Proverbs in 365 Devotions
Proverbs 20:16 Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.
The Stranger, Foreigner and Adulteress
Today Solomon gives us a lesson on discernment in relation to degrees of trust. Lets begin with the first example:
16 Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
What if a neighbor comes to you and wants to borrow money for supposedly a needy person who lives in town… and let’s say you do not know this needy person; he’s a stranger to you. This needy person had no assets or security to mortgage to you the lender... in order to receive a loan. So, they had to get a co-signer. That's when your friend… your neighbor, ask for a loan for the man who needs it and Solomon says to take his garment as security.
It’s interesting… the culture God established about things relating to lending and the poor. Here’s what it says in Exodus 22.
Exodus 22:25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
So Solomon says to go ahead and take your neighbors garment (who is not poor) as collateral. Now that's not much of guarantee that he will pay is it?… If the needy person defaults on the loan your friend the co-signer will pay it. But if he defaults also… you may only have a t-shirt to show for the money you loaned… But… it is more likely that the borrower will be held accountable. After all, even though he is a stranger to you he is not a foreigner... You and your neighbor both can locate him easily. Something else I think… you see, the people of Israel had a family type relationship... a special bond. For many their houses were always open for food and shelter to other Israelites. They shared this great history as a Nation in being Gods people. They were as brothers and sisters and not to put extreme burdens on one another with things like big securities and interest... so a t-shirt for collateral was not a heavy burden but still showed that the lender expected accountability; and it also showed his trust and empathy for his neighbor and the needy person.
Now we move to the second half of the verse:
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.
Just a note about the word “foreigners”, it can also be translated as “an adulteress”. Interestingly Proverbs 27:13 is word for word the same as today's proverb except todays verse in Hebrew uses a masculine adjective where Proverbs 27:13 says “an adulteress”. That's the only difference I see.
So, the truths from today's proverb apply to both a foreigner and an adulteress.
Alright, what do both a foreigner and adulteress have in common? Neither have shown themselves to be trustworthy. The adulteress has shown that so far she is not and the foreigner has only his word which carries no weight when there are no references to establish his character. Maybe all you know is there are no wanted dead or alive pictures of him posted in town… which I would not recommend including in any loan request application form.
So, in the case of a foreigner or an adulteress, more drastic accountability needs to be in place. Solomon says to hold the garment in pledge.
So if the lender has the same garment, how does holding it in pledge strengthen the agreement? What does holding it in pledge mean? Well, it could mean don’t return the garment before sunset… but hold on to it… But after I looked at the Strong's Lexicon and a couple commentaries I believe it is saying to hold your neighbor who is being risky in his borrowing… hold him to a more personal degree of accountability. I believe it has to do with being discerning with each loan. I think it could mean that the co-signer needs to give some collateral of himself for the lender to hold in pledge depending on how much is borrowed.
In closing… think about how we were foreigners to him… strangers, even adulterous people who had forsaken God and were separated from his fellowship.
He gave of himself in giving his only begotten son that we who were poor and needy might have the greatest treasure in the Universe, unsearchable riches and a full inheritance as his child forever. And the difference is… we cannot pay back this debt, nor should we try… it is impossible to pay back even one cent’s worth of the joy he has given. You see, Jesus paid it for us and that's that... Its the only way it can be. In fact in Matthew 9:13 Jesus says how it is: Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
And although we do not pay back this debt, he changes our heart and sets us in a different direction so that we love following him and growing in him the rest of our life.