Proverbs 6:1-5

Proverbs 6:1-5 "My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.  Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler."
Elma NY Church
Without question, romance is the topic most discussed in the Book of Proverbs.  Given the fact that romance is one of the most influential factors in what direction a young person goes, it makes sense to address it thoroughly.  Furthermore, given Solomon’s gravitational pull to romance and his extensive experience with it, it shouldn’t be surprising to read so much about romance.  Solomon starts chapter 6 with a topic that he addresses quite often as well as romance – the topic of MONEY.  Given Solomon’s wealth and extensive experience with gold and silver, it shouldn’t be surprising to read so much about finances in the Book of Proverbs either.  Poor romantic decisions can ruin a young person’s life and much the same, poor financial decisions can severely handicap a young person’s life.  

When it comes to finances, Solomon doesn’t address just saving and spending.  Here in chapter 6, he offers some sound counsel pertaining to becoming “surety” for someone else.  This would be the first of five mentions of this word in the Book of Proverbs.  Surety is not a word we use in our financial conversations today but it is a practice we implement in our lending institutions today.  If you’re not familiar with the word, “surety,” the passage will give you enough additional information to get an idea of what it means.  In verse 1, Solomon equates becoming “surety for thy friend” with having “stricken thy hand with a stranger.”  Striking a stranger’s hand was Solomon’s way of saying, “shaking hands,” or closing a deal.  If you’re still not sure what it means to become “surety” for someone, the Bible will define itself when comparing Scripture with Scripture.  In Genesis 43, Judah uses the word in a conversation with his father.  At the time, Jacob and his large family were in need of food during a regional famine.  Jacob sent his sons to Egypt where there was grain to purchase.  While there, the man in charge of the grain (Joseph) wanted the sons of Jacob to bring down their youngest brother (Benjamin) if they were going to get any more grain.  Joseph wanted to see his younger brother although no one knew the Prince of Egypt was Joseph at the time.  Jacob refused to send Benjamin lest some evil happen to him in the process and Jacob would be deprived of both of the sons of his beloved Rachel.  Judah pleaded with his father to let Benjamin go with them so they could get food saying, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.  I will be SURETY for him (Genesis 43:8-9).  What Judah said next would ultimately define what it means to be “surety,” when he said, “of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.”   When comparing Proverbs 6 and Genesis 43, it can easily be concluded that “surety” is becoming responsible for someone in the event of their misfortune or failure.

“Surety” in Scripture is a legally-binding guarantee to pay for someone else’s debts or responsibilities.  In modern terms, becoming “surety for thy friend” is being someone’s CO-SIGNER.  It is making a deal with a financial institution or a business to pay your friend’s financial obligations if they fail to do so.  It is shaking hands or signing paperwork pledging to pay someone’s debt if they are unable to do so.  Many lending institutions require this as a form of protection for their investment, especially if the borrower has a lack of credit or worse, bad credit.

The wise author of Proverbs knew that there’s more to success than sound theological understanding – he knew that his readers would need sound financial understanding.  A lack of understanding about God could ruin a life.  A lack of understanding about romance could ruin a life.  A lack of understanding about finances could ruin a life.  If thousands of dollars owed to a bank becomes your instant responsibility because a friend or family member lacked the financial character to pay their debt, it could severely impact your life and future.  Therefore, Solomon wisely addressed matters of finances with his children and readers.

In these first five verses of Proverbs 6, we learn three simple life truths:

1. Good Intentions don’t always end in Good Decisions.

Solomon isn’t addressing the case where you choose to become collateral for a stranger or an enemy.  He is addressing the choice to become collateral for a FRIEND.  Co-signing for a friend is done with nothing but good intentions.  If a friend needs a car and can’t get one without a loan and if that friend can’t get a loan without a co-signer, then surely a friend would feel the need to help.  Helping out by offering a simple signature may be done with good intentions but is that a good decision?  Solomon describes such a decision as a “snare” in verse 2.  He denounces such a decision and infers it to be a foolish decision.

In this case, co-signing legally binds you for the length of the loan to the character of another person.  Co-signing legally binds you for the length of the loan to the ability and health of another person.  Co-signing legally binds you for the length of the loan to the full amount of that loan.  This is foolish unless you have excessive amounts of money sitting around.  Despite the ability of your friend on the day the loan is signed, no one can tell what his or her abilities will be on the days after the loan is signed.  Despite the character of your friend on the day the loan is signed, no one can tell what his or her character will be on the days after the loan is signed.

Good Intentions don’t always end in Good Decisions.  This is true for good financial intentions and this is true for every other good intention.  Good romantic intentions don’t always end in good decisions.  A lot of people intend to get closer to someone in a godly way but sadly, they end up getting closer to someone in a sexual or carnal way.  A lot of married people intend to help someone get through a difficult time but sadly, they end up emotionally investing in someone other than their spouse and end up leaving their spouse for that person.  Intentions don’t define our lives, decisions do.  We need to temper and steer our good intentions with wisdom and prudence.

2. Good Friendships don’t always end in Good Relationships.

In verse 3, Solomon instructs his son to get out of that legal responsibility in order to “make sure thy friend.”   This financial counsel is more about relationships than it is about money.  Co-signing for a friend is dangerous for financial reasons but it is even more dangerous for relationship reasons.  If a friend fails to meet his or her financial obligations with a lender, the co-signer is then responsibility to pay those financial obligations.  In such an unfortunate event, how can one expect that friendship to remain in tact or at the very least, expect that friendship to remain untainted?  Perhaps more than anything in our cursed world, money so easily stirs negative emotions towards people.  Money problems are heavily responsible for divorces, breakups and splits.  Siblings become enemies because of money in a family business.  Churches split because of money and budgetary decisions.  Marriages fail because of money problems.  Friends lose friends because of money issues.

Few friendships, if any, can survive the situation where a co-signer is forced to pay thousands of dollars because his or her friend failed to pay their debt.   No matter how strong the friendship is on the day of the loan signing, it is unlikely that it will remain strong on the day that the loan becomes delinquent.  Foreseeing this unfortunate reality, Solomon urges his reader to get out of that legally binding responsibility for someone and “make sure thy friend,” or “make secure thy friend.”  Solomon is placing friendship over finances.  He is placing relationships over riches.  He suggests that a friend do whatever is necessary, including paying the loan or finding independent financing, to secure the friendship and avoid any possible threats to the friendship.  Three, five, seven or ten years of being responsible for a friend’s loan will add stress to the friendship and always remain a risk to the friendship.  A co-signing friend will evaluate spending habits of their friend critically and this will add stress to the friendship.  A co-signing friend will offer unwanted financial advice because of their investment and this will also add stress to the friendship.  A co-signing friend will have substantially higher expectations of their friend because of their financial commitment to that person and this will undoubtedly result in disappointment.

Good friendships don’t always end in Good Relationships when Good Intentions don’t transfer to Good Decisions.  We need to value our friendships beyond the present and make decisions that take the future into account.  A little disappointment in the heart of your friend today may spare you both from heartbreak tomorrow.   

3. Good Observations don’t always end in Good Conversations.

Solomon adds some urgency to his counsel in verses 4 and 5.  He knows that most of us, when we make risky decisions, have times of reflection and regret.  Unfortunately, he also knows that most of us, when we have times of reflection and regret, put off the tough conversations to make things right.  In verse 3, Solomon tells his son to humble himself and do something about that bad financial decision.  In verse 4, he tells him not to wait and not to delay in doing something about it.  In verse 5, he tells him to address it with the same level of urgency a deer has in escaping a hunter and with the same level of urgency a bird has in escaping a fowler.  We put off these difficult conversations with friends because they can be uncomfortable.  We delay sitting down and admitting we made a mistake because it’s humbling and because no one wants to disappoint a friend.  The mistake in delaying the conversation is that it will probably then never take place.  The longer we wait to have that conversation, the less likely it’ll be that we’ll ever have that conversation and the more likely we’ll convince ourselves that there won’t be a problem.  The internal observation that a poor decision was made never converting to a conversation with a friend could be the demise of a friendship.

Risky decisions need to become reversed decisions for the sake of a long-term friendship.  Risky decisions need to be reversed with a sense of urgency for the sake of the long-term friendship.  This doesn’t apply to only financial decisions.  This can and should apply to spiritual decisions, romantic decisions, parental decisions and career decisions.  If you realize you made a decision that is risky or potentially detrimental to your relationship with God or with men, turn that observation into a conversation.  The longer you wait to break up with a person that isn’t good for your relationship with God, the more likely your long-term relationship with God will be in jeopardy.  The longer you wait to get out of that job that you know is detrimental to your marriage, the more likely your long-term relationship with your spouse will be in jeopardy.  The longer you wait to come back to the church God has for you, the more likely your long-term relationship with God and His people will be in jeopardy.

SURETY.  An opportunity to realize that Good Intentions don’t always end in Good Decisions, that Good Friendships don’t always end in Good Relationships and that Good Observations don’t always end in Good Conversations.  Think beyond today and make sound decisions that no one will live to regret, including the friend that you love so dearly.





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