Proverbs 6:1-5, My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.
This passage of scripture is designed to raise a warning flag when business decisions are made within friendships.
Being friendly, we normally like to say yes to a friend.
It is difficult to say no to a friend, isn't it?
But there are times when good friends ask their friends to be bound with them in a business venture.
And unfortunately the only foundation for the venture may be their friendship.
But thankfully the warning flag of scripture is raised for the wise to see and for the wise to heed.
The first five verses in chapter six describe a situation in which all of us can picture ourselves as the son.
Solomon surmises to his Son, perhaps it was Rehoboam.
Son, suppose your friend, your very good friend, tells you that he has a need.
He wants to go into business and he knows that this business will reap sizeable profits.
He feels sure of this! He thinks it is a sure thing!
But he needs to enter into a loan arrangement with a third party, the stranger mentioned in verse one.
But the third party, the stranger will not give the son's friend the loan because he does not think the friend has the capability to pay back the loan if the business venture fails.
The stranger is not interested in risking his money on the friend's unsure business venture.
The stranger requires the friend have some trustworthy person guarantee payment of the debt in case the business fails.
In other words Solomonís son is being asked to be surety on the basis of friendship and on the basis of a high risk proposition.
The question must be asked, What is it about his friend that causes a lender to seek the surety or security of another?
Solomon's son is being asked to enter into the risky business venture based upon the friendship relationship.
This is what is called surety. In Websterís 1828 Dictionary the word is pronounced Su'rety, from the French, surete'.
It means certainty, in law one who is bound with and for another; for his payment of a debt and who in case of the principle debtor's failure, is compellable to pay the debt or damages
In Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary the word is pronounced - shur-a-ty, and defined as the state of being sure, sure knowledge, certainty, confident manner or behavior, one who has become legally liable for the debt of another.
(The lender makes sure he is going to be paid.)
The act of suretyship does not receive much commendation in God's word because it is so readily misused. It is not purely used.
In fact God warns us much about the relationship of suretyship.
Proverbs 11:15, tells us that, He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.
The best policy is not to be Surety for another.
If that policy is followed, if suretyship is hated, there will be no loss.
Proverbs 17:18, tells us that people without understanding shake hands flippantly with strangers in order to help a friend.
In other words the possibility of having to assume the friend's debt is not properly or seriously considered.
The possibility that if the venture is unsuccessful, that the friendship may be lost, is not properly considered.
Your participation as surety may enable your friend to engage in risky activity that he would not engage in except for your surety relationship.
Your involvement may push him over the edge.
It is never wise to give assistance to a venture where your kindness may aid only in the financial ruin of a friend or of yourself.
We are even warned in Proverbs 20:16 to get security for our surety relationship even to the point of taking a stranger's garment if we are to be surety for a stranger.
The very definition of the word implies that the Surety has the ability to pay the debt in case of the failure of another.
Surety is not to be undertaken based solely on friendship but is to be undertaken only based upon the ability and the willingness to assume the debt of another.
Can it be done with a pure heart?
Would we not think more carefully if giving money to our friend today instead of promising it in the future?
Do we promise it in the future only because we believe we will never have to pay it?
Solomon tells his son, the words of his mouth have snared him.
As a surety he is no longer free but is bound by his word.
He cannot frivolously make promises but must accept the fact that his words now bind him to his friend and his friend's debt.
This is not to be taken lightly Son, but must be now accepted as your debt.
Son, your word is your bond! beware of rash decisions regarding suretyship.
Beware of decisions made on the basis of friendship without due consideration of the binding that you are bound with.
Beware of making promises without knowing the cost, the risk or of what may be the issue.
Beware of engaging in business dealings on the basis of friendships which may dishonor your name, dishonor your family, or bring reproach upon the Lord.
Wisdom counsels to disentangle yourself from suretyship based upon the wrong reasons.
Solomon counsels his son to seek to be released from the bond of suretyship with his friend.
Don't wait another minute, don't sleep until you are delivered from this bond with your friend.
Humble yourself before him and beseech him for release of the bond of suretyship.
Solomon compares this flight from suretyship as desperate as a deer fleeing a hunter or as a bird from a trapper of birds.
But surety is not all bad. We as sinners need a surety and Hebrews 7:22 tells us that, By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
We need a surety because Man entered into an agreement with a party called sin.
Sin says in order to engage his services man must pay by dying.
You see, the wages of sin is death. This is the wage that sin charges. This is the wage that sin exacts!
Adam agreed to engage the services of sin in the Garden.
Jesus Christ offers to be man's surety fully knowing that man cannot pay the wages and still live because the wages paid to sin is death.
But Christ can pay the wages for man by being his substitute by dying himself and shedding his blood in man's behalf.
Christ offers himself as surety fully knowing that he will pay the wages of sin for man because he fully knows that man is incapable of paying the wages himself.
This is the surety pattern that we are to follow if we decide to be a surety for another.
We must decide in our hearts that we will pay the debt of another.
Perhaps the other will meet his obligation, perhaps he will not.
But pure surety, following the example of Christ, is displayed when we fully expect and are fully prepared to pay the debt of another.
This I believe is allowable or biblical surety and if we cannot do this we ought not to enter into a surety relationship.