PROVERBS 6: 1-5
THE SNARE OF OVER-EXTENDED FINANCIAL OBLIGATION
Our master teacher warns against becoming liable for the financial obligations of others. These verses are not a case against generosity, but against overextending one’s financial resources and acting in irresponsible ways that could lead to financial problems.
It is important to maintain a balance between generosity and good stewardship. God wants us to help our friends and the needy, but He does not promise to cover the costs of every unwise commitment we make. We should also act responsibly so that our family does not suffer.
We might call this a warning against ill-considered kindness, or against unnecessary debt creation. This warning against standing in pledge for another or providing financial backing for someone in debt is common in Proverbs (11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27). God does not want you needlessly in debt or responsible for someone who is (CIT)
I. SNARED BY A LOAN, 1-2.
II. EXONERATED BY SELF-DELIVERANCE, 3-5.
The warning in Proverbs 6:1 is against becoming accountable for another person’s high-interest loan, (not against borrowing or lending). "My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge (hand) for a stranger,"
Solomon cautions us against being hurt by an imprudent friend or by a person we do not know well. Putting up security is referred to frequently in Proverbs (11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26-27; 27:13). To become surety is to be a cosigner on a loan and since it is unsecured, a high interest loan. The cosigner is responsible for the debt should the borrower, the one who actually received the loan default, or be unable to repay the loan in part or in full.
This warning is not against loaning money (Prov. 19:17, 28:27; Ps. 112:5) or against co-signing any loan. It is a caution directed against rashly stepping in to help or cosigning a loan for another ("neighbor" probably means anybody). We should order our affairs with prudence and discretion, and many times that will force us to say no, even when our emotions would like to say yes.
God does not want you needlessly in debt or responsible for someone who is. Borrowing with no purchase that can be used as security is not wise. Some of us need some help in this area so let’s look at some ways to analyze this decision and make it EASIER TO HEAR AND SAY NO.
*Remove the refusal from a personal basis or level. Make it clear that while you appreciate the other person and his request, because of the premises under which you are operating you must refuse. [You don’t believe borrowing money is the right modus operands].
*Indicate that you don’t enjoy saying, "no". "Nothing would please me more than to go along with you, and I dislike what it will do to you, but I must say no."
*Give evidence that you have studied the situation. Comment on the considerations that entered into denying the request.
*Help him say no to the idea or desire himself. Show him the factors involved in such a way that he may reach the negative conclusion before you break the news to him. [What you want is not essential or mandatory for life or survival.]
*Suggest some factors which might have changed the no to yes. "Now if the situation had been....thus and so" or, "If your request had not involved the need for such a sum of money. . ." ..If your level of income was different...." "But you realize that. . ."
*Help him see the situation from your perspective. "If you were in my place, what would you do?"
* Let your no be said in a nice way. Speaking of the president of a great institution one of his employee’s said, He sometimes refused my requests, but he did it so kindly and graciously that I didn’t feel upset by his refusal."
These are some ways to refuse being held accountable for another’s high interest loan and teach while you do.
Verse 2 begins advising those who have been pressured or persuaded into a financial obligation or contract. "If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth."
Many have entered into virtual promises without knowing how far they were pledging themselves nor all the elements concerning the financial issue. It’s easily done, caught up in the moment or in the persuasive talk. But it will not be so easily cleared up for it is a snare and now you have "been caught by your words" or your agreeing to cosign a debt. It could lead to serious trouble. The simple and naive are especially at risk.
Christian prudence will keep us clear of such rash agreements which can bring distress on our families, dishonor to our name and reproach to our religion and church. Yes, a good man shows favor and lends, but he must guide his financial affairs with prudence (Ps.112:5; Eccl. 8:13).
II. EXONERATED BY SELF-DELIVERANCE, 3-5.
Verse 3 begins the advise for one who has accepted responsibility for someone’s high-interest debt. "Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself. Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor."
Solomon visualizes a situation where a kindhearted person may have been deeply moved by the plight of a friend or acquaintance, and with considerable more generosity than wisdom, pledged support in a financial situation (over which he has no control). After this great act of benevolence the kind man discovers to his horror, that he is unable to deliver what he has promised, and what is more, he could be brought into difficulty by his magnanimity. The advice is surprisingly strong.
"Humble yourself and press your plea" are exceedingly strong words (humble: "to crush or tread oneself down, to demean") emphasizing that decisive action must be taken. "Importune" is pester, strongly urge "your neighbor" to release you. One should free himself from a debt agreement, even if doing so demands great humiliation and obnoxious pleading. [This forced groveling is an instruction that prudence would have avoided the predicament in the first place. ]
No, the debt is not demanded, the borrower says he will take care of the principle. Yet the bond is still enforced and interest is running on and perhaps the loan will become insolvent for a world of reasons and come back to bite you. Therefore the exhortation is to deliver yourself for the creditor has a hold on you. The creditor has the borrower and you in his hand or power. He holds the paper, the promise, and many an honorable man has lost house and goods for no fault of their own.
Verse 4 insists that with all haste get yourself out of financial bondage. "Do not give sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids."
You might think you should sleep on it and then see how you feel about it the next day. The advice is "don’t." Nothing should stand in the way; not even one night was to pass before the situation should be addressed. Humble yourself and urgently do whatever is necessary to extradite yourself from this matter. Leave no stone unturned until an agreement, a compromise has been reached.
In addition, even if you can loan the money, it may not be a good idea. The loan will likely hurt your relationship with those to whom you loan money. Successful deals may cause feelings of obligation; unsuccessful ones may breed hostility. It has been said that the best way to lose a friend is to loan him money. It’s true. Money causes all kinds of tension and hassles. Maybe that’s why Jesus taught us to give—not to loan (Matthew 10:8).
Verse 5 uses vivid hunting metaphors to help us understand the trap into which the lender puts the borrower. "Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler."
Just as a gazelle or a bird, if trapped, would immediately begin struggling for its life, so a person snared by a foolish debt agreement should frantically fight to be free of it. [Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983, S. 916] Tear "yourself free like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter" and run for your life. Disentangled yourself from the snare "like a bird" and wing your way to freedom once again
It is important that this advise be balanced with other statements of Scripture. The teaching is not that we should not help people in need. The palmist teaches us that, "Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice" (Ps. 112:5). Paul became bound for the financial obligations of Onesimos (Philemon 19). The thrust of the passage is not to encourage selfishness but to insist on wise kindness. The basic premise is that it is the height of wisdom to keep yourself out of debt. It is not beneficial in the long run for people in need to be helped into more debt. It is an entanglement that puts one in danger of doing evil.
Christians have been bought with a price and should not bound themselves in debt so as to become servants of men (1 Cor. 7:23). If you know you should not go into debt for yourself, don’t do it for other persons either. It does not matter the pressure you are placed under to do so, it is not wise. Not for them for they should also be debt free, nor for you. Have the moral courage of doing the unpopular if succumbing to pressure would be detrimental for you or them.[Sound Sense for Successful Living, p 88-89]
[Be warned about the necessity of saying no even if saying yes would be easier but not necessarily better. As a pastor I have found it extremely difficult to say no to some people in some circumstances. They have been correctly lead to believe that someone who has devoted his life to the ministry of Christ should help. Yet the help they desire would not change the inevitable and in the long run would be more like a hindrance. There is a certain pressure that almost amounts to spiritual blackmail which is applied to those who serve Christ and we succumb to it not only to our own liability, but to the detriment of those we wish to help.]