by pride and a hard heart then the roots take hold until it is a mighty tree. To then rid ourselves of it takes a much greater effort. We should pluck sin from the soil of our heart before it becomes so overgrown that it takes an ax and much toil to clear it out.
·         27: See how like attracts like? God is the source of knowledge. To love Him is to seek to understand His ways. God desires man to have the same attraction for Him. He wants to give man knowledge of his Creator, creation, and himself to the one which accepts this invitation which He is continually giving to all men.
·         28, 29: Just as water puts out a fire. So too do acts of mercy extinguish sins which inflame our soul. Through humility we turn our selfish love into this selfless love which wishes only the betterment of others. V. 29 gives us more detail. Kindness and mercy benefit us when we approach judgement and those who live in such manner indicate they realize this temporal life is for preparation into eternity. This view on the fragility and impermanence of life is the weakness of the ruthless and savage. They do not have vision beyond this life. The ancient people speculated what happened after death. The truth of this was revealed by God.

CHAPTER 4.



1 My son, do not deprive the poor of his living,
And do not keep eyes in need waiting.
2 Do not grieve a soul who is hungry,
Nor provoke to anger a man in despair.
3 Do not trouble a heart that was made resentful,
And do not put off the gift of a man in need.
4 Do not reject a suppliant who is afflicted,
Nor turn your face away from a poor man.
5 Do not turn your eye away from a needy man,
And do not give a man occasion to curse you;
6 For if he curses you in the bitterness of his soul,
His Maker will hear his prayer.
7 Make yourself beloved in the assembly
And bow your head to a great man.
8 Incline your ear to a poor man
And answer him peaceably and with gentleness.
9 Deliver a person who has been wronged
From the hand of the wrongdoer,
And do not be fainthearted when you judge his case.
10 Be like a father to orphans
And like a husband to their mother;
And you will be like a son of the Most High,
And He will love you more than your mother.
11 Wisdom exalts her children
And lays hold of those who seek her.
12 Whoever loves her loves life,
And those who come to her early in the morning
Will be filled with gladness.
13 He who holds fast to her will inherit glory,
And the Lord blesses every place she enters.
14 Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One,
And the Lord loves those who love her.
15 He who obeys her will judge the nations;
And he that gives heed to her will live with confidence.
16 If he trusts in her, he will inherit her,
And his posterity will be in possession of her.
17 At first she will walk with him on disturbing paths
And bring fear and dread upon him;
And she will torment him with her discipline
Until she can trust his soul
And test him with her ordinances.
18 Then she will come straight back to him,
And will gladden him, and reveal her secrets to him.
19 If he wanders away, she will forsake him
And hand him over to his ruin.
20 Watch for a proper opportunity and keep yourself from evil;
And do not bring shame upon your soul.
21 For there is a shame that brings sin,
And there is a shame which is glory and grace.
22 Do not show partiality to someone to your own harm,
And do not let your respect for another cause you to fall.
23 Do not withhold a word in time of need;
24 For wisdom is made known by a word,
And instruction by a word of the tongue.
25 Do not speak against the truth,
And do not be put to shame by your ignorance.
26 Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
And do not exercise force against the current of a river.
27 Do not subject yourself to a foolish man,
And do not show partiality to a ruler.
28 Fight to the death for the truth,
And the Lord God will fight for you.
29 Do not be rash with your tongue
And sluggish and neglectful in your works.
30 Do not be like a lion in your home
And act in pretense with your servants.
31 Do not let your hand be extended to receive
And shut when you should repay.




Notes:
·         Following the previous points, the author gives instruction on how to perform acts of mercy.
·         1 – 4: Attention must be given to the poor and needy. Many examples are given in these four verses. We must give to another what he needs to live. We should always be quick in offering our mercy. We are expected to bring comfort to one in desperate sorrow by accepting him as one whom we can help. We ought to give relief to one who is bitter and frustrated at his present circumstances. When one needs care, we must provide it. The pursuit of wisdom is not a selfish endeavor of our pride but it is rooted in humility and the love of our neighbor. There is no wisdom apart from mercy.
·         5 – 6: When a man is poor, we should always aid him. Notice God does not chastise the poor man’s anger in serious circumstance but rather God gives ear to his curse.
·         7: Here we have advice on how to behave in Church. Make yourself loved by everyone and show reverence to those who are owed reverence.
·         8: Material gifts are not only expected of us for the poor but going beyond attention to their immediate needs. We speak “peaceably and with gentleness” with a poor man. Such a conversation will protect you by not offending his sensitivities and could benefit your soul.
·         9: This verse speaks to those who have been given power by God over the poor. The Christian is obligated to deliver him from a wrongdoer. If we are given power by God over the poor, He expects us to use it boldly for their protection and justice.
·         10: If we take upon ourselves the suffering of the poor to be like the suffering of our own precious family, then God will adopt us and love us beyond the possibility of human relationships.
·         The next nine verses explore some specifics of our proper relationship with wisdom.
·         11 – 16: These verses show the active effort we must take in acquiring wisdom. Wisdom does not simply come to us if we do not “seek her”, “love her”, “come to her”, “hold fast to her”, “sacrifice (λατρεύοντες) to her”, “obey her”, “give heed to her” and trust her. Those to whom wisdom lays hold are given rewards taking their lives toward another whole realm of existence. This life is one of exaltation, “gladness”, possessing glory, “blessing”, priestly work (cf. Exodus 19:6), worthiness to judge, “confidence”, and part of a special community which inherits and gives and inheritance of these precious gifts (this is the Tradition in the Church).
·         17 – 18: This initial stage is an exploratory effort by Wisdom. Like the fear of God, one who seeks wisdom goes through trials and temptations. Wisdom is looking for one worthy of her precious life that was explained immediately before. Once found worthy, the “secrets” are “revealed” by Wisdom taking the relationship to this greater level. These two verses speak to praxis and theoria (i.e. asceticism and its fruit of uncreated light).
·         19: A great expression of love is the respect of another’s free will. Wisdom loves humility and purity. One’s relationship with Wisdom builds humility and purity in a man. If one is very insistent on one’s own will and not the superior will of Wisdom, if one is proud, and unites to impurity, then Wisdom will depart. Wisdom should be guarded.
·         With this danger, the author speaks on how to not wander from Wisdom and maintain the pursuit for purity.
·         20 – 21: We should be on guard (nepsis) against evil and prevent sin and shame. The phrase “watch for a proper opportunity” is a beautiful expression in the Greek (συντήρησον καιρὸν). The second word is kairon which speaks of time not in terms of history or chronology (chronos) but rather the present moment (“now” or “today” as we say in our hymns). Sirach tells us that always and at every moment we must save ourselves from destruction which is brought about by sin. Watchfulness is vigilance, never resting. There are two types of shame. Shame can be healthy or unhealthy. The shame “that brings sin” is when we distance ourselves from God or fellow man when we have offended the relationship or suppose that we have offended the relationship. This brings sin because our ego cannot withstand the resurfacing of shame. To preserve pride, we hide ourselves from any encounter. This is what happened to Adam and Eve at the Fall. Then there is a shame of “glory and grace” This is when shame’s energy is not rampant causing one to hide but controlled by the intellectual aspect of our soul containing nous and logos. Shame energizes the incensive power of our soul and the disciplined nous does not dwell on ego but on repentance. We rationally use this energy to confess to God, seek forgiveness, and bring back a reunion with God to the proper relationship of love, truth, and goodness.
·         22: Favoritism and admiration can be irrational, i.e. not in pursuit of God. This is the danger of which this verse speaks. Such attachments can be detrimental to one’s salvation and should be avoided.
·         23 – 24: Sin can occur by inaction. This is an example. While a teacher has a stricter judgement (cf. James 3:1), this means that one called for such work should obey and obey prudently, because withholding a word is cause for sin.
·         25: To speak in ignorance, or idly, or without need or in any other mindless manner is something that we must confess. To speak against truth is to speak against God even if done in ignorance. The verse does not distinguish which shame. We should follow this instruction even if a shame of repentance does rightly occur after speaking in ignorance. We should still try to avoid it because of the serious problems for such an act.
·         26: These two statements are of course linked. Shame is the energy driving one to confession. This is the purpose for shame. To work against this energy is like working against a river’s current. St. John Chrysostom teaches, “Pay attention carefully. After the sin comes the shame; courage follows repentance. Did you pay attention to what I said? Satan upsets the order; he gives the courage to sin and the shame to repentance” (Homily 8, On Repentance and Almsgiving).
·         27: We should not be under any obligation except to God. We pursue justice and truth. A foolish man acts impulsively and irrationally so having obedience to such a person will inevitably lead us to conflict with the ways of God. The same temptation comes from looking for favor with a ruler, this also will lead to conflict with the ways of God.
·         28: God can fight his own battles, but He uses man to show His amazing economy. We fight for God, but God is always with us in these struggles, strengthening us. Rather, when humble, God’s spirit will lead us to victory, or specifically the victory God desires.
·         29: Our tongue is given to us by God and it should be used in His service. The control of the tongue is a great struggle for most of us. We do not realize how many things we say, let alone how many things we say that are totally unnecessary or not in praise and supplication to God. Sluggish and neglectful behavior can lead to listlessness. This dulls the spirit making zeal and the ability to rouse oneself to repentance more difficult to muster.
·         30: I could not find any commentary on the meaning with this verse. We might read it in two ways, depending on how the ancient world understood the method of lions when hunting. We commonly believe male lions appear to do nothing when hunting and the females do the hunting. The men feast on the spoils. We should not abuse servants in a similar manner. This explanation seems to agree with the previous verse. However, more accurate research shows that when lions hunt the female lion makes a real show and chases the prey but the male lion is hiding behind thick vegetation waiting to ambush his prey. Therefore, another explanation might be that one should not mislead his servants down a false path and lead them with false promises or assumptions then pointing out their deception brutally and showing himself as a trickster.
·         31: To live with such behavior is indicative of one’s attachment to material well-being. This is a most basic human behavior to give to a man what he is due. We should not be selfish and only expect this of other men but not ourselves.

WEDNESDAY:
CHAPTER 5.



1 Do not set your heart on your possessions,
And do not say, “I am independent.”
2 Do not follow yourself and your strength
So as to walk in the desires of your heart;
3 And do not say, “Who will be lord over me?”
For the Lord will surely punish you.
4 Do not say, “I sinned, so what happened to me?”
For the Lord is patient.
5 Do not be so confident of atonement
That you add sin to sin;
6 And do not say, “His compassion is great;
He will atone for the multitude of my sins,”
For both mercy and wrath come from Him;
And His anger rests on sinners.
7 Do not delay to turn to the Lord,
And do not put it off from day to day;
For suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come forth,
And in the day of vengeance, you will perish.
8 Do not set your heart on dishonest wealth,
For it will profit you nothing in the day of distress.
9 Do not winnow with every wind
And do not follow every road;
For a double-tongued sinner is of such a kind.
10 Be established in your understanding
And let your word be consistent.
11 Be quick to listen
And give your answer with patience.
12 If you have understanding, answer your neighbor,
But if not, let your hand be over your mouth.
13 There is glory and dishonor in speech,
And a man's tongue may cause him to fall.
14 Do not be called a slanderer,
And do not lie in ambush with your tongue;
For shame awaits a thief,
And a grievous condemnation will come upon
A double-tongued man.
15 In a great or in a small matter, do not go wrong.




Notes:
·         1: Materialism is much more than one man’s concern for things. Materialism is a whole philosophical system corrupting all science, politics, economy, etc. Materialism takes the concrete and observable facts in the world and divorces them from the meaning God gives them. We do not even realize the meaning and symbols behind creation today, which only shows how great an influence the materialist worldview has on us. Some of these verses might be difficult. We love our independence more than life itself sometimes. The founding of America had people willing to kill and get killed for independence.
·         2: The Church is always warning Christians to not be their own spiritual counselors. Not only will you excuse your sins, but someone who is more cunning than you are discerning is certain to lead you far off the narrow path. There is always someone out there cleverer than you. This is one of the greatest dangers of the spiritual life. The Church has a word, prelest, to describe one who is in a state of spiritual delusion. One begins to be in prelest when following one’s own thoughts rather than obedience to the Church and Her shepherds.
·         3 – 6: These are examples of traps and excuses we entertain from the demons when behaving outside pastoral accountability.
·         7: The Fathers teach us that we only have this moment for repentance or we should live this day as if our last. Doing so is excellent preparation for our last day when it finally arrives, and that day does come quickly. One of St. Isaac the Syrian’s most famous quotes is “This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.”
·         8: There are many problems wealth will not solve. If wealth is acquired dishonestly, then it probably will cause more trouble than one would like. However, even if there is no trouble in this life when acquiring dishonest wealth, we can be sure the day of our death will be a “day of distress.”
·         9 – 10: This verse encourages us to be rooted and not easily swayed. We should stand on our discerning mind (logos) which is modeled after the Logos. Our actions should follow our words, making us honest with ourselves and others. This will allow for self-knowledge to improve the things in our life that need improved.
·         11 – 12: This is brought up by the Scriptures many times. Our ears should be opened and our mouths should value silence. In the corrupt nature of the world we constantly see people talking over or past each other. Their mouths are open but their ears are closed. This is the source of many problems. To “answer with patience” is working out the truth before you articulate it. With this, if we have worked out the truth (by following Christ and His saints’ lives and counselling) and are confident in it, we are obligated to speak it. Yet without this effort, silence is the only sufficient action.
·         13 – 14: The tongue is a source to energize us to righteousness or cause us to fall into dishonor. The tongue is a powerful instrument. So, watchfulness, guardianship, and self-control should be exercised with its use. The extent we should guard our tongue is so great that we should not even give an excuse for others to call us “slanderers” (cf. James 3:5-6).
·         15: Some say they are detail oriented. Some say they look at the “big picture” but in the spiritual life we ought to be attentive to both. We need to be watchful of all our thoughts. Even when we have little thoughts, we should return to the prayer. We need to also keep in mind the Tradition of our Church because all the dogmas of the Church preserve the therapeutic method of man and we cling to them for our own healing.

THURSDAY:
CHAPTER 6.



1 Do not be an enemy instead of a friend;
For a bad name brings shame and disgrace,
And a double-tongued sinner is of such a kind.
2 Do not exalt yourself with your own counsel,
Lest your soul be torn in pieces as by a bull.
3 You will devour your leaves and lose your fruit,
And be left like a withered tree.
4 An evil soul will destroy him who possesses it
And make him an object of malignant joy to his enemies.
5 Pleasant speech will multiply his friends,
And a gracious tongue will multiply many kind greetings.
6 Let those who live at peace with you be many,
But let your counselors be one in a thousand.
7 If you gain a friend, gain him in testing,
And do not be in a hurry to trust him.
8 For there is a friend who is such to his own advantage,
But he will not remain beside you in the day of your affliction.
9 There is also a friend who changes into an enemy
And will reveal a quarrel to your disgrace.
10 Again, there is a friend who is a companion at table,
But will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
11 Further, when you prosper, he will be like you
And speak boldly to your servants;
12 But if you are brought low, he will be against you,
And will hide himself from your presence.
13 Stay away from your enemies
And hold onto your friends.
14 A faithful friend is a strong shelter,
And he who finds one finds a treasure.
15 There is nothing that can take the place of a faithful friend,
And there is no way to measure his worth.
16 A faithful friend is a medicine of life,
And those who fear the Lord will find him.
17 He who fears the Lord guides his friendship rightly,
Because as he is, so also is his neighbor.
18 My son, from your youth up, choose instruction,
And you will find wisdom also into old age.
19 Come to her as one who plows and sows,
And wait expectantly for her good fruits;
For in her work you will labor a little while,
Then you will quickly eat of her fruit.
20 She is very harsh on the undisciplined
And on the one who lacks the heart to continue with her.
21 She will be like a heavy stone of trial upon him,
And he will not delay to throw her off.
22 For wisdom is like her name and is not manifest to many.
23 Listen, my son, and accept my judgment,
And do not reject my advice.
24 Put your feet into her fetters and your neck into her collar.
25 Put your shoulder under her and carry her,
And do not be angry with her bonds.
26 Come to her with all your soul,
And keep her ways with all your strength.
27 Search for her and seek her out,
And she will become known to you;
And when you become self-controlled, do not let her go.
28 For in the end you will find her rest,
And she will turn to you in gladness.
29 Then her fetters will be as a strong protection for you,
And her collar a glorious robe.
30 For there is a golden adornment upon her,
And her bonds are a blue thread.
31 You will wear her as a glorious robe
And put her on yourself as a crown of exceeding joy.
32 If you are willing, my son, you will be taught,
And if you apply yourself, you will be prudent.
33 If you love to listen, you will wait with anticipation,
And if you incline your ear, you will be wise.
34 Stand in an assembly of elders,
And who is wise? Attach yourself to him.
35 Desire to listen to every divine narrative,
And do not let proverbs of understanding escape you.
36 If you see a man who has understanding,
Rise early in the morning
And let your foot wear out the threshold of his door.
37 Set your mind on the ordinances of the Lord
And practice His commandments.
He will strengthen your heart continually,
And the desire for wisdom will be given to you.




Notes:
·         Sirach has two themes in this chapter: friendship and instruction. Sirach gives more counsel regarding friendship than any other biblical author possibly due to his perspective that wisdom is inherently social and selfless.
·         1: We sometimes take perverse pleasure in making enemies out of people. Especially if we do not know them well (e.g. online) and the personalities clash. However, one who does make enemies wherever he goes gets a reputation for this, he “brings shame and disgrace upon himself.” In the workforce, the managers of such people just look for an excuse to get rid of them. One who is “double-tongued” will inevitably make enemies for himself. Many times, enemies are made by the provocation of others, sometimes by rumors of a third party. This is the whole point of political propaganda. Propaganda is the exploitation of this temptation. Political and media actors mask their ideology in virtue while masking another ideology in vice. But ideology does not save. Even Christianity, if it is little more than an ideology will not save. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” and God is not on one side of a conflict and against another. Rather, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn rightly said, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” By “enemies” is meant chiefly the evil spirits.
·         2: Earlier we spoke on the danger of one’s own counsel. In this verse, this behavior is likened to a bull. At the time when this was written, those that kept bulls (and rural life in general) did not have fences up so a bull could roam. If a bull found a new herd he may try to assert his dominance. However, there was the risk of getting killed. The same happens to a soul that is not bound by the counsel of a spiritual father.
·         3 – 4: Any good things a soul possessed while living virtuously is lost when one starts to keep his own counsel and he becomes weak unto his own destruction.
·         5: A transition takes place from a conversation on the tongue to friendship by the phrase “pleasant speech” which can grow the friends that surround a man in both quantity and quality.
·         6: We should live in peace with everyone, but this does not mean we are pulled by the desires of those around us, so the author states our counselors should be extremely few.
·         7: Quality friendships are tried and tested. Through each other’s struggles with life and each other’s mutual support does a friendship become trustworthy. Trust is gained from the experiences out of a genuine love between two friends.
·         8 – 12: A few classifications of friends are offered in these verses. One is a friend for purely selfish reasons. When he does not find benefit or gratification from you, he abandons you, especially if you fall into hard times. Another type of friend has a stubborn and prideful ego. If you do something he finds disagreeable, he will turn against you and only bring trouble. Another friend is one who makes his way into your life, adopts similarity to you, shares with you, but this kind of friend is one who seeks comfortable living and easy prosperity. He will disappear the moment you lose any wealth or power.
·         13: There is no reason to keep enemies near. This endangers yourself to provocation or attack. One’s true friends should be close because a friend is a precious aid in spiritual struggle. The only people who stay close to their enemies are those who will surrender their own soul for selfish material ends.
·         14 – 15: Now we see a description, not of another false friend, but of a true friend. These make up the attributes of a genuine friend: a “strong shelter”, a “treasure” which nothing can replace and on whom no value can be placed.
·         16: A true friend is a “medicine of life”. One who fears the Lord lives a lifestyle that can perceive one who lives a similar lifestyle and a potential bond of friendship, long-lasting and faithful can develop between the two.
·         17: When both fear the Lord, the friendship is strengthened over and over because they guide and support each other towards godliness. True friends support each other and together work out each other’s trials and temptations. They gladly share each other’s crosses.
·         The text now moves from friendship to the specifics on how Wisdom from God comes to man. To summarize: instruction, humility, and transformation.
·         18 – 19: This is another common exhortation in Wisdom literature. The pursuit of Wisdom is an active choice we make. We work towards it and like a good harvest we receive bounty from Wisdom.
·         20 – 21: For those who are not attune to the spiritual importance of Wisdom or sensitive to the critical role Wisdom has in our lives, Wisdom seems “harsh” or demanding. Those ignorant on such matters do not understand the effort men go through to attain Wisdom because the rewards are beyond their short-sighted vision.
·         22: Few can walk the path of perfection that God demands of man. Most prefer our own pleasures which only leads to our own pains. Christ mentions this similarly when He urges us to not go by the broad gate and way, but rather the narrow one that few find (cf. Matthew 7:13-14).
·         23: Exhortation claiming that wisdom starts with instruction, reiterating its importance again from v. 18.
·         24 – 25: See the humility that is required! How many would behave in such a manner? Would we go through such humiliation if our physical lives could be saved from destruction? Most probably would. But to be saved from spiritual death? We should, because one soul is worth more than the cosmos. This is the humility we ought to gladly accept for the prize of Wisdom from God.
·         26: All our soul and all our strength should serve Wisdom. All our emotions, all our desires, all our thoughts should follow Wisdom.
·         27 – 28: The fetters and collar are for training. Once we have self-control in the ways of godliness then we receive the bounty of Wisdom’s gifts. However, we should not become careless or think we no longer need Wisdom’s counsel. We always are attentive to the word of Wisdom and keep it.
·         29: Once we receive the gladness of wisdom, our instruments of training are a secure comfort to us instead of a burden which is hard to understand. Trained and in tune with Wisdom’s work, the collar and fetters only protect us from aimless or careless wandering. They are a comfort to us for us to ensure we stay faithful to Wisdom.
·         30 – 31: What seemed like an imprisonment in shackles becomes a great honor, “glorious,” and “joyful.” We even have wisdom as a “crown” for our lives. The meaning behind this allegory is that the hard burden of Wisdom’s instruction will bring about such marvelous transformation. Instruction is transformed into the life of God.
·         The verses found in the rest of this chapter are practical ways to attach ourselves to Wisdom and find the instruction which has been highly regarded in these previous verses.
·         32: We must be willing to be taught and more than this work out the teaching in our own life. To open ourselves to wisdom brings about discernment and prudence in all things.
·         33: We must listen and love to listen. We are truly listening if we show anticipation at the words of instruction. This is more than just an exercise or behavior, but a whole frame of mind that drives our life.
·         34: Seek out the wise. Find the saint, whether recognized or unrecognized. Go to these holy men for edification.
·         35: Notice the wording here: “every” and “escape”. Not one story of spiritual significance should be considered casual or heard with negligence. The stories of Holy Scripture have a great depth beyond man. They consist of profound symbolism, layers of meaning, complex patterns of meaning; no man can exhaust the Scriptures in his spiritual education. Even at the heights St. Seraphim of Sarov achieved, he was still reading the entire Gospel account plus duplicate passages in a single week. If we have heard the story of Christ feeding the multitudes a million times, then we should still listen as attentively to it on the one million first time as we did at the original telling. Many times, we encounter a proverb and it escapes our understanding so we keep reading or take our attention or activity somewhere else. This is improper. We should not move our mind from a proverb until we understand it (in a similar fashion to the pilgrim in Way of the Pilgrim when he heard St. Paul the Apostle’s command to “Pray unceasingly.”).
·         36: This may seem socially unacceptable today, but this is a command of Scripture. Many times, such an instructor will often be at prayer in the Church and you can catch him before going in or after going out. To be benefited by instructors, many times persistence is needed. Persistence is critical in this regard. They often want to be alone with God, but God has made them known to the world so many come to them. These instructors often do not want to use their time apart from bringing all their attention to God. They will wish themselves away from anyone who does not show a serious commitment to God and also a commitment to the help they are able to give to one in pursuit of Him.
·         37: Again, if we actively have God in front of our attention, i.e. our nous fixed on Him, and tirelessly work on the fulfillment of His commandments then we receive divine energy to strengthen us time and time again. Also doing so causes our need to know God to grow and grow some more.

CHAPTER 7.



1 Do no evil things,
And evil will never overtake you.
2 Stay away from wrongdoing,
And it will turn away from you.
3 My son, do not sow on the furrows of wrongdoing,
And you will not reap the same things sevenfold.
4 Do not seek authority from a lord
Nor the seat of honor from a king.
5 Do not declare yourself righteous before a lord,
Nor play the wise man before a king.
6 Do not try to be a judge
If you will not be strong enough to remove wrongdoing,
Lest you respect the presence of the powerful
And compromise your integrity.
7 Do not sin against the population of a city,
Nor disgrace yourself before the people.
8 Do not repeat your sin,
For you will not be unpunished even for one.
9 Do not say, “He will look upon the multitude of my gifts,
And when I bring an offering to God Most High, He will accept it.”
10 Do not be fainthearted in your prayer
And do not neglect to do alms.
11 Do not laugh at a man who is in bitterness of soul,
For there is One who humbles and exalts.
12 Do not devise a lie against your brother,
Nor do the same against a friend.
13 Do not desire to tell any lie,
For the habit of lying never does any good.
14 Do not talk idly in the assembly of the elders,
And do not repeat yourself in prayer.
15 Do not hate hard work, especially farming,
Which was created by the Most High.
16 Do not number yourself among an assembly of sinners;
Remember that wrath will not tarry long.
17 Humble yourself greatly,
For the punishment of the ungodly is fire and worms.
18 Do not exchange a friend for money,
Nor a genuine brother for the gold of Ophir.
19 Do not ignore a wise and good wife,
For her grace is worth more than gold.
20 Do not mistreat a servant who does his work in truth
Nor a hired worker who devotes himself to you.
21 Let your soul love an intelligent servant;
Do not deprive him of his freedom.
22 Do you have cattle? Take care of them;
And if they are profitable to you, keep them.
23 Do you have children? Correct them,
And make them obey from their youth.
24 Do you have daughters? Watch carefully over their chastity,
And do not be too easy on them.
25 Give a daughter in marriage
And you will have completed a great work;
But give her to a man of understanding.
26 Do you have a wife after your own heart? Do not reject her,
But do not trust yourself to a wife whom you disregard.
27 Honor your father with all your heart,
And do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.
28 Remember that you were begotten through them,
And what can you give back to them
To the degree they gave to you?
29 Fear the Lord with all your soul
And honor His priests.
30 Love Him who made you
And do not forsake His ministers.
31 Fear the Lord and honor His priests,
And give them their portion as commanded:
The firstfruits, the trespass offering,
The gift of the shoulder offering,
The sacrifice of sanctification,
And the firstfruits of the holy things.
32 Stretch forth your hand to the poor,
That your blessing may be complete.
33 Let the kindness of giving be shown
In the presence of all the living,
And do not withhold kindness from the dead.
34 Do not withdraw yourself from those who weep,
And mourn with those who mourn.
35 Do not hesitate to visit a sick man,
For by such visits you will be loved.
36 With all your words, remember the time you will die,
And you will never sin.




Notes:
·         The first fourteen verses speak generally to how one follows the way of Wisdom in larger society or in the context or rulers.
·         1: Evil will enslave a man if a man is not watchful. This is why the Church stresses nepsis. Someone once said, “give the devil and inch and he’ll take a mile.” Therefore, one should avoid evil at every time, in all places, and in any concern. With such a vigilance then we can be free from its tyranny.
·         2 – 3: Just as one can sow and reap the fruits of Wisdom, one can instead sow and reap the fruits of wrongdoing. Also, we attract the powers of those to whom we open ourselves. If we give attention to the demons then we attract them; but if we give attention to God and His commandments then we draw forth God’s grace. We can either position ourselves to receive divine energy or we can position ourselves to be swayed by the adverse powers of the evil one. If we are attracting the grace of God then the demons would not desire to come near us.
·         4 – 5: These situations are when man receives the strongest temptation to abandon humility. A good king would see through such proud ambition. If any king does not chastise such behavior then God will surely chastise such a man. The Lord also speaks to this (cf. Luke 14:8-11).
·         6 – 7: God expects a judge to remove wrongdoing. He must remove wrongdoing and even hurt the powerful at his own expense. Today, we live under judicial activism making satanic decisions, imposing on the populace the wishes of possessed men who wish they were tyrants above the law. Even if a judge follows these decisions that become precedent yet realizes they are wrong, sins against his responsibilities as a godly judge. A godly judge should consider these evil decisions when working to repeal or diminish their authority. For a judge, the removal of wrongdoing is a primary responsibility and should be his focus in every effort and decision. Wrongdoing is determined by God and his commandments, not by whim nor the laws of men unless they are built on His commandments. Often, the “people” despise wrongdoing and can become infuriated at any evil at work in the ruling class. Therefore, the Scriptures give this warning to those in power.
·         8 – 9: We should not assume to know how God will judge us. We make excuses in sin sometimes such as I have broken this one so one more will not count against me. I may confess them together. Or my frequency or quality of offering is so great that it will benefit my standing with God. We should not think in such ways. Remember, the spiritual life is not a point system! The spiritual life seeks to attract the grace of the Holy Spirit.
·         10: As St. Seraphim of Sarov says, no matter our situation: sick or healthy, weak or strong, rich or poor, we always have prayer available to us so we should avail ourselves of the opportunity with every moment. We do not always have opportunity to give alms so this also makes prayer a way to attract the grace of God. However, when we do have an opportunity for alms, we should not “neglect” a chance to exchange some of our material blessing for the grace of God by giving as if to Christ.
·         11: Laughter is a dangerous action. Anywhere in the Gospel does it say the Lord laughed? When Sarah laughed, she was criticized by the Lord. Laughter is not the best medicine, rather one of the worst, especially uncontrollable laughter. Therefore, the second part of this verse speaks about exaltation and humiliation. The struggling man carries his cross and when done faithfully the Lord will resurrect him to glory. The one who laughs at such a man sets himself on a pedestal and the reward the Lord gives is humiliation.
·         12 – 13: We clearly see the consequences of a lie. A lie grows and grows until it unmanageable and the larger it gets the more disdain it will bring upon the one who lies. The “habit” of a lie “never does any good” because it is a passion.
·         14: This mindless chatter we have mentioned already (cf. IV, v. 25). But an explicit command here is given to strictly avoid it when speaking with the elders and with the Lord.
·         The next fourteen verses go from the context of a large society to the context of a smaller society, i.e. the family, household, and a healthy working man’s daily occurrences.
·         15: Anyone who loves God, is sensitive to spiritual realities, and works rightly with the soil of the ground will know there are innumerable iconic references which can bring a man to knowledge of God or His created order. The Scriptures say here that God created farming. This is exactly why it possesses this iconic aspect for man’s spiritual health. This holds true with patriarchy also. God has put things into His creation that lead man to Him. The order He established before and after the Fall can lead to life with Him.
·         16 – 17: A reminder of distress comes upon anyone who associates with those who behave contrary to the will of God. We should remain distant because even a small time with sinners will get us mixed up in the trouble that comes upon them. At the end of such a life is just “fire and worms”; fire for the soul that had not grown accustomed to the mighty light of God’s energy and worms for the body not sanctifying itself.
·         18: The desire for money leads to all manner of evil. This is some of the bishops’ greatest concern in America: the pursuit of money that leads to the destruction of souls.
·         19: A common Scriptural phrase is grace in one’s sight or grace in the eyes of one. This means one exerting power with another for good, selflessly. We should also let a “good and wise” wife exert this influential power over us. In such a healthy spiritual relationship between the two, any material blessing would pale in comparison.
·         20 – 21: Devotion and intelligence are possibly the most valued combination in someone who serves another. This disposition towards you should move you to love which would mean proper treatment, and in the ancient world meant an offer of freedom.
·         22: We should not think of our possessions, especially farmers who work with living things, as something profitable and not profitable. We do not discard the unprofitable or think to discard when it comes to living creatures. We simply cultivate the best and healthiest environment for what God puts in our care. If something is profitable, then we can thank God for His blessing towards us.
·         23: While children are young we should teach them the proper order of things and the value of one’s place. Children under their father and mother should therefore learn obedience and have examples in their parents that make their commands or instruction not appear hypocritical.
·         24 – 25: These words of Scripture do not adhere to feminist ideology. Scripture transcends all ideology since it leads to God, not lowly and self-serving human ideas. Scripture commands fathers to “not be too easy” on their daughters as the world seeks to lead them astray. To guard your daughter’s virtue and then give her to a man of “understanding,” i.e. an equally or more virtuous man, this is a great thing in the eyes of God. However, it requires some sternness.
·         26: When seeking a wife, we should seek one after our “own heart” not one that would bring us to “disregard” her. To put it another way, the values, loves, and lifestyle should be synchronous. If they are out of sync then alienation can occur.
·         27 – 28: What humbling advice! Can we repay our own life which we received from our father and mother? No matter the accomplishments we achieve and if we gave them all to our parents, would it equal their gift of life to us? The pains of the mother that accompany the gift of life and the sacrifices of the father cause us always to be in their debt.
·         The remaining verses in this chapter gives us instruction on how we live with those God provides in our life to receive His blessings: the priests and the less fortunate.
·         29 - 31: Again, we are exhorted to fear the Lord with an additional command to honor the priest. How does one honor a priest? When a priest enters a room, we stand and stop any other discussions so that he may give a blessing. When he is speaking, praying, or blessing, we are very attentive and do not make any noise or perform other chores. Also, we give the priest an especially reserved table and seat; we have him served food before others. He has a standing invitation for every single parish activity, we do not bother inviting the priest because we expect his involvement. Behaving in such a way gives honor and attention which proves our love towards the Lord and his servants.
·         32: Charity to the poor is a “complete” act of mercy. Meaning when we give material blessings to the poor, this is enough for God to complete the blessing because he gives us a deposit of grace.
·         33: This initial part does not mean we show off our “kindness of giving” like the Pharisee. Instead no matter who comes to us we should extend a “kindness of giving” towards them. Our reputation should include generosity. Since we believe in the resurrection of the dead, we care for our fellow man’s body and soul because they are no longer able to care for it themselves. We act with great love and care toward the body until it is put into the ground. We do not cremate! We also pray for their soul and mercy upon it.
·         34 – 35: Nearness is an important action to take when one weeps. Mourning should not occur apart from family or community lest depression occur. The same can be said of sickness. Words do not console oftentimes, rather listening and nearness are needed.
·         36: Remembrance of death is an action that the Saints, Fathers, and contemporary elders are always stressing and encouraging. Remembrance of death is a core behavior of spiritual living. It prompts fear of God and repentance by living as if this day is our last. It is also a powerful resisting force against sin. This remembrance helps us carry our cross.

FRIDAY:
CHAPTER 8.



1 Do not contend sharply with a powerful man,
Lest you fall into his hands.
2 Do not quarrel with a rich man,
Lest he resist your force,
For gold has destroyed many
And perverted the hearts of kings.
3 Do not contend sharply with a talkative man,
And do not heap wood on his fire.
4 Do not jest with an uncultivated man,
Lest your forefathers be insulted.
5 Do not insult a man who turns away from sin;
Remember that we are all valuable.
6 Do not dishonor a man in his old age,
For some of us are growing old as well.
7 Do not rejoice over any dead person;
Remember that we all must die.
8 Do not disregard a saying of the wise,
But be conversant with their proverbs;
Because from them you will gain instruction
And how to serve noble people.
9 Do not miss a saying of the old,
For they themselves learned from their fathers;
Because from them you will gain understanding
And be able to give an answer in time of need.
10 Do not kindle the coals of a sinner,
For you may be burned by his flame.
11 Do not let the presence of an insolent man
Arouse you from your seat,
Lest he lie in wait as an ambush against your words.
12 Do not lend to a man stronger than you;
But if you do, consider it lost.
13 Do not give surety beyond your ability to pay;
But if you do give surety, be as careful as one who has to pay.
14 Do not go to law against a judge,
For they will decide for him because of his reputation.
15 Do not travel on a journey with a reckless man,
Lest he weigh you down;
For he will do his will,
And you will perish with him in his folly.
16 Do not cause a fight with an angry man,
And do not go into a lonely place with him,
Because murder is as nothing in his eyes,
And where there is no help, he will strike you down.
17 Do not consult with a fool,
For he will not keep a matter confidential.
18 Do nothing confidential in the presence of a stranger,
For you do not know what he will give birth to.
19 Do not open your heart to every one,
Lest unkindness be shown to you.




Notes:
·         In this chapter we learn the value of prudence and so many situations where prudence saves us from disastrous situations. Prudence is so important in the spiritual life so we should be especially earnest to adopt this instruction.
·         1 – 3: These are easy battles to lose. While discernment should always be active, we must especially use it in the situations of contention with powerful men, quarrels with rich men, and disputes with talkative men. Discernment will guide us to determine if the battle is worth winning. To join a battle needlessly that can only result in defeat is wasteful of time and resources; time and resources we should put to more effective spiritual use. We mentioned earlier some American bishops are often concerned with the power which money has over people. V. 2 calls this power a perversion that leads to destruction.
·         4: Our forefathers ought to have worked to bring us into surroundings that benefitted the pursuit of God. If not, this pursuit should be a long-term goal for our children and children’s children. For one to associate in “jest” with another outside such surroundings is a dishonor to those who made great efforts to avoid such influences.
·         5: In imitation of the angels we should rejoice at every soul that repents (cf. Luke 15:7). As Christian’s we should encourage a penitent behavior for everyone no matter how it occurs, whether by exuberant realization at the purpose of human life, or extreme suffering.
·         The next four verses are great advice for young men who desire advancement in their relationship with God through the experience of older men.
·         6: To mock an older man because of his infirmity will bring regret once you are old and have infirmity or at the very least, set an example of the younger around you to allow them to mock you in your old age. We ought to honor, assist, and care for our elderly. We have it exactly backwards today. Youth is glorified and all worldly powers make it greatly desirable. But the ancient world was often not under this delusion. The elderly were valuable to society and the young gave them their attention. Their societies understood the importance of tradition, culture, and identity.
·         7: Another exhortation to have remembrance of death. We are also exhorted to not rejoice over any dead person. When we see the death of an enemy, especially a national enemy, the people will rejoice. This is ungodly behavior. We should take the death of anyone whom God has created as a remembrance of our own death.
·         8: The wise give us proverbs on how to live our life well-pleasing to God. We ought to be Christians who can speak with the wise on their proverbs. The axioms should become conversations between the young and the elderly.
·         9: This verse simply speaks on the importance of receiving our Tradition then making it one’s own. We receive it from our elders who received it from their forefathers. Adhering to the Tradition they have deposited to us will give us “understanding” and “answers.”
·         10: I.e. Do not arouse the passions from which another suffers or else you become in danger of acquiring the same passion. St. John Chrysostom teaches: “And let us not suppose, that if we can find accomplices in our sins, that will be an excuse; as this will prove an addition to our punishment. Since the serpent too was punished more than the woman, as was the woman likewise more than the man; and Jezebel also was punished more severely than Ahab, who had seized the vineyard; for it was she that devised the whole matter, and caused the king to offend. And therefore thou, when thou art the author of destruction to others, wilt suffer more severely than those who have been subverted by thee. For sinning is not so ruinous as leading others also into the same. Wherefore he speaks of those who ‘not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’ And so when we see any sinning, let us, so far from thrusting them on, even pull them back from the pit of iniquity, that we may not have to be punished for the ruin of others besides ourselves” (Homily XXV on Romans 14).
·         11: Beware the trickery of an “insolent man.” We should discern when things are simply spoken to “arouse” us as a means to another end by any mischievous ones.
·         12 – 13: Proverbs concerning finances. We ought to have carefulness and prudence regarding how we use money. These are gifts God gave to us and we should exercise some guardianship over our stewardship of these gifts.
·         14: As mentioned earlier, we should not waste the precious resource of time in a losing court case (cf. VIII, v. 1-3). Some circumstances we should just accept in humility and forgiveness then trust in the providence of God, expecting Him to be just in the end.
·         15 – 19: These are examples of exercising caution and the importance of trust in our acquaintances. We should know how to appropriately limit our interactions with disreputable people.

SATURDAY:
CHAPTER 9.



1 Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom
And so teach her an evil lesson about yourself.
2 Do not give your soul to a woman
To let her trample on your strength.
3 Do not meet with a woman who is a courtesan,
Lest you fall into her snares.
4 Do not associate with a dancing-girl,
Lest you be caught in her schemes.
5 Do not gaze at a virgin,
Lest you stumble and pay damages for her.
6 Do not give your soul to prostitutes,
Lest you destroy your inheritance.
7 Do not look around in the streets of a city,
And do not wander about in its deserted sections.
8 Turn your eye away from a woman with a shapely figure,
And do not gaze at beauty belonging to another.
Many have been led astray by the beauty of a woman,
And erotic love is like a burning fire.
9 Never dine with another man's wife,
And do not share in parties with her over wine,
Lest your soul turn aside to her,
And you slip and with your spirit fall into destruction.
10 Do not forsake an old friend,
For a new one is not equal with him.
A new friend is like new wine;
Drink it with pleasure only after it ages.
11 Do not envy the honor given a sinner,
For you do not know what his end will be.
12 Do not delight in the pleasure of the ungodly;
Remember, they will not be declared righteous even in Hades.
13 Keep far away from a man who has the power to kill,
And you will not be anxious about the fear of death.
But if you come near him, do not offend him,
Lest he take away your life.
Know that you are stepping in the midst of snares
And walking about the battlements of a city.
14 Evaluate your neighbors as best you can
And consult with those who are wise.
15 Let your reasoning be with those who are wise,
And let all your talk be about the law of the Most High.
16 Let righteous men be your dinner companions,
And let your boasting be in the fear of the Lord.
17 A work will be praised for the skill of its craftsmen,
And a wise leader of people for the skill of his words.
18 A talkative man is regarded with fear in his city,
And a man who is reckless in his speech will be hated.





Notes:
·         This chapter focuses on our associations, which are valuable to us in the sight of God and our eternal life, and which are a distraction. It begins with the most crucial relationship to have in order, the relationship between men and women.
·         1: We should encourage our wives’ gifts and not be “jealous” of them. Note that the reason for not being jealous is to avoid “teach[ing] an evil lesson” about her husband. Husbands should behave as the foundation of virtue in the household and not give the wife cause for trouble by making that foundation weak or appear weak.
·         2: A woman that compromises man’s strength is forbidden outright because of the unnecessary struggles and certain troubles it will cause. Tertullian writes, “If there dwelt upon earth a faith as great as is the reward of faith which is expected in the heavens, no one of you at all, best beloved sisters, from the time that she had first known the Lord, and learned [the truth] concerning her own (i.e., woman’s) condition, would have desired too gladsome (not to say too ostentatious) a style of dress; so as not rather to go about in humble garb, and rather to affect meanness of appearance, walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve, — the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium (attaching to her as the cause) of human perdition. In pains and in anxieties do you bear [children], woman; and toward your husband is your inclination, and he lords it over you. And do you not know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age…” (Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapter 1.)
·         3 – 9: In these verses, we read critical advice in men’s behavior with women. This advice is as relevant today as in the author’s day. Each verse speaks to a temptation and the consequence of falling into temptation. Vv. 3 – 7 is basic advice to avoid those who endanger one’s soul and continues to teach on the importance of healthy associations. Vv. 8, 9 give instruction concerning instruction by associations often unavoidable. V. 8 is common counsel given by spiritual fathers today: turn away one’s gaze from an attractive woman. Today, this advice is given the addition to look downward and return to the Jesus Prayer. V. 9 many dismiss as rude, or only for the weak, but this verse does not qualify. It is inappropriate for a man to go out with another man’s wife. Women should not imitate these types either. St. Clement of Alexandria teaches, “And much more must we keep pure from shameful deeds: on the one hand, from exhibiting and exposing parts of the body which we ought not; and on the other, from beholding what is forbidden… superfluous and diaphanous materials are the proof of a weak mind, covering as they do the shame of the body with a slender veil. For luxurious clothing, which cannot conceal the shape of the body, is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily, and adhering as it were to the flesh, receives its shape, and marks out the woman's figure, so that the whole make of the body is visible to spectators…” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book II).
·         The chapter turns from associations regarding women to associations regarding friends and neighbors.
·         10: Old and acquired friendships are superior to new and maybe spontaneous or superfluous friendships. We sometimes must choose between friends. The new and excitable should not be gained ever at the expense of the tried and trusted friendships. Like wine, friendships improve as time passes.
·         11 – 13: More instruction concerning our associations in these verses warns that we ought to detach from sinners, the ungodly, and men with “the power to kill”. Each of these detachments is to protect us from the power of death (spiritual and physical), protect us from illusory and fleeting pleasure which the unrighteous offer, and keeping us from the peace of God.
·         14 – 16: Our relationships are commanded to be among those who love God and His ways, i.e. the righteous, the reasonable, and the wise. We are also given the command to evaluate our neighbors, and judge their life as worthy of our company. This is not a proud act, but ought to be out of love for God. Our attachments and associations are with the righteous. We are given the command to make our talk about the commandments of God. With this as the criteria for our life’s relationships, we form the best and strongest bonds.
·         The next seven verses provide insight to leaders pleasing to God.
·         17 – 18: The wise ruler builds constructive order beneath him, while the “talkative” brings “reckless” destruction.

CHAPTER 10.



1 A wise leader will educate his people,
And the rule of an intelligent man will be well ordered.
2 As goes the leader of a people, so also are his officials,
And all the inhabitants of a city will reflect its ruler.
3 An undisciplined king will ruin his people,
But a city will be made habitable through the wisdom of its rulers.
4 The authority of the earth is in the hand of the Lord,
And He will raise up the right man for an appointed time.
5 The success of a man is in the hand of the Lord,
And He confers His honor upon the person of the scribe.
6 Do not cherish anger against your neighbor for any injury,
And do nothing by acts of insolence.
7 Arrogance is hateful before God and man,
And wrongdoing is offensive to both.
8 Dominion is transferred from nation to nation
Because of wrongdoing, insolence, and wealth.
9 How can he who is earth and ashes be arrogant?
Because even while living, his insides are decaying.
10 A physician scoffs at a long illness,
And a king today will also die tomorrow.
11 When a man dies, he will inherit
Reptiles, wild animals, and worms.
12 The beginning of a man's arrogance is to depart from the Lord,
For his heart withdraws from the One who created him.
13 For the beginning of arrogance is sin,
And he who takes hold of it will pour out an abomination.
Therefore the Lord will bring them extraordinary distress
And completely destroy them.
14 The Lord pulls down the thrones of rulers
And seats the gentle in their place.
15 The Lord plucks out the roots of nations
And plants the humble in their place.
16 The Lord overthrows the lands of the nations
And destroys them to the foundations of the earth.
17 He removes some of them and destroys them,
And puts an end to their memory on the earth.
18 Arrogance was not created by mankind,
Nor fierce anger by the offspring of women.
19 What kind of seed is honored?
The seed of man.
What kind of seed is honored?
Those who fear the Lord.
What kind of seed is dishonored?
The seed of man.
What kind of seed is dishonored?
Those who transgress the commandments.
20 Among brothers their leader is honored,
And those who fear the Lord are honored in His eyes.
21 The fear of the Lord goes before the obtaining of authority,
But roughness and pride is the losing thereof.
22 The rich and the honored and the poor alike—
Their boasting is the fear of the Lord.
23 It is not right to dishonor an intelligent poor man,
Nor is it proper to honor a sinful man.
24 The nobleman, the judge, and the ruler will be honored,
But none of them is greater than the one who fears the Lord.
25 Free men will render service to a wise servant,
And an understanding man will not grumble.
26 Do not put your wisdom on display when you do your work,
Nor magnify yourself in the time of your trouble.
27 Better is he who works and has plenty
Than he who magnifies himself but has no bread.
28 My son, honor your soul with gentleness
And give it honor according to its worth.
29 Who will declare righteous the man who sins against his soul,
And who will honor the man who dishonors his life?
30 A poor man is honored for his knowledge,
While a rich man is honored for his wealth.
31 If a man is honored in poverty,
How much more in wealth,
And if a man is dishonored in wealth,
How much more in poverty?




Notes:
·         1: Along with that which was mentioned about the wise ruler two verses before, the wise ruler also seeks to share his wisdom with his subjects and draw out their gifts and talents towards an improving way of life.
·         2 – 5: A leader influences his people for better or for worse. A leader is appointed by God for each people fitting for them to come to repentance.
·         Now an analysis of arrogance takes place and its danger.
·         6 – 7: This is not a command against anger, because anger is important in the spiritual life. Rather, a command to not use anger against a neighbor. Anger is directed towards sin, the devil, not man, and certainly not against God but towards God. Here we also have commands against insolence, arrogance, and wrongdoing. Insolence and arrogance stems from pride and putting oneself outside a healthy order of living. Its manifestation is marked by a severe lack of love towards God and neighbor.
·         8: Such an attitude as described immediately before this is how nations and empires fall. Humility and repentance towards God and His commandments marks a healthy people.
·         9 – 13: These verses provide us insight into the utterly ridiculous disposition of arrogance and the destruction it brings to a man. This passage is an excellent example of the inseparable tie between spiritual life and theology. We are reminded we are but dust of the earth and subject to death and corruption. Then we are taught the origin of arrogance is when a man’s heart breaks communion with the Living God from Whom all energy comes. Man was created to be a slave of the Most High and receive divine life from Him. An arrogant man will have a disturbing life and disturb others’ lives as long as He resists his properly ordered place in God’s Creation.
·         14 – 16: Even great nations are destroyed due to arrogance. They are replaced with humble and gentle rulers. The Bible is full of these examples, and when we study history, we see the pattern continue. One example which the Great St. Gregory the Dialogist offers to us is the Prophet and God-seer Moses. St. Gregory clearly shows Moses humility and meekness when he writes “since it is very difficult for any one to be sure that he has been cleansed, it is safer to decline the office of preaching, though (as we have said) it should not be declined pertinaciously when the Supernal Will that it should be undertaken is recognized.  Both requirements Moses marvellously fulfilled, who was unwilling to be set over so great a multitude, and yet obeyed. For peradventure he were proud, were he to undertake without trepidation the leadership of that innumerable people; and, again, proud he would plainly be were he to refuse to obey his Lord’s command. Thus in both ways humble, in both ways submissive, he was unwilling, as measuring himself, to be set over the people; and yet, as presuming on the might of Him who commanded him, he consented.  Hence, then, hence let all rash ones infer how great guilt is theirs, if they fear not to be preferred to others by their own seeking, when holy men, even when God commanded, feared to undertake the leadership of peoples.  Moses trembles though God persuades him; and yet every weak one pants to assume the burden of dignity; and one who can hardly bear his own load without falling, gladly puts his shoulders under the pressure of others not his own:  his own deeds are too heavy for him to carry, and he augments his burden” (St. Gregory the Dialogist, Book of Pastoral Rule, Chapter 7).
·         17: The place of memory is prevalent throughout the Church. The Psalmist says, “…the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 111:6b-7). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (cf. Luke 16:19-31), the Rich Man is not given a name. The Lord orders history and the remembrance of men in Creation’s history to bring men to repentance. “Some” examples of men unpleasing to God, history forgets them, by the will of God for the sake of future generations. The memory of the righteous is accomplished in the Church primarily through the recognition of the saints.
·         18: This verse warns us not to be arrogant because it comes from Satan. St. Nikolai Velimirovich prays “Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them… They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers By the Lake, Volume 5.)
·         The next twelve verses concern honor. Honor has the additional meaning here of highly valuable.
·         19: In this verse, there is reference to seeds. This speaks to the potential of growth and transformation of each of us. We should grow into a honorable divine-human existence through the God-man, Jesus Christ. The fear of the Lord is honored by salvation, God’s love, and becoming true human beings which become gods of Creation (cf. Psalm 81:6; John 10:31-39), mediating between heaven and earth through God’s divine energy. However, we can also exist in a subhuman existence, enslaved to the devils, and living like an animal instead of realizing the worth which God bestows upon us at the beginning of our lives. When we do not bring honor to ourselves through fear of the Lord, then we are not following God’s commandments. The commandments of the Lord are for our transformation and glory beyond any animal existence.
·         20 – 24: The fear of the Lord is admirable and of greater honor than all earthly honors. A genuine leader will honor one who fears the Lord above his intelligence, his riches, and his authority. One who fears the Lord should be honored despite these things or the lack of them. The fear of the Lord is the greatest honor for us, because the honor comes from God rather than others.
·         25: The wise leader who recognizes and encourages his subjects to fear the Lord will have free men follow him. Men of “understanding” under such a leader will not “grumble” against his leadership.
·         26, 27: Hearkening back to the verses concerning arrogance and being ever vigilant against the most dangerous sin which is pride, we receive even practical advice in the world for not becoming prideful. Our lives are better when we live simply and work hard rather than “magnify” our talents and abilities. Our talents and abilities are given to us by God, but when we become spiritual, even these are crucified for power from the Holy Spirit.
·         28, 29: What is the worth of one soul? More than the cosmos itself, according to the Lord (cf. Matthew 16:26). These verses speak as if this is common knowledge, unfortunately modern society has forgotten this, even questioned the existence of the soul. However, one who violates the pursuit of a healthy soul and lives in sin brings dishonor to himself. Good people do not want to dishonor their souls and God certainly will not honor such a sin-filled soul.
·         30, 31: Honor transcends the dichotomy of wealth and poverty. Yet it does amplify one’s honor or dishonor.

SUNDAY:
CHAPTER 11.



1 The wisdom of a humble man will exalt his head,
And he will take his seat among the great.
2 Do not praise a man for his good looks,
And do not detest one because of his appearance.
3 The bee is small among winged creatures,
But her fruit is first among sweet things.
4 Do not boast about your fine clothes,
Nor magnify yourself in the day you are honored;
Because the works of the Lord are wondrous,
And His works are hidden from men.
5 Many tyrants have sat on the ground,
But one never thought of has worn a crown.
6 Many rulers have suffered exceeding disgrace,
And honored men have been betrayed into the hands of others.
7 Do not find fault before you examine a situation.
First, understand it, and then make your judgment.
8 Do not answer before you have listened,
And do not interrupt someone while he is talking.
9 Do not argue about a matter that does not concern you,
And do not sit together with sinners when they judge a case.
10 My son, do not let your business involve too many things.
If you multiply them, you will not remain unpunished,
And if you pursue them, you will not overtake them;
And you will not escape by running away.
11 There is a man who works and works
And keeps on working, but is in much more poverty.
12 There is another who is sluggish and in need of help;
And he lacks strength and abounds in poverty.
But the eyes of the Lord look upon him for his good
And restores his well-being from his humble state.
13 He raises up his head,
And many are amazed at this.
14 Good and bad, life and death, poverty and wealth—
These are from the Lord.
15 The gift of the Lord remains with the godly,
And His approval brings prosperity forever.
16 There is a man who grows rich
Because of his attention and restraint;
And this is the portion of his reward:
17 When he says, “I have found rest,
And now I will partake of my good things.”
Yet he does not know how much time will pass until he will die
And leave them behind to others.
18 Stand by your covenant and attend to it,
And grow old in your work.
19 Do not be amazed at the works of a sinner,
But trust in the Lord and remain at your work;
Because it is easy in the sight of the Lord
To make a poor man rich quickly and unexpectedly.
20 The blessing of the Lord is in the reward of a godly man,
And in an instant He makes his blessings flourish.
21 Do not say, “What do I need,
And what good things will be mine in the future?”
22 Do not say, “I am independent.
From now on, what will harm me?”
23 In the day of good things,
There is forgetfulness of bad things,
And in the day of bad things,
There is no remembrance of good things.
24 For it is easy in the judgment of the Lord
To reward a man on the day of his death according to his ways.
25 The ill-treatment of an hour makes one forget luxury,
And at the end of a man's life,
There shall be a revelation of his works.
26 Consider no man happy before his death,
And a man will be known in his children.
27 Do not bring every man into your home,
For the plots of the deceitful are many.
28 The heart of an arrogant man is like a decoy partridge in a cage,
And like a spy he watches for your fall.
29 For he lies in wait and turns good into evil,
And he will attach blame to the good one chooses.
30 From a spark of fire a charcoal fire is kindled,
And a sinful man lies in wait for bloodshed.
31 Beware of an evildoer and his schemes,
Lest he bring lasting blame upon you.
32 Receive a stranger into your home
And he will upset you with troubles,
And alienate your family from you.




Notes:
·         1: After instruction about the evils of arrogance and the honor bestowed by God, a synthesis between these two on how honor in the world should be understood. The opening verse has an appeal to wisdom born of humility.
·         2 – 4: A warning against appearances. We should not “praise” nor “detest” any one due to looks, which are surely the most superfluous aspects of our life. First, we receive a lesson from the bee. A small creature which creates the greatest sweet of the ancient world and still a significant one today. Then a prohibition is given to magnify ourselves. The greatest wonders come from God, and not man, and yet, God keeps these hidden. But they are being revealed to the saints in theoria who have humbled themselves before God and fellow men.
·         5 – 6: Another rough translation of the first part of v. 5 is “many tyrants judge the foundations”. That is, a tyrant will criticize and position himself over others but will not take the responsibilities of the crown. These men may harm those in authority over them and betray honorable men God has put in positions of authorities. Europe abandoning their kings for the mob of plurality provides many examples of the wisdom found in this verse.
·         7 – 9: A treasure of wisdom concerning how we should judge exists in these three verses. Each verse is plain spoken language on how one should judge and the importance of not being hasty. Patience is a valuable virtue and often brings understanding.
·         The chapter now turns focus towards instruction on how we treat riches and poverty.
·         10 – 13: Poverty can come about in at least two ways as these verses tell us. The first way is by much work without focus which leads to a ruination of oneself and any associates who suffer the adverse effects of such behavior. However, another way is by a lack of strength and suffering. If such a man is humble, the Lord has mercy on him and others glorify the goodness of God.
·         14: God is always at work, personally, in our life to bring us to salvation and a participation in glorious communion with Himself. Therefore, what we consider good and bad, or what brings us physical life and death, whether we have material riches or poverty are all from God for a higher way of life. Christians take this to another level. Christians do not care about riches, health, favor, they are nothing to us. We only care for the grace of God.
·         15: While the Lord may give material blessings to those who follow Him, this is not always the case. When the Lord promises riches, gifts, prosperity, inheritance, or such things, He speaks of His grace or divine energy. His grace does not bring carnal pleasure or material pleasure but spiritual pleasure (as some Fathers call it). St. Basil tells us we are “self-determining” creatures and have the power to choose between the spiritual or fleshy. We have “the right and power to preserve [our] natural state of life [i.e. life of Paradise], by persevering in the contemplation of the good, and the enjoyment of spiritual pleasure. [We] had also the power to turn away from the good. And this it is that happened when, sated with this blessed delight, and weighed down as it were with drowsiness, [we] slipped from the higher sphere, and [were] mingled with the flesh, for the sake of the enjoyment of base satisfactions” (St. Basil the Great. Homily 9, 5).
·         16 – 17: These verses and the preceding verse speak of riches, but v. 16 starts by specifying it speaks of another kind of man. This is the foolish man that stores up his riches. Our Lord Christ hearkens His listeners to these verses when He provides this teaching in His parable (cf. Luke 12:16-21).
·         18: This verse gives a qualification. Of course, we should follow the command to not store up material riches. However, our “covenants” and “work” which brings honor to God should not be abandoned until the physical limitations of old age make it impossible. Even so, one can reduce work and keep attention to it in old age without abandoning it.
·         19 – 23: There are analogies that are useful through the course of our life when looking at wealth and poverty or experiencing it ourselves. We should remember the nation of Israel was a stepping stone for the coming of Christ. So, riches that the Lord gives are no longer primarily in the world, but primarily in heaven. In Sirach’s day, these did mean physical blessings, but they were to transcend such an earthly mind and acquire a heavenly one. One should remember that the source of riches and poverty is God, thus we should not invest our whole life nor our emotions in wealth. We should not become arrogant, setting ourselves apart from God.
·         24 – 25: Again, a reminder of death is always a spiritually healthy practice. Not only is it “easy” for the Lord to judge a man at his death, but God does exactly this. The Church calls it the “partial judgement” with the Final Judgement occurring at the resurrection. Once a man passes from life, his actions are remembered more than his luxurious life. Even if a man is remembered for his great wealth, after his death and in a short time, he becomes remembered for how he acquired his wealth.
·         26: This verse offers insights into the human condition while in this corrupt world. We should consider no man happy, even if they go to great lengths to appear that way. We have knowledge from God that this is truly a mask they wear. We can also see patterns in the virtues and vices of others when they manifest themselves in children, sometimes more explicitly.
·         Before this instruction on riches was warnings against arrogance and dishonor. Now after the instruction on riches, we receive warnings on deceitful and sinful men. Rich men should take heed of all the warnings herein. This book explains instruction for a godly attitude towards riches.
·         27 – 32: The home protects the family. There should be watchfulness for those who enter a family’s only fortification. A passionate man who wishes harm to a family or family member will find many ways to come into a house. The deceitful are constantly scheming, looking to harm us when vulnerable enough. This behavior by evil men commonly occurs in the corrupt world. He is always friendly, helpful, or provides a need, but then he destroys the cohesion and harmony in the family.