1 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, 2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3 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. 4 Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. 5 Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.Proverbs 6:1-5
I’m sure various time periods and cultures have had different cultural meanings for this word surety. In our day, one of the common ways this would be interpreted is to co-sign a loan on behalf of another. Solomon says that this is like a trap that a hunter would set for the purpose of catching a bird or gazelle.
Slave to the Lender
Proverbs 22:7 says that “the borrower is servant to the lender.” When you borrow from another you become a servant or slave to the one who lends. Fortunately, in many cultures today, defaulting on borrowed money isn’t likely to get you thrown into prison or make you the property of a slave owner. However, when you are working for the purpose of paying back a loan to someone else or to some institution, then you are essentially enslaved to them.
We are to be servants of Christ. Yet, even Christians, can become so indebted to the bank that they feel they are not able to surrender to God’s calling on their life because they are obligated to the bank.
In my work at a mission board, I counsel young people to avoid debt as much as possible. They will not be prepared to follow God’s leading to ministry if they have to use all the money they earn to pay back the loans that they have.
I remember what it was like to be a 25 year old young couple making $600 a month. We haven’t always stayed debt free, but I am thankful for the wise counsel we were given back then to avoid debt if at all possible.
These verses in Proverbs five aren’t talking about getting yourself into debt, but actually enslaving yourself on behalf of another. It is not wise to co-sign for another person’s debt.
To put this into perspective, ask yourself a question like this: Am I willing to forsake God and His will for a period of time so that I can put myself in bondage to my friend and his bank? I hope the answer would be “no.”
Not Financial Advice
For legal purposes I must say you should not consider this financial advice. But it would be appropriate to take this as spiritual advice.
As a Recipient of Donations
If God were to call you into ministry to serve Him and you became dependent on His provision through the generous gifts of His people, how much of their donated money would you have to hand over to a bank just so you could keep from defaulting on your current obligations? Would you feel comfortable letting your donors know what percentage of their donation never even makes it into the ministry because of the debt you personally carry?
Would you be willing to financially support someone who is taking 50% of the money you donated and giving that to a bank to pay the debt on credit cards, car loans, and the unwise co-signing of a friend’s loan? Wouldn’t you like to know that your donation is actually used for the ministry and not for the purpose of retiring someone’s unwise decisions of the past?
King Solomon gives the advice to get out of that debt as soon as possible. He does not say that you should stop paying on your debts and destroy any testimony you might have had as a child of God. But he does say that being indebted to a lender or co-signing on behalf of another is extremely unwise. You are allowing yourself to be trapped in an unnecessary situation.