Memory Verse: Proverbs 6:6-8
6:1-5 Financial Wisdom: Don’t Be Responsible For Another’s Debt
- 6:1-2 The context of a father teaching his son the way of wisdom continues in this chapter. The father addresses his son and starts to teach him about finances. First, he says that if he becomes “surety” (security; pledges something or oneself as collateral) for his friend (neighbor, countryman); if he has shaken hands in pledge (“stricken thy hand”) for a stranger, then (or “if”) he is snared (trapped) by the words of his mouth (by what you said; the utterance of your lips); he is taken (captured, caught) by the words of his mouth—all of this together means we made a promise that we need to keep and the promise was a trap—but we are to be people of our word (honesty, trustworthiness, integrity).
Ecclesiastes 5:5; Romans 13:7-8
- Practical Understanding: Surety is just a type of debt. We shouldn’t promise or accept the responsibility to pay back money to a moneylender that other people have borrowed from if the borrower of the money fails to repay it (for whatever reason) because if we do, we might be sorry. The promise to repay someone else’s debt is a trap because you are going into debt. It is practically the same thing as going into debt, but you count on someone else to pay it back (which is a higher risk for you). Think about it, if the lender of the money requires a “surety” for the person they are lending the money to, then that is because they believe there is a chance that person won’t pay it back. So if the lender won’t take the chance, why would you? If caught in this trap, it could lead to the loss of any wealth you have obtained, lead to poverty, financial hardship, or worse for you or your family.
- Other Practical Options: Instead of making yourself responsible for someone else’s debt, you can give to them if they are really in need, or you can loan them the money (interest-free) from your wealth—but only if it won’t hurt you financially if they don’t repay you. Do not go into debt yourself to give to them as that would practically be the same thing or worse than becoming a “surety” for them. Why go into debt if you can financially help them? If you can’t financially help them, then you can’t afford the danger of debt either. A debt of any kind and in most situations is dangerous and risky.
Leviticus 25:35-38; Proverbs 19:17; Psalm 37:21; 1 Timothy 5:8
- 6:3a If the son finds himself in this situation, then the father tells him to “do this now” to “deliver” (escape, save, free) himself. What does he need to be delivered from? Because of his pledge, he has come into (fallen into) the hand (power) of his friend (neighbor, countryman)—meaning because of the pledge, this person has some control over you now. This echoes the truth, “And the borrower is servant to the lender.” You are under obligation to your friend because if he chooses to default on his debt, you will become responsible. Thus we could say it this way, “The son is servant to the borrower because the borrower is servant to the lender; and if the borrower defaults on the debts, the son, in turn, becomes the servant to the lender.” This is not a good position to be in. What is he to do to free himself from the control of another? The wise father gives his advice:
- 6:3b The Plan: (1) “Go”—be proactive and take immediate action, don’t ignore the situation or wait for everything to go bad before you fix this dangerous or difficult situation—otherwise it might be too late; (2) “humble thyself”—expresses your lowliness and dependence; acknowledge this mistake, don’t be prideful and ignore it; (3) “make sure (beg, plead with) thy friend”—plead urgently and persistently with or importune your neighbor. Plead for what? In context, it seems to mean: to be released from the “surety and pledge” that was made. Free yourself from this kind of debt.
- 6:4-5 The Intensity: (4) “Give not sleep to thine eyes, Nor slumber to thine eyelids”—we are to go immediately, don’t sleep or delay, and go to the point of exhaustion to make what is wrong right; (5) “Deliver thyself” as if your life depended on it—we have to decide to save and free ourselves from this financial bondage just like a gazelle (“roe”) from the hand of the hunter (some things that hunt gazelles: African wild dogs, leopards, cheetahs, lions, and humans), and like a bird from the hand of the fowler (someone who hunts and traps wild birds for food). The “hunted” in these illustrations have an instinct to the danger that is upon them, and they do all they can do to save their lives from it, in the same way, we are to have this “save-my-life” type of intensity to free ourselves from the power, obligation, and control of another.
6:6-11 Financial Wisdom: Self-Control, Hard Work, Plan And Save
- 6:6 The father then tells his son to whom he addresses as a “sluggard” (lazy person; one who lacks self-control; impulsivity) to “Go to the ant…consider (observe) her ways, and be wise”—meaning that if he was to go look at and observe an ant, what it does and how it lives and works, then he would learn something about wisdom. He would understand that:
- 6:7 (1) It has no guide (leader, chief, commander, captain), overseer (officer), or ruler—meaning that ants don’t have a complex system of control that micromanages their affairs. They don’t have a traditional leadership structure of “top-down instruction” from an elected or elite leader. This means that they don’t need an outside leadership stimulus for motivation or accountability, but they have self-control. This can be seen from the observation of a single ant—it exhibits good self-control and yet works well with other ants in the colony to created complex systems and accomplish hard work through this simple discipline.
- 6:8 (2) It provides (prepares, stores) its food (“meat”) in summer—it prepares food for times when food will be scarce; and gathers its food (sustenance) at harvest—it also gathers food when there is plenty to harvest instead of taking advantage of the surplus and not collecting it—together, these mean that even though it doesn’t have a leader in the traditional sense, an ant will prepare and gather its food because it is merely the right thing to do for its survival and the survival of others in its colony.
- 6:9-11 The father ends this illustration by again acknowledging the sluggard’s laziness. He asks: “How long wilt thou sleep?” “When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?” The verse goes on to say—whether it is the response of the sluggard or the father rehearsing the thoughts of the sluggard—a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep (meaning the sluggard always wants just a bit more of rest)—there is a consequence for such laziness: so shall your poverty (unable to support yourself; lacking in money and possessions) come on you like “one that travelleth” (wanderer, vagabond, robber, thief, prowler; this is a person who travels around and steals)—meaning just as if you were robbed by a vagabond who had taken all your goods, so will your poverty come; and your (needy condition, scarcity) like an armed man—meaning just as if you were robbed by an armed bandit and left you with nothing, so will you quickly lack the things needed for living.
- What does becoming a “surety” for a friend mean?
- What is the danger of becoming a “surety” for a friend mean?
- What is the plan to free yourself from the trap of becoming a “surety” for a friend?
- What is the sluggard told to go and observe? What do we learn from the observation?
- What does laziness lead to?