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Chapter 29

Loans, Alms and Surety[a]

The merciful lend to their neighbor,
    by holding out a helping hand, they keep the commandments.(A)
Lend to your neighbor in his time of need,
    and pay back your neighbor in time.(B)
Keep your promise and be honest with him,
    and at all times you will find what you need.
Many borrowers ask for a loan
    and cause trouble for those who help them.
Till he gets a loan, he kisses the lender’s hand
    and speaks softly of his creditor’s money,
But at time of payment, delays,
    makes excuses, and finds fault with the timing.
If he can pay, the lender will recover barely half,
    and will consider that a windfall.
If he cannot pay, the lender is cheated of his money
    and acquires an enemy at no extra charge;
With curses and insults the borrower will repay,
    and instead of honor will repay with abuse.
Many refuse to lend, not out of meanness,
    but from fear of being cheated needlessly.

But with those in humble circumstances be patient;
    do not keep them waiting for your alms.
Because of the commandment, help the poor,
    and in their need, do not send them away empty-handed.(C)
10 Lose your money for relative or friend;
    do not hide it under a stone to rot.
11 Dispose of your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High,
    and that will profit you more than the gold.(D)
12 [b]Store up almsgiving in your treasury,
    and it will save you from every evil.
13 Better than a mighty shield and a sturdy spear
    it will fight for you against the enemy.

14 [c]A good person will be surety for a neighbor,
    but whoever has lost a sense of shame will fail him.(E)
15 Do not forget the kindness of your backer,
    for he has given his very life for you.
16 A sinner will turn the favor of a pledge into misfortune,
17     and the ungrateful will abandon his rescuer.
18 Going surety has ruined many who were prosperous
    and tossed them about like waves of the sea;(F)
It has exiled the prominent
    and sent them wandering through foreign lands.
19 The sinner will come to grief through surety,
    and whoever undertakes too much will fall into lawsuits.
20 Help your neighbor according to your means,
    but take care lest you fall yourself.

Frugality and Its Rewards[d]

21 Life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing,
    and also a house for decent privacy.(G)
22 Better is the life of the poor under the shadow of their own roof
    than sumptuous banquets among strangers.(H)
23 Whether little or much, be content with what you have:
    then you will hear no reproach as a parasite.
24 It is a miserable life to go from house to house,
    for where you are a guest you dare not open your mouth.
25 You will entertain and provide drink without being thanked;
    besides, you will hear these bitter words:
26 “Come here, you parasite, set the table,
    let me eat the food you have there!
27 Go away, you parasite, for one more worthy;
    for my relative’s visit I need the room!”
28 Painful things to a sensitive person
    are rebuke as a parasite and insults from creditors.


  1. 29:1–20 Some practical maxims concerning the use of wealth. Give to the poor (vv. 8–9), lend to a needy neighbor, but repay when a loan falls due lest the lender’s burden be increased (vv. 1–5) and his kindness abused (vv. 6–7); through charity build up defense against evil (vv. 10–13). Help your neighbor according to your means, but take care not to fall (v. 20), for the shameless play false and bring their protectors and themselves to misfortune and ruin (vv. 14–19).
  2. 29:12–13 In Ben Sira’s day, almsgiving and righteousness were practically identified.
  3. 29:14–17 Ben Sira is more lenient on going surety than earlier sages; cf. Prv 6:1–5.
  4. 29:21–28 Those who provide their own basic needs of food, clothing and dwelling, and are content with what they have, preserve their freedom and self-respect (vv. 21–23). But if they live as guests, even among the rich, they expose themselves to insult and rebuke (vv. 24–28).

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