Father Eugene Hemrick

Father Eugene Hemrick

For newly married couples, reading the Old Testament Book of Sirach is perfect for deepening your first love for each other. If children come along, teach them its principles, which contain the perfect seeds for growing their wisdom. And for everyone, not just married couples, it is a must-read.

The Book of Sirach is sometimes referred to as the “Wisdom of Ben Sira.”

Who was Ben Sira?

He lived in Jerusalem around 200 B.C. studying the prophets, law and wisdom tradition. The New American Bible calls him a “sage,” a “wise and experienced observer” whose motivation was to help “maintain religious faith and integrity through the study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.”


The Book of Sirach also was written in part to counter the wisdom of great Greek thinkers and point out that God’s wisdom is supreme.

Its theme: To be righteous is to live God’s law. Law is often perceived as following rules and regulations. Righteousness goes beyond legalism; it is to strive for holiness that draws us closer to God. This translates into developing values, ethics, morality and piety in accordance with God’s wisdom.

The Book of Sirach is especially needed today because of blatant falsehoods, pitiable rhetoric, egotistical self-righteousness and less respect for God. More often than not, God’s wisdom is overridden by “pseudo-wisdom.”

Seldom do we hear of God’s role in discerning economic progress, protecting our ecosystems and creating effective standards for successful world diplomacy. Without God, science and the political world tend to be devoid of divine inspiration.

Sirach states, “Unjust anger can never be justified; anger pulls a person to utter ruin. Until the right time, the patient remain calm, then cheerfulness comes back to them. Until the right time they hold back their words; then the lips of many will tell of their good sense. … Do not be a hypocrite before others; over your lips keep watch” (1:22-24, 29).


Note the suggested wisdom for an age in which the first unbridled ideas that come to mind immediately hit the airwaves and social media.

Sirach counsels, “Do not say, ‘Who can prevail against me?’ for the Lord will exact punishment” (5:3). This leads us to ask ourselves, “Does much of today’s egotistical rhetoric sound strident because it lacks humility?”

Sirach advises, “Be steadfast regarding your knowledge, and let your speech be consistent” (5:10). Could it be that daily demands in the news are yet another cacophony causing us to want to cover our ears?

If lived, Sirach’s wisdom contains the perfect system of checks and balances needed to guide us safely through challenging times.