ALL actions, or inactions, come at a cost. Weigh the cost of the choices you make. Some choices are well worth the price, even if others might not always agree.
While reading this section I was reminded of something Jesus promises to say over two different groups of people. Those standing before Him on the day of Final Judgment will hear Him proclaim one of two things; “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41b) or “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34b). Both these statements will hang on two things. The first is, did you ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. If you honestly did, then the second thing comes into play. Did you minister to others as to the Lord. Those who truly love Jesus will also love as He loved.
During this trip into Jesus’ words I was prompted to take a closer look at BOTH the text of today and the verses that came to mind. There is an important distinction I almost missed. Let me take you through my process.
When reading about taking a man’s garment as security for a stranger or holding onto it for an adulteress I thought about Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus Himself rose to her defense. He refused to let any condemn her and He did not condemn her either. He forgave her. But we are looking at another who has engaged in this same act and we are being told to be extremely careful when accepting or giving “security” for her.
The question becomes, what is “putting up security” and is it something Jesus did for such people; the stranger or adulteress? “Putting up security” is the same thing as “co-signing” on a debt for another person. If that person fails to pay the debt, that debt now belongs to the co-signer. The co-signer is expected to pay it in full. In essence, it is promising that a person is trustworthy.
Proverbs warns against entering into such an agreement when the person is a stranger to you and when the person is an obvious person of sinful character. Solomon doesn’t say NEVER do it. Instead, he says be prepared for the principal debtor to default. Instead of simply making a promise of assuming the debt if need be, the co-signer is required to SHOW that he can make good on the debt himself. He has to put up collateral; not just his word.
Jesus didn’t “put up security” for anyone, that I know of. He operated in the moment. He forgave past sins and warned people to “Go and sin no more.” But He IS the ‘co-signer’ on the account for EVERY human being. As He ‘put up security’ He KNEW the original debtors would ALWAYS fall short. WE are unable to pay the price required for our lives. Jesus took on that cost, knowing full well what the final price would be. And He paid it!
In Matthew 25 Jesus lists people from many different walks of their lives that He expects His people to care for. And He doesn’t tell us to ‘charge’ them for our services. Most of the people listed wouldn’t have the finances to ‘take out a loan’ in the first place. We are simply called to help those in need that we see. Jesus DOES NOT mention any return on the investment on the day of Final Judgment either.
The main difference between these two situations is, expectation of who settles the account. Are you giving the person in need the assistance required without expectation of a return? Or are you promising another that the person will pay their own way, but if they default, you will pick up their slack? It boils down to; don’t vouch for someone’s character that you KNOW has a bad character or you don’t know at all. You may meet the need of anyone with a “gift” without having to worry I they will ever repay your kindness.
The verse before this, in our reading, kind of sets up the stage for this one. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself” (verse 12a). The “danger” we were just looking at is danger to the being financially linked with someone you don’t know personally or one who is leading a sinful life. Don’t get yourself into that situation. Hide yourself from that danger. The “simple” will walk right into this situation and “suffer for it” (verse 10c).
Our final verse speaks of being inconsiderate of those around you. Shouting about how much you love your neighbor while he is trying to sleep is CRUEL! This neighbor who apparently “loved” is not having love shown to him. Instead, his neighbor is showing him contempt. His circumstances mean nothing to the boastful neighbor. I would go so far as to say that the boasting neighbor is putting on a show for others so they will admire him. That’s NOT love, that’s pride!
So, what can I take from this section? Be willing to render aid when you see someone in need, but don’t vouch for the character of someone you don’t know. And of those whom you know their character is lacking, don’t get financially tangled up with them either. WALK AWAY from that kind of danger! Also, make certain that the kind of love or help you are offering IS what is needed instead of a way for you to look good to others.
Father God, help me listen to Your voice always! THANK YOU for making a way to stay OUT of the co-signer role with one of my family members. I’m pretty positive that she would default. You gave me a way to help without being bound to her further.
I’m one that likes to help those in need. Give me discernment as to how, when, with what, and how long in such instances. I want to honor You in ALL I do.