First Reading: Sirach 27:5-8

Judging Others

5 The furnace tests the potter’s vessels;
so the test of a person is in his thoughts.
6 The fruit of a tree discloses its cultivation,
so is the utterance of the thought of a person’s heart.
7 Praise no man before you hear his thoughts,
for this is how people are tested.
8 If you follow righteousness, you will obtain her,
And put her on, as a long robe of glory.

World English Bible

The book of Sirach (also known as "Ecclesiasticus" from the Latin Vulgate) was written by Jeshua ben Eleazar ben Sira in the early second century, BC. Jeshua wrote in Alexandria, Egypt, where a large Jewish population lived. Because the Jewish population was native (second generation and beyond), they had lost Hebrew and adopted Greek as a native language. While the book was originally written in Hebrew, it was quickly translated into Greek and found its way into the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The book is a collection of wise sayings useful for teaching ethics to the young. Written in the first person, the book extolled the Hebrew traditions. These factors indicate the writing was possibly used as a text book in religious schools found in the Jewish quarter of Alexandria.

In this passage, Sirach encouraged a small dose of skepticism, akin to “don’t judge a book by its cover.” He counseled his students to see beyond the good looks, the fancy clothes, the smooth flow of speech or the alluring ring of rhetoric; the wise person should peer into the mind and the heart. Only then, Sirach insisted, could you find the person’s true character. The one seeking righteous friends should test them to find out if they were truly worthy.

Sirach was honored in the early Church as a guide to life. It still has that power.

What does it take for you to trust others? How is testing others different from criticizing them?