Steps to Financial Ruin
Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 6:1-11
Read Passage: PROVERBS 6:1-11
Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount (at least from our written record of it), Jesus takes some time to talk about the heart of God as Father. And in doing that, as He’s talking about prayer, He asks two questions. These come from Matthew 7:9-10. He says: “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” [¿O qué hombre hay entre ustedes que si su hijo le pide pan, le dará una piedra, o si le pide un pescado, le dará una serpiente?]
Jesus assumes [asume] that earthly fathers want to give good gifts to their children. That may not be as safe an assumption in our culture, but it definitely should be the truth for us Christian dads. Every good father wants his children to have a good life. He wants them to be successful. He wants them to prosper in life, both physically and spiritually.
The Apostle John, when writing to Christian brother named Gaius [Gayo] expressed that same fatherly desire. In 3 John, he writes: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul… I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” [Amado, yo deseo que tú seas prosperado en todas las cosas, y que tengas salud, así como prospera tu alma… No tengo yo mayor gozo que este, el oír que mis hijos andan en la verdad.]
That’s a fatherly pastoral heart. That’s where a Christian father’s deepest joy comes from—knowing his children are walking with the Lord—not just doing the bare minimum, but walking in His ways. That’s what a father works toward in his children.
In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul says that he acted like a father with his children, exhorting each of them and encouraging them to walk in a manner worthy of God. [era como un padre con sus hijos, exhortando y animando a cada uno de ellos, y recomendándolos a que anduvieren como es digno de Dios.]
Colossians 1 adds that Paul warned everyone and taught them. He toiled and struggled with all the energy God gave him, so that he would one day present them complete in Christ. [amonestaba y enseñaba a todos. Trabajaba y luchaba y se esforzaba con todas las que Dios le daba, para que un día les pudiera presentar perfecto en Cristo Jesús.]
That’s the best goal a father can have for his children. To have them be presented complete before God in Jesus Christ. That’s why a father instructs and teaches and warns. That’s why he pleads. That’s why he repeats himself.
And I think the best example of how to do that well is the book of Proverbs. This dad loves his son. And he wants him to walk in the fear of the Lord and experience the blessing of the Lord, and be spared of the consequences of his foolishness.
And beyond Solomon, who is the human author of the book, we have the divine author, the Spirit of God. This is not just a lesson for young men or a lesson for dad, it’s a lesson for all of us from our heavenly Father.
The heart of Provers is a father who wants his children to know that obedience and wisdom invites a blessing, and foolishness brings consequences. Go back with me to Proverbs chapter 1, verse 29. This is one of those early warnings. PROV 1:29-31.
The path of foolishness will destroy you. It will bring ruin. For the past two weeks, since we were in chapter 5, we talked about the ruin of sexual immorality. And the ruin the father described was emotional and economic.
In chapter 5, verses 9 and 10 it says that your honor, your years, your strength, and your labor will go to someone else. … Well, continuing that tone, the father now switches to a different kind of foolishness. And, like adultery, it too can lead to financial ruin and shame.
We’ll get back to the topic of sexual immorality a little later in chapter 6, but before that, we’ve got three shorter sections focusing on different examples of foolishness. The running theme here is self-imposed ruin. That self-induces destruction has financial consequences, and it has social consequences because it would ruin a reputation.
Verses 1-5 are a warning against pledging security. Verses 6-11 deal with the laziness of the sluggard. And verses 12-19 are about a divisive or contentious man. For our time this morning, we are going to be looking at the first two of those sections.
And the first lesson is a warning against foolish surety. Let’s just start by reading Verse 1.
We need to start by defining the term. What in the world is surety? What does it mean to put up security?
The second half of the verse describes it as making a pledge. The literal Hebrew term behind that is to strike the hand. And that basically pictures a handshake, which is an agreement. Today, someone might say: “I struck a deal,” which means “I made an arrangement. I made a pledge.” Well, what kind of agreement is this dad talking about?
To pledge security is a type of financial agreement. It’s a guarantee that payment will come later. Let’s say Jimmy and I went to some store. We walk into Target, for example. And he see something he really likes, for his wife. And it’s $100.
But when he reaches for his wallet, he realizes that it’s not there. He forgot it at home. But he really wants to buy this thing and it’s the last day of a sale. What does he do?
Well, he could ask me to buy it for him, right? “Buy this for me today, and I’ll pay you back tomorrow.” That sounds fair, right?
Well, what if I didn’t trust him? What if I didn’t want to risk him not paying me back? What could he do then? He could offer me some collateral. He can give me something tangible to hold as a sort of deposit or guarantee. It serves as a promise.
So, maybe I say to him: “Well, Jimmy, that’s a pretty nice Apple Watch, I’m sure it worth at least $100. How about you give me that watch, and I’ll buy this thing for you. And then when you pay me back my money, I’ll give you back your watch.”
If he promises to pay me back, and then, as a guarantee of his promise, he gives me his Apple Watch, that’s called pledging security. That’s called surety.
Maybe that sounds a little far fetched for you, but it’s basically what financial institutions do today when they give out a loan. They want some kind of pledge, some kind of guarantee or security, some kind of collateral that minimizes the risk they are taking on giving someone a loan. We’ll talk more about that in just a bit, but first let’s talk about the biblical culture.
The earliest recorded instance of a this kind of pledge that I could find in the Bible comes to us in Genesis chapter 38. Judah, one of Israel’s twelve sons, is travelling on the road and he sees a woman whom he thinks is a prostitute, and, foolishly, he’s interested. And they start to discuss the fee.
Judah says to the woman: “I’ll send you a goat,” which was a form of payment. And the woman says: “Well, what about your pledge? How do I know you’re gonna pay me?” And one of the thing she asks for is his seal, which was like his identifying mark . It was like a stamp that the man used to sign documents. It was very important. Not something you wanted to lose. So it was a pledge. And if you know the rest of the story, what he did came back to bite him.
Though the whole situation with Judah was sinful, the idea of a pledge wasn’t sinful, and it was a common practice. God even gave Israel specific rules for how it was supposed to be done.
If someone was especially poor, and they wanted to get a loan, they would often give their cloak, their outermost garment. Not only was it worth some money, but it also was what kept them warm at night. So, because of that, God told the Israelites in Exodus 22: “If you take a neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you have to give it back to them before the sun sets because he needs it to sleep.”
So, giving something as a pledge wasn’t bad or sinful. It was part of their practice. The warning here in Proverbs though isn’t about the practice. It’s about making a pledge for someone else.
Notice, the dad is warning his son about making a pledge, not for himself, but for a neighbor, for a stranger. The implication here is doing it for someone that’s not part of your inner circle or your household.
In today’s economy, that’s called co-signing. If you want to buy a car that you can’t afford, the bank that loans you the money might ask you to find a co-signer. Co-signing on a loan is not just a way of saying you trust the person to pay the loan back, it is a legal obligation for the co-signer to pay the loan if the person who got the loan doesn’t. You need to understand that.
In the analogy between Jimmy and me, it would be like Jimmy didn’t have any collateral, and so you came along and said, “Go ahead and lend him the money, and if Jimmy doesn’t pay it back, I’ll pay it for him.” You’re agreeing to pay the loan.
Now, it’s not a sin to co-sign for someone. But the warning here is against co-signing foolishly, for a stranger. Why would someone do that anyway?
Well, it could be out of some misplaced generosity—you might think you’re doing the person a favor. Or it could be from a desire to make sure the person likes you. You don’t want them to get upset at you for not doing it. It’s like a form of peer pressure.
Either way, the wisdom is—don’t do it for a stranger. Why not? Why would that be foolish? Because if the person was trustworthy enough on their own, they wouldn’t need you as a co-signer. They’d either be buying something that’s within their limits, or they’d already have someone in their own family who would co-sign for them. do you get that? So why are they asking you to do it? Something’s not quite right there.
If you co-sign for someone, here’s what happens: you assume all the risk, and they get the benefits. Know that! You assume the risk and they get the benefits. It’s like handing someone you credit card or your debit card—not an safe move! What legitimate incentive is there for you to do that?
If you sign, what happens? Look at VERSE 2.
This is hunting language. You’re trapped. You’re in trouble. You’re in danger
So what do you do? VERSE 3.
- Tone of urgency
- Your only hope is the mercy of the one whom you will have to pay
- The quicker you act, the more hope there is of some change.
- Hasten and plead (get dirty)
- VERSES 4-5 — Don’t waste any time
Back to the analogy of being trapped:
- Get out. Escape.
- Gazelle trapped by hunters and their walls
- Bird under a net.
- You’re not done yet. There is still hope.
- Planet Earth 2 – the baby iguana with the snakes.
- Exert all your energy.
This might sound like an unnecessary lesson in our culture, but you’d be amazed how many people get into financial trouble because they make foolish arrangements, foolish agreements.
Beyond the specifics of co-signing, there are many modern ways this kind of financial principle can be applied.
- Know what you’re signing. Ask questions. Ask a friend. Don’t get into a high-pressure deal. Don’t fall into the fear of man of the other person.
- Don’t give out your social security number or your pin number.
- Don’t just give someone your credit card info. Now it’s on file somewhere and it can be used again (incidentals at a hotel).
- Don’t just loan people money without a clear agreement. Make clear arrangements with people. That’s part of being responsible.
- Don’t make promises for a future you can’t control.
- If you charge up a credit card, you can spend years paying something back. But that’s not the only option. One other option is to take whatever stuff back that you can! Return it. Wouldn’t that be great? It takes humility. But it’s an option. Just give it back.
- Proverbs 22:7—the borrower becomes a slave of the lender.
SUMMARY LESSON – Get out of that debt! Get out of that debt! Do whatever you can to release yourself from that obligation.
And this lesson, I think, slides right into the lesson of verses 6-11, which is about laziness. For starters, this lesson could be specifically applied for this one lesson of debt. And then more generally, we could make this a lesson all on its own.
By the way, this lesson about pledging security is repeated in Proverbs a few times, and we looked at that when we did a series on finances some time ago. You can find that online. We took some weeks back in February and March of 2017, and I think the series was called “Finances.”
So this is a repeated lesson in Proverbs, and so it the message against laziness. So I won’t be doing a comprehensive teaching here, but we’ll get to that a little later, once I start choosing some themes in Proverbs to organize.
But think about it, if this is a dad talking to his son who’s about to be alone in the world, the first major lessons he gives him are about sexual purity, handling money, and working hard.
Doesn’t that sound like it’s appropriate for a teenager? Pursue sexual purity, be wise with your money, and work hard. I wish more people told me that when I was younger.
Now, just as get into this section on laziness, I’d like you to notice that the dad starts by pointing his son to something he would very easily be able to identify—an ant. VERSE 6-8.
Sluggard: Lazy, slacker, moving slowly
Want to be wise? Take a lesson from nature.
The ant in Israel at that time was a kind of Harvester Ant, sometimes called Agricultural ants. It’s different than the common ant we see today. These ants actually create granaries, which is a place to store their food, mainly seeds. [Bug’s life].
These ant colonies live underground and they come up to the surface to collect food, usually seeds. The seeds are stored in very intricately designed granaries which are kept dry, so that the seeds don’t sprout. They’re also known for having very complex nests with very impressive architecture.
Son, go outside and look at these ants:
- No leader
- No outside motivation
- No disciplinarian
Young ones, one day, you’ll be on your own, without your parents to wake you up and get you to school.
Part of maturity = self-discipline, self-motivation.
If my kids sit down to watch TV at night, at what time will they turn it off and go to sleep? They’ll stay all night if we let them. Until they fell asleep on the couch, right? That’s why they have parents, to teach them to go to sleep.
A responsible adult, typically says: “I got work tomorrow. I have work to do. I need my sleep. Time to go to bed.” There’s a time to sleep and a time to work.
When it’s time to sleep, the sluggard wants to be awake. And when it’s time to work, the sluggard wants to sleep. VERSE 9.
How many of you young ones would say that your parents would say you’re lazy? My parents did!
I think the implication here is that there’s no answer. Because the sluggard is still sleeping. Or because he doesn’t know. So, here’s the wisdom: VERSES 10-11.
We tend to think of the extreme, i.e. the sluggard refusing to do work.
- But the sluggard is much more nuanced. He wants “just a little more”
- “a little” “a little” “a little”
- Derek Kidner: “All he knows is his delicious drowsiness. All he asks is a little respite. He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away… The sluggard is no freak, but, often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals and too many postponements. It has all been as imperceptible, and as pleasant, as falling asleep.”
- We sometimes assume that our ability to make money should be based on some “inherent worthiness.” So then we think we should be paid accordingly because of “what we have to offer.” (waiting for a “big break”). But if you don’t work, you will get nothing.
- Athletes understand this. Yes, they are gifted, but they put countless hours/years into training. They understand there’s an investment.
- Lesson 1: Get out of that debt.
- Lesson 2: Get out of that bed.
- If you don’t sow seed, you don’t have crops. And if you don’t reap crops, you don’t have food.
- Verse 11—poverty and want will come storming in uninvited. It will take you prisoner unexpectedly.
- Getting robbed is tragic. Losing out because you were lazy is much worse. There’s no one to blame but yourself.
- Think of the consequences. Get out of that debt. Get out of that bed.
Applications: Types of laziness
- Physical laziness
- One day, it will be too late
- Spiritual laziness is much worse. Very dangerous.
- David’s sin with Bathsheeba came after a lazy day on the couch. Read that story carefully.
- I’ve seen it in my own life. Laziness is dangerous.
Matthew 5:25-26 (connect both of these themes)
- Act fast! Or suffer the consequences.
- The context here is eternal judgment.
- Don’t procrastinate on your spiritual debt (sin).
- God is ready to forgive, if you will plead with him.
- He already made provision in Christ.
- Today is the day of salvation.