In this section, the writer gives us the virtues of a life of self-control.
(22) Unrighteous anger cannot be justified, for a man’s anger tips the scale to his ruin.
The Apostle Paul tells us,
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (Ephesians 4:26 NASB)
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26 NLT)
Anger is seen as something not to be a part of in the new community being organized in the Gospels. (See Matthew 5.22), however, as human as anger is, divinity requires anger to cease. Anger, for Sirach as is later said by Christ, places the person in an unwelcome position.
The other affections which are within us, are in some cases useful. For instance, Anger is often useful. For (saith he) “unjust wrath shall not be innocent”: wherefore it is possible for one to be justly in wrath. (Chrysostom – Homily on Hebrews)
We would be told by Paul that temperance was a fruit of the spirit.
(23) A patient man will endure until the right moment, and then joy will burst forth for him.
(24) He will hide his words until the right moment, and the lips of many will tell of his good sense.
(25) In the treasuries of wisdom are wise sayings, but godliness is an abomination to a sinner.
Sirach sees the man under control of himself with patience, joy, a good reputation, and wisdom. The Apostle Paul echoes this as well with his constant fight to bring his own body on control. It is a daily war, Paul laments, but it is made easier by the help of the Paraclete.
(26) If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will supply it for you.
(27) For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction, and he delights in fidelity and meekness.
Sirach here mixes in such is the notions as we would describe as free will and grace. If we desire Wisdom – which the New Testament community would (con)fuse with Christ and later writers – then we must keep His commandments. Paul tell us in Colossians 3.16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,’. John relates to us the words of Christ,
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10 NASB)
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (John 15:10 NLT)
The two authors share the same thought pattern, in that if a believer keeps the commandments of God, then it is God who will give Wisdom, on in John’s case, love, the Spirit, and the Son, which at various times each is (con)fused with Wisdom herself.
Returning to Sirach, we read,
(28) Do not disobey the fear of the Lord; do not approach him with a divided mind.
It seems the ‘fear’ here is personified as well, as Wisdom has been and Word will be. It was a come practice among 2nd Temple Judaism to personify certain attributes of God, such as Wisdom, His Word, and the Name of the Lord. Especially in John, we can see that Christ is the personified nature of the Father, Wisdom, Logos, and is fully invested with the Name of the Father.
(29) Be not a hypocrite in men’s sight, and keep watch over your lips.
(30) Do not exalt yourself lest you fall, and thus bring dishonor upon yourself. The Lord will reveal your secrets and cast you down in the midst of the Assembly, because you did not come in the fear of the Lord, and your heart was full of deceit.
Assembly is ἐκκλησίᾳ, with is often times translated as Church in the New Testament. In Stephen’s speech at his martyrdom, he easily calls Israel God’s Assembly (Church in the KJV), which was not the first time that this word was applied to Israel, although it later became singled out for the Christian community,
Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us. (Acts 7:38 NLT)
This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us. (Acts 7:38 RSV)
οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ γενόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σινᾶ καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, ὃς ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ἡμῖν,
As the New Testament community developed past the synagogue, and the Greek Old Testament was used for the new Gentile converts, ἐκκλησίᾳ no doubt become a point of connection between the new community and the old.
Sirach is warning that those that are without self control will not be missed by God who will reveal the secrets where all of the people of God may see.