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The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus): Chapter 29

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Loans, Alms and Surety*

1He does a kindness who lends to his neighbor, and he fulfills the precepts who holds out a helping hand. a Dt 15, 8; Ps 112, 5; Prv 19, 17 . 2Lend to your neighbor in his hour of need, and pay back your neighbor when a loan falls due; b Ex 22, 24ff; Lv 25, 36; Mt 5, 42 . 3Keep your promise, be honest with him, and you will always come by what you need. 4Many a man who asks for a loan adds to the burdens of those who help him; 5When he borrows, he kisses the lender’s hand and speaks with respect of his creditor’s wealth; But when payment is due he disappoints him and says he is helpless to meet the claim. 6If the lender is able to recover barely half, he considers this an achievement; If not, he is cheated of his wealth and acquires an enemy at no extra charge; With curses and insults the borrower pays him back, with abuse instead of honor. 7Many refuse to lend, not out of meanness, but from fear of being cheated.

8To a poor man, however, be generous; keep him not waiting for your alms; 9Because of the precept, help the needy, and in their want, do not send them away empty-handed. c Sir 4, 1ff; Lv 19, 9f; 23, 22; Dt 15, 8 .

10Spend your money for your brother and friend, and hide it not under a stone to perish; 11Dispose of your treasure as the Most High commands, for that will profit you more than the gold. d Sir 17, 17; Tb 4, 7ff . 12Store up almsgiving in your treasure house, and it will save you from every evil; 13Better than a stout shield and a sturdy spear it will fight for you against the foe.

14A good man goes surety for his neighbor, and only the shameless would play him false; e Sir 8, 13 . 15Forget not the kindness of your backer, for he offers his very life for you. 16The wicked turn a pledge on their behalf into misfortune, and the ingrate abandons his protector; 17Going surety has ruined many prosperous men and tossed them about like waves of the sea, f Prv 6, 1f; 11, 15 . 18Has exiled men of prominence and sent them wandering through foreign lands. 19The sinner through surety comes to grief, and he who undertakes too much falls into lawsuits. 20Go surety for your neighbor according to your means, but take care lest you fall thereby.

Frugality and Its Rewards*

21Life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing, a house, too, for decent privacy. g Sir 39, 26 . 22Better a poor man’s fare under the shadow of one’s own roof than sumptuous banquets among strangers. h Sir 40, 29 . 23Be it little or much, be content with what you have, and pay no heed to him who would disparage your home; 24A miserable life it is to go from house to house, for as a guest you dare not open your mouth. 25The visitor has no thanks for filling the cups; besides, you will hear these bitter words: 26“Come here, stranger, set the table, give me to eat the food you have! 27Away, stranger, for one more worthy; for my brother’s visit I need the room!” 28Painful things to a sensitive man are abuse at home and insults from his creditors.

Notes:

a: Dt 15, 8; Ps 112, 5; Prv 19, 17 .

b: Ex 22, 24ff; Lv 25, 36; Mt 5, 42 .

c: Sir 4, 1ff; Lv 19, 9f; 23, 22; Dt 15, 8 .

d: Sir 17, 17; Tb 4, 7ff .

e: Sir 8, 13 .

f: Prv 6, 1f; 11, 15 .

g: Sir 39, 26 .

h: Sir 40, 29 .

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

29, 21–28 :

The man who provides his own basic needs of food, clothing and dwelling, and is content with what he has, preserves his freedom and self-respect (21ff). But if he lives as a guest, even among the rich, he exposes himself to insult and abuse (24–28).

29, 1–20 :

Some practical maxims concerning the use of wealth. Give to a poor man (8f), lend to a needy neighbor, but repay when a loan falls due lest the lender’s burden be increased (1–5) and his kindness abused (6f); through charity build up defense against evil (10–13). Go surety for your neighbor according to your means, but take care (20) not to fall, for the shameless play false and bring their protectors and themselves to misfortune and ruin (14–19).

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