“Common Sense for the Common Man” is my theme for Proverbs 6. Solomon addresses many topics in this chapter; however, I will confine my focus to the first—the folly of becoming a surety for another man’s debt.
Proverbs 6:1-3 – “My son, if thou be surety [security; make a pledge or promise] for thy friend [brother or close associate], if thou hast stricken [guaranteed another’s debt] thy hand [modern equivalent is a handshake] with a stranger [one who is neither family or friend],2 Thou art snared [ensnared; entangled] with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken [caught as prey in a trap] with the words of thy mouth.3 Do [deal; commit] this now [without delay], my son, and deliver [escape; rescue; save] thyself, when thou art come into the hand [power & obligation] of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure [urge; hasten] thy friend [i.e. ask him to pay his debt and release you from obligation].”
Solomon’s admonition to his son is summed up in this: It is folly to guarantee another man’s debt.
Personal debt is enslaving; however, to co-sign for another’s debt is a sure way to destroy a friendship and risk financial ruin. We notice three cautions and one exhortation in Solomon’s financial advise to his son: 1) To become surety for friend or family is risky (Proverbs 6:1a); 2) To become surety for a “stranger” is folly (Proverbs 6:1b) [The apostle Paul admonished Christians, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 6:14a]. 3) To become surety for another’s debt is a snare [a trap used by hunters] (Proverbs 6:2).
I have seen too many well-meaning parents and grandparents who caved to an adult child’s plea to co-sign for a loan only to become victims of that child’s dereliction of duty and responsibility in repaying the loan. You might avoid a lifetime of grief by adopting a policy of just saying “No” when it comes to guaranteeing another’s debt.
What if you have already made the mistake of guaranteeing another’s debt? Solomon’s exhortation is this: Do not rest until you are free from the obligation of another’s debt (Proverbs 6:3).
Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith