(1) Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I am independent.”
(2) Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.
(3) Do not say, “Who will hold power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you.
The Prophet Amos preached against the idea that wealth will shield you from the natural course of this world. It will buy you neither salvation or security from death. The greed that plagues our society is a great disease, bringing with it destruction, hatred, evil. It is not a sin to be wealthy; however, it is a sin to trust so much in your wealth that it becomes a shield to you from the Lord. The Apostle Paul gave to Timothy a great Charge in his ministry, and in one of those aspects, we read,
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1st Timothy 6:17 from the King James Version)
We can read of the similarities of Paul the Pharisee and Sirach the Jewish Master and see the agreement that produces an idea that those who would entertain themselves with the fantasy that wealth will bring great and eternal things will suffer a great disappointment.
In this passage of Sirach, we find a precursor of the Lord’s parable concerning the Rich Man and his barns. (Luke 12.13-21)
Chrysostom, on this parable, offers sound words,
There is nothing more wretched than such an attitude. In truth he took down his barns; for the safe barns are not walls but the stomach of the poor – Chrysostom, Sermon 2, Wealth and Poverty
Wealth will be good for its possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. But if he is going to give himself up to luxury and other profligacy, not only does it not help him at all, but it even leads him down to the deep pit – Sermon 7, Wealth and Poverty
John Chrysostom also says,
Rich in this world, for others are rich in the world to come.
Implied in Sirach is Paul’s thought of the other riches. It is the Lord in whom we are to trust, and in whom we can gain a steadfast wealth.
The one LORD tells us through His prophet, Jeremiah,
Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 KJVA)
Before Sirach was this warning against trusting in ourselves. Salvation is not of ourselves, but of God, and is the riches of salvation that much occupy our goals.
The Three Sinners
In verses 4 through 8, Sirach examines three attitudes that sinners have –
- Because nothing happened when they sinned, nothing ever will
- Others sin continuously while confident that they can achieve atonement at any time
- While others take the universalistic approach – that God will forgive all
Sirach ends the passage with a warning – do not delay in turning to the Lord.
(4) Do not say, “I sinned, and what has happened to me?” for the Lord is longsuffering.
The Apostle Peter, writing to the diaspora, says,
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9 KJVA)
In our society and world today, there seems to be a silent hope among those that know by tradition the way to Christ but are eager to seek the path of the Prodigal Son, that perhaps they may keep God at bay until their death bed, and upon their death bed, in their final moments, when there is one left to impress and no more sin to pleasure themselves with, that upon this bed they may seek repentance. This is a foolhardy assumption and a dangerous method of living.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJVA)
If the Lord is slow to anger of your sin, then perhaps you no longer have the way of repentance.
O evil Christians, O ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend yourselves before the harvest come. (Augustine, Sermons on the New Testament)
Returning to Sirach, we read,
(5) Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
(6) Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath come from him, and his anger rests on sinners.
Sirach here writes of anger and wrath that awaits the sinner who continues to trust in the wealth of this world, waiting for the opportune moment for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote,
Whom God had publicly put forward that by the shedding of his blood he would be a mercy seat, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint, God had overlooked previously committed sins to declare at this present season his righteousness — That God might be righteous and declare everyone righteous who has faith in the name of Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 Commentary in Translation Version)
Now that there is an exclusive hope in Christ, we must no longer wait to be overlooked. There is no other Gospel, no other remission of sins, no other Hope for the sinner. We cannot hope to out wait the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for sinners to repent.
John Chrysostom speaks of the sinners who wait,
Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.” (Chrysostom on John)
Sirach issues his call for repentance, some that must be done daily.
(7) Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and in the day of vengeance you will perish.
The one Constant in this World is the promise of the Lord. He has said that there is no other way, no hope for the sinner with Christ. He has promised that He will return one day, to bring the final judgment and to bring the Body of Christ into the same relationship that Adam had. His promises are secure and His Word eternal. Knowing this, Sirach in doubt a moment where the Divine Author gripped the pen, and seeing that soon there would come a time that would hasten all of humanity to repentance, warned those that would read his words not to delay in turning to the Lord.
Have we not wept when we seen those that have had the path to repentance slip away in death without ever having traveled the avenue? God is a merciful God, and He has required but the Faith in Jesus Christ to be saved and yet so many are unwilling to give up the riches of this life for the wealth of the World to Come.
The young man again, let him also consider the uncertainty of death, and that oftentimes, when many older persons continued here, the young were carried off before them. For, for this reason, that we may not make traffic of our death, it is left in uncertainty. Wherefore also a certain wise man adviseth, saying, “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for thou knowest not what to-morrow shall bring forth. For by putting off there is danger and fear; but by not putting off manifest and secure salvation. Hold fast then by virtue.” (Chrysostom on 2nd Corinthians)
Let us be like David who wrote, no doubt with Joy,
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.Selah I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.Selah
(Psalms 32:1-5 NKJV)
Finally, Sirach warns us that dishonest wealth, the ill gotten gain, will do nothing for us at the Day of the Lord.
(8) Do not depend on ill gotten gain, for it will not profit you nothing in the day of calamity.