“He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.”
Proverbs 11:15, 16, & 17 are connected in that each involves someone who acts with kindness, but with varied results. In today’s verse, we consider a kindness that brings injury; in tomorrow’s, a kindness that brings honor; and in the third instance, a kindness that brings benefit.
A KINDNESS THAT BRINGS INJURY
In the first half of verse 15, we read, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it,” or as the ESV reads, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm.” Solomon returns here to a theme he has already elaborated upon at length in Proverbs 6:1-5. The idea is fairly straightforward in both texts. So, somebody asks you to lend him a hand by cosigning on a loan… what is the “Christian” thing to do? The problem is that you like to be liked. You want to come across as a decent and generous person. You want to be helpful. So you cosign on the automobile, or mortgage, or student loan, or credit card offer. And now, my friend, you have obligated yourself in regard to the other’s ability to earn, budget, and spend income. Unless you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in. No, I take that back. Even if you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in. You have absolutely no leverage in the situation.
NOW GUESS WHAT?
You’re on the hook if and when the person defaults on repayment. If your name is signed on the bottom line, the creditor can and will come after you. The FTC tells us that in as many as 3 out of 4 loans that go into default, the cosigners are asked to repay the loans. Think about it. When you cosign a loan, you are taking a risk which the professional lenders have refused to take. If the borrower could meet the lender’s criteria, there would be no need for a cosigner in the first place. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre06.shtm
Jesus didn’t die to make you “nice.” No, he died to make you His! Sometimes the “Christian” thing to do is to ask, “Have you totally lost your mind? You can’t afford that car, or house, or new TV! Save some money for it and pay cash!”
A FIRM, WISE “NO”
In the second half of the verse we read, “And he that hateth suretiship is sure.” Oh, the security and peace of mind enjoyed by the one who has not entered hastily into business agreements! Years ago, First Lady Nancy Reagan, as she spearheaded a campaign against drug abuse, popularized the slogan, “Just Say No.” The same firm “No!” might well be in order the next time someone approaches you about helping him with a loan.
Father God, thank you that when you see us, you see the righteousness of your own dear Son. Thank you that our security and identity are in Christ. Free us, Father, from the need to be people-pleasers to our own harm. Through Christ our Lord: Amen.