Don’t Get Trapped

1 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.

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

Photo of contract, credit card and US cash.

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.

Don’t Co-Sign

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?

As Donor

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?

Solomon’s Advice

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.

Revelation or Experimentation

1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.

Proverbs 5:1, 2

This morning in Sunday School we had a lesson talking about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Genesis chapter two God told Adam about this tree. God’s instruction was that Adam should not eat the fruit from that tree. If you’ve read Genesis three you know that Adam disobeyed God’s command.

One of the points in the lesson this morning was that we can learn the difference between good and evil in one of two ways. We can accept God’s revelation of what is right and wrong, or we can trust in our own experimentation. Revelation or experimentation.

Solomon is teaching the reader this same concept Here in Proverbs five. There are people who would lead you down the wrong path in life. Our world is full of temptation to go against what God has revealed in His Word.

“I have hated instruction”

The end of experimentation brings shame and guilt. It causes the person in Proverbs five to say:

12 … How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; 13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!

There is no need for us to end up in that place. Even if we’ve fought against godly teaching in the past, it does not mean that we can’t turn to living wisely today.

Solomon’s Example

Solomon uses the example of a young man who is tempted to live in an immoral way with, what he calls, a strange woman. In the book of Proverbs we see the phrase “strange woman” eight times. Solomon uses this to mean anyone who is not your wife. This may not start out as an intentional illicit affair. But Solomon is warning the reader to be wise in their choices.

I think this is just one example he could have chosen. Maybe your temptation is not exactly an inappropriate relationship with someone else. Maybe it is something with your thought life, or some sort of substance abuse. Allow God’s Word, and the teaching of godly people in your life to reveal what is right and wrong. Don’t be like the foolish young man in this chapter who thought he had to experience sin to be able to understand whether it was appropriate for him or not.

Pay attention to the warnings in the book of Proverbs. Many times we can avoid heartache in our life if we are willing to head the warnings in God’s Word and the teachings of the godly people He has brought to us.

Learn by revelation, not experimentation.

Wisdom Is The Principal Thing

5Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Proverbs 4:5-7

Dr. Jim Stoutenborough was a friend who was 50 years older than. When we met, I was in my 20s and I quickly saw a man who was everything that I was not: organized, well dressed, fastidious. I knew him mostly as a song leader. However, I think what influenced his care for details more than anything else was he was also a pilot.

I stood in the doorway of his office one day as he gave me one of his many words of wisdom. I can’t say that we “hung out,” but I always enjoyed any conversation I had with him. For some reason this one conversation has stuck with me 25 years later.

He quoted Proverbs 4:7 to me and said that should be one of my primary goals in life. Get wisdom. Get understanding. The world makes much more sense when you pursue wisdom as your top priority.

Wisdom and Understanding

Sometimes it is hard to define the difference between some words that seem like synonyms. Wisdom and understanding are similar, but not exactly the same.

Understanding is knowledge with meaning. Just knowing something does not necessarily mean you understand the reason behind it. That is facts without application.

An example is knowing what the accelerator and brake in a care are for. But, until you learn to drive, the facts of what accelerators and brakes do doesn’t really mean much to you. When you get experience behind the driver’s seat, you start to understand their importance and how those devices work.

The other word that interests us is the word wisdom. That word can also be interpreted as skill. Knowing is made of facts. Understanding is built with experience. But wisdom is when that knowledge and understanding become skill.

To continue the driving analogy let’s see where applied knowledge and understanding help to build skill. Think of a race car driver. They would have a more intimate knowledge and intuitive understanding of what a brake and accelerator are capable of. They have built skill that comes with applying everything that came before.

Solomon here in the book of Proverbs is telling us to not only learn, but seek to understand. Then, as you apply that understanding more and more to gain skill, you will begin to make wise choices without having to think too deeply about them.

Get wisdom. Get understanding. Go beyond just learning facts, learn how to use them. This can be applied in any area of life. But Solomon is encouraging us to tenaciously pursue wisdom (skill) in matters of our applying God’s Word and how we interact with people.

Do Good to Your Neighbor

27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. 28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee. 29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

Proverbs 3:27-29

I believe I have the spiritual gift of helps. But a couple of years ago I was feeling frustrated with knowing I had been stretching myself too thin; which is something easy for me to fall into.

When we are allowing the Holy Spirit to control us (being filled with the Spirit) then our spiritual gifts and personality tendencies will be used to God’s glory. But in times when we are not spiritually disciplined then the things we normally love to do in service to God can become points of frustration. That mindset of frustration is where I was when I read these verses from Proverbs 3 a couple of years ago.

I highlighted those verses in my Bible and I have been convicted each time I have read those verses since then. Certainly these verses aren’t saying that I have to be the hero in every situation (though that is my tendency to want to do). But they are saying that we should help when we can and when it would be God’s will for us to do so.

Do I have the ability to help the person in need? Should I be the one to help them? Would it be more helpful to them if I got someone else involved?

Current World Situation

As we are currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, I think this is a good time to evaluate whether we are doing what we can for our neighbors. There can be valid differences of opinions on what that means from a governmental standpoint. But individually we must show love to those around us.

The best definition of love I’ve heard comes from Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”

Love is the fulfilling of the law. Or, put more clearly, love is doing what is right.

This is where we have to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in knowing how to help those around us. Sometimes that may mean going to someone’s house to fix some plumbing for them. Sometimes that may mean staying away from their house so as to not put them at risk for a greater problem. How will you know the difference? I believe these two well-known verses from earlier in the chapter speak clearly to that.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5, 6

Allow God to lead you in helping others. Whether you have the spiritual gift of helps or not, we are all responsible for being a good neighbor. Be a good citizen to those around you at all times.

Proverbs 2:1-9: If … Then

1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Proverbs 2:1-9

I remember back in the 1980s when I first started playing with computers we had to write into memory any program that we wanted to run. I would play with friends’ computers that would hook directly into a TV as a monitor, but there was no storage for programs. (Later we bought a Commodore 64 with a cassette tape drive. Ahh, the good old days.)

When writing BASIC programs I learned about If-Then statements. The concept is still used in programming today. But we also see this idea in many other areas of life. In Proverbs chapter two there is a list of If-Then promises.

If …

Solomon says to his son—which can be interpreted as anyone who will listen—that there is a result to paying attention to his words. In this case, he is making an argument for heeding wisdom. Wisdom is often personified in Proverbs as it is here.

… you will receive my words

As we saw from chapter one, this is the idea of seizing the information given. Not just casually watching from the sidelines, but jumping in and actually trying to learn.

We need to become students of God’s Word and the wisdom He imparts. Don’t just allow Bible teaching to come to you, go out and find it. I’ve heard it said of language learning, “no one can teach you a language. You have to learn it.” I think that can be applied to learning God’s Word too. There are plenty of teachers, but until you are ready to receive (grab hold of) wisdom from God, then you won’t reap the benefits God’s wisdom offers.

… and hide my commandments

What do pirates do with their treasure? They bury it and hide it. At least that is what we’ve been led to believe. That is exactly the idea of this word hide. It is to esteem something valuable enough to store it up and hoard it.

I understand this is Solomon speaking here, but I think the example is that we should value God’s commandments enough to hide them and place great value on them.

How do we hide God’s commandments? Spend time in His Word and learn what He has already said. Sometimes people are looking for a “clear word from God.” If you haven’t been paying attention to what God has already clearly said in His Word, then it will be very difficult for you to know whether it is Him leading you or your own fleshly desires.

Verse two is a continuation of that thought of leaning in and paying attention.

… you will cry after knowledge and understanding

Understanding and knowledge are various aspects of the wisdom that is being taught here. Get the attention of knowledge (discernment) and understanding (practiced wisdom, skill). Cry after it. Lift up your voice in search of it. Again, don’t just allow it to causally pass by, but lay hold of it as a treasure.

… you seek wisdom as if it were silver and a treasure

You have been given an invitation to obtain a great treasure. Many people will throw the invitation away thinking that it doesn’t apply to them. Or, they will think that it is too good to be true. What we are told to do in Proverbs is to seek out, request—even demand—this treasure of wisdom.

Do you desire wisdom enough to look for and cry after it?

All of this speaks to the fact that wisdom (knowledge and understanding) can be had by those who seek it. This book exists so that you can gain this wisdom. The book assumes that you can learn. You don’t have to know everything to embark on the pursuit of wisdom. It is something that you can gain skill at by practicing.

Then …

Whenever I read the word if I immediately start looking for the then that goes with it. Here is the beautiful then.

… you will understand the fear of the Lord

This word understand is to perceive, discern, have insight. All things that can be improved with practice. And, we are told that we can discern—understand—the fear of the Lord because of seeking wisdom like a precious treasure.

So, what is the fear of the Lord? This certainly deserves being fleshed out in more detail, but Hebrews 12:28, 29 gives us an example of why to fear God. It is because He is a consuming fire. Fire can be beautiful, perform work, and be generally helpful. Without fire we would not have the technology and society we have today. But fire is also something that can incite terror.

Fearing God has an element of terror, but also healthy respect. It is not just one or the other. But both. And, so much more.

While explaining the fear of God may be difficult to do in a few words, spending your life searching for wisdom will help you understand the concept of the fear of the Lord.

… and you will find the knowledge of God

This word find in Hebrew is very much like our English word today. It can mean to casually stumble onto something. Or, it can mean to discover something that you have been searching for diligently. And I think both can apply here.

When you diligently seek for wisdom as a hid treasure, you will uncover more and more understanding about God and His ways. This may be in a very deliberate area where you were seeking insight. Or, it could be that you were looking for one thing and God brought some other truth across your path.

Someone who rejects God will find it very difficult to to have an understanding of God and His Word. They are not seeking God and His wisdom, therefore they won’t even know what they have found when they stumble upon a truth lying in plain sight.

I trust God will grant you understanding and knowledge of Him as you study and obey His Word.