Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

More Thoughts on the Apocrypha

Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach- This is a very interesting book. Written by a teacher for his students, it contains a lot of great, practical advice for holy living. A few of the things I noted along the way:

"Never dine with another man's wife, or revel with her at wine; or your heart may turn aside to her, and in blood you may be plunged into destruction." (9:10)
How many times to we see this occur even within the Church today? When men do not sufficiently guard the exclusive nature of the marriage relationship and allow themselves to develop deep and intimate friendships with women other than their wives, adultery is the natural result. However, to suggest that a married man can't have lots of close female friends is considered intolerant and outdated.

"Riches are inappropriate for a small-minded person; and of what use is wealth to a miser?...Do good to friends before you die, and reach out and give to them as much as you can. Do not deprive yourself of a day's enjoyment; do not let your share of desired good pass by you." (14:3, 13-14)
This passage echoes Solomon's wisdom in Ecclesiastes. The man who hoards money, misses out on real wealth. He who is not liberal with his money fails to help his friends, and denies himself the good things that God has given us for our enjoyment. Money is artificial wealth. Friends, family, food and frivolity are real wealth and are given by God.

"Do not desire a multitude of worthless children, and do not rejoice in ungodly offspring. If they multiply, do not rejoice in them, unless the fear of the Lord is in them. Do not trust in their survival or rely on their numbers; for one can be better than a thousand, and to die childless is better than to have ungodly children. For through one intelligent person a city can be filled with people, but through a clan of outlaws it becomes desolate." (16:1-4)
This is a good warning for us, as Christians to heed. We live in a culture where children are considered a curse instead of a blessing, where we are encouraged to murder babies for the sake of convenience. Thankfully, many Christians have been responding to this lie by having lots of babies and this is a good thing. We need to overcome our selfish and wicked culture. However, lots of kids are not an automatic blessing, and this passage is a good reminder of that. If we are not careful to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, then they become a curse rather than a blessing. It is indeed better to die childless than to introduce a brood of ungodly children into the world. We want to be multiplying the kingdom, not the ranks of the enemy, and therefore we must be trusting God in faith as we raise our children that they may be godly.

"Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Be brave, it will not make you burst! Having heard something the fool suffers birth pangs like a woman in labor with a child. Like an arrow stuck in a person's thigh, so is gossip inside a fool." (19:10-12)
I thought this image of a gossip being like a woman in labor was both funny and very true.

"There is wrath and impudence and great disgrace when a wife supports her husband." (25:22)
I don't have a lot to say about this one, except that our culture really needs to hear it.

"A wife's charm delights her husband, and her skill puts flesh on his bones. A silent wife is a gift from the Lord, and nothing is so precious as her self-discipline. A modest wife adds charm to charm, and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity. Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home. Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand, so is a beautiful face on a stately figure. like golden pillars on silver bases, so are shapely legs and steadfast feet." (26:13-18)

"One who loves gold will not be justified; one who pursues money will be led astray by it. Many have come to ruin because of gold, and their destruction has met them face to face. It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it, and every fool will be taken captive by it. Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless and who does not go after gold. Who is he that we may praise him? For he has done wonders among his people. Who has been tested by it and been found perfect? Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress, and to do evil and did not do it? His prosperity will be established, and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity." (31:5-11)
I find that this passage displays a healthy balance. Rich people are not condemned as sinful, nor is wealth, per se. Displaying a Biblical view, the author shows that the pursuit or love of wealth is sinful. However it is possible, though very difficult, for a man to be rich without loving riches, and such a man is especially blessed. And how is he blessed? His prosperity is established. So though the love of money is wicked, the possession of money is not, and the blessing for being liberal with riches and giving it away is that God will establish your prosperity and bless you with more.

"Wine is very life to human beings if taken in moderation. What is life to one who is without wine? It has been created to make people happy. Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul. Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit, to quarrels and stumbling. Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own hurt, reducing his strength and adding wounds." (31:27-30)
Once again, we see a wonderful Biblical balance in recognizing that God's creation is good, and intended to be used for our pleasure, but not abused to our detriment.

The book of Sirach is a good book of godly advice for Christians. I found the author's perspective to be very Biblical in most areas and I feel that I've benefited by reading it. However, there is one recurring problem with the book that needs to be addressed. The author's view of women is often a very negative one, his wonderful poem about wives notwithstanding. At one point he says that the virtue of a woman is on par with the vice of a man, and he continually views women with suspicion. He even goes so far at one point as to say, "From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die," (25:24), apparently meaning that the curse came through Eve rather than Adam. Whether he uses this type of language hyperbolically because he is directing his words to young men and wishes them to avoid fornication, or whether he really considers women to be vessels of temptation here to test men I can't say. Without knowledge of the context, his statements seem pretty harsh. However, in light of the overall goodness of the book, I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt.


Jnorm888 said…
Excellent post