This continues a series on Proverbs & Money.
Whoever puts up security
for a stranger
will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates
striking hands in pledge
Overextended. Too many commitments, too few resources. Countries do it. Companies do it. We do it. If you don’t believe this, then where have you been the last 16 months? Unhedged credit default swaps being exhibit A.
Solomon warns us against falling into this trap of backwards benevolence. It is a backward benevolence since though it has the appearance of “helping others”, it is at its core a disastrous exhibition of foolish pride. It is pride that causes someone to guarantee the commitments of outsiders while endangering the needs of his own family. Such a person would rather be seen as a “heavy-hitter” to their peers than to quietly provide for those God has entrusted to them.
How does this inner pride leap into action? Where else but most often through our big mouth. Proverbs 6:1-2 hints at this idea of pride and mouthy pledges. In those verses, Solomon tells his sons that if they have put up security for their neighbor, then they are essentially ensnared by the words of their mouth.
Can you see how it could happen to us? The bait is cast by a smooth talking “friend” who desires the aid of our “partnership” to acquire a “need” or accomplish a “goal”. There will even be something in it for us if we extend to them our resources of time and money. Our ego begins to swell as we now see ourselves as being a real playa’. We feel needed. We feel bigger than we really are. We can handle it. And so, without giving any meaningful time to count the potential costs to ourselves and those entrusted to us, we hastily open our mouth in agreement and slap hands for confirmation.
What do we do with this warning? First, recognize that we are not God. We are not able, nor commanded to cover the debts of others. That’s not benevolence, but prideful pledging. Second, always count the costs of our personal commitments to outsiders over against those God has clearly commanded us to take care of such as parents, kids, church, widows, orphans. Third, give praise to God who is all-in-one the lender, payer, and guarantor of all of the debts of sin we’ve accumulated against His Holiness. God is the only one who has the resources to keep all of His pledges. If we are in Christ, then God has sworn a blood-oath to Himself, since there is no one greater by which to swear, to bless and multiply us even though we in fact were a stranger, wandering far from the fold (Hebrews 6:13-20). What an exception to Solomon’s warning that is reserved for God alone!
All posts in this "Proverbs and Money" series were submitted by a friend of Aaron's who wishes to remain anonymous.