The first proverb ponders the question, “What is more rare than gold and precious jewels?”
Proverbs 20:15 – “There is [exists; stands out] gold, and a multitude [abundance; plenty] of rubies: but the lips [language; speech] of knowledge are a precious [wealth; valuable] jewel.”
We are by nature a covetous race and our affection for wealth and possessions is often the driving force behind our priorities, choices and actions. Too few of us believe, at least in practice, Solomon’s summation of what is genuinely precious—godly counsel that speaks “Truth” and is a discerner of good and evil. Quoting the wisdom of Solomon from an earlier devotional:
Proverbs 3:15-16 – “She [Wisdom] is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.”
Proverbs 20:16 – “Take [take away; take hold of] his garment [clothes; covering] that is surety [pledge; barter; mortgage] for a stranger [foreigner; adulterer; one who has turned aside]: and take a pledge [bind] of him for a strange woman [foreigner; alien].”
Although a foreign idea in our day of cheap, manufactured clothes; robes and coats of fine cloth were a rarity in Solomon’s day, so much so that the possessor of a robe could use it as surety against a debt. The cloak or outer robe of a debtor would be given to the moneylender in the morning; however, the lender was to show compassion to the poor man and return his garment at sundown for a covering against the cooler temperatures of the night (Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13). This proverb also contains a warning concerning the assumption of a harlot’s debt [“a strange woman”]. Like the poor man, the harlot’s future is uncertain and assisting her financially is a risk a wise man will not assume.
Lesson – Insuring a poor man or woman “down on their luck” is risky business.
Proverbs 20:17 – “Bread [food; fruit; feast] of deceit [lies; deception; falsehood; betrayal] is sweet [pleasant; pleasing] to a man; but afterwards [follow; hereafter] his mouth shall be filled with gravel [stone].”
Lesson – Better to be poor, but a man with a pure heart and clear conscience than a rich man whose path is marked by enemies he has defrauded.
Copyright 2014 – Travis D. Smith