“All Her Debts Were Cast On Me”
After today, we only have two more weeks left in our series through the first 8 chapters of Proverbs. And so it might be good to reflect back and remember where we are in the flow of these chapters.
Proverbs 1-4 began the book by calling us to see the importance of wisdom, and urging us to seek wisdom with the intensity that we normally see reserved for those seeking money or a romantic relationship.
And then beginning in chapter 5, Solomon focuses on teaching wisdom itself. So not just teaching about wisdom and how important it is, but actually giving us wisdom itself. Actually helping us understand how to live wisely.
That began last week with his discussion on adultery. Adultery and sexual sin are the epitome of foolishness. What feels good in the moment invites heaps of pain into our lives in the future. And that theme of adultery is going to come up again next week from a slightly different angle.
And in between these discussions on adultery we find our passage today in which Solomon warns his sons, and the rest of us, about three more behaviours or types of people, which we should avoid if we want to live wisely.
So right off the bat we should understand that by putting this passage where he does, the author is making a statement. He is saying that these three behaviours, and the people who do them, are just as foolish and just as dangerous as being unfaithful in marriage. They’ll wreck you just as much as adultery.
So what we’re going to do today is walk through these three sections and hear Solomon’s warnings against these behaviours and the people who do them. And then we’re going to step back and take a look at a surprising truth that’s running in the background of this passage, and which we can only see from our place in the biggest story ever told.
Let’s begin with verses 1-5. This first warning is given directly to his son, and its a warning about putting up security or giving a pledge for a stranger.
The idea here is that this stranger needs to borrow money from someone. And in those days, when you did that, you would give your creditor an object as collateral, to make sure you came back to pay your debt (Exodus 22:26-27, Deuteronomy 24:10-13). Kind of like what people do at a pawn shop.
Except in this case, the guy doesn’t have anything to give to secure his loan. So he asks someone else to “put up security” or “give a pledge” for him. He’s basically asking Solomon’s son to give his wedding ring to the pawnbroker so that this other guy can get his loan.
You might think that this sounds awfully close to co-signing on a loan. Aimee and I needed a co-signer both times we purchased a property. But in both cases, the person knew us well, they knew our financial state, and they’ve never once needed to spend a penny of their own money in the process. For them, it was literally just a signature.
But what if it’s not like that? What if you don’t know the other person? What if they need a a loan because they’re in bad financial shape? What if they’re a total stranger and you have no idea what you’re getting in to?
That’s the kind of situation Solomon is addressing here in Proverbs, and we can see that by the word “stranger” at the end of verse 1. “Stranger” is in parallel to “neighbour” earlier in the verse, and it shows us that this “neighbour” isn’t the guy living next door that you’ve known for years. The word “neighbour” here just means another person, and in this case, he’s a stranger. You don’t even know him. And he’s asked you to put up security for him, for you to take responsibility for the repayment of his loan.
Sounds like a bad idea, right? So why would anyone ever do that? Why would anyone say, “Sure, I just met you but I’ll co-sign for your loan. I’ll be responsible for your debt”?
Someone might do this if they are, like the phrase says, generous to a fault. Maybe they are wealthy and they feel secure in their wealth. They think they have money to burn and don’t need to think too carefully about stuff like this. Solomon’s sons, and royal princes, may have had this illusion.
Or maybe they are out to make money. This is a possibility raised by some scholars who suggest that if a guy put up security for a stranger, he might be promised some sort of a kickback or interest when the debt was paid back. So he basically backs this other guys debt in the hopes of making some easy money.
But whatever the reason for this, Solomon’s advice is stark. He compares this situation—where you’ve put up security for a stranger—to being caught in a snare or a trap, verse 2. Like a gazelle or a bird being hunted—verse 5. This is a really, really bad situation that could totally ruin you financially.
You don’t know that stranger. You don’t know their situation and how trustworthy they are. If they need this loan in the first place, isn’t that a good sign that they’re not in the best financial shape? You don’t know how mean their creditor is going to be. They didn’t have banks or regulatory bodies back then. The creditor could come and take everything from you if he decided that was fair.
Putting up security for a stranger is just begging for financial ruin. Like Proverbs 11:15 says, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.” (See also 17:18, 22:26-27).
So this is a bad idea, and elsewhere in Proverbs we’re warned against ever doing it. But what if we didn’t listen to that advice, already done it? What if you’ve made the bad decision already, lured in by the prospect of gain—or maybe just a misguided sense of generosity?
That’s the situation that Proverbs 6:1-5 speaks to. If you have done this, if you have been caught by the words of your own mouth, “then,” verse 3, “do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:3–5).
Notice the urgency of the language here. Go! Hasten—hurry! Don’t just plead, plead urgently with your neighbour. Do everything you can to get out of this situation. Don’t even go to sleep that night. Don’t wait until the morning. Get out of that spot as fast as you can.
This would be very humbling, wouldn’t it be? It would mean knocking on someone’s door, maybe late at night, admitting that you made a mistake, and ironically begging that they’d release you from your obligation. That wouldn’t be fun, but it would be way better than staying stuck in that trap.
Now let’s step back and ask ourselves some important questions. What’s really going on here? Why is this matter so important? Is Solomon just teaching his sons not to care about others, not to be generous, just to think about themselves? Or is there more going on that we learn from today?
We should remember is that, in ancient Israel, money and possessions and land were a part of the blessing an inheritance that God have his people. In general, if someone was following the Lord faithfully, they would do well.
There were exceptions, and if someone became poor—whether it was their own fault or not—there were provisions in the law for this, like going and working for that person to pay off your debt. That was one of the ways that God took care of the poor within Israel.
I want to suggest that in behind verses 1-5 is the idea that however this stranger got into this bad financial situation, he needs to face his own music. He needs to take responsibility for his own situation and deal with things in the way that God already provided for in the law.
And this is especially true if he got into this debt by being foolish with his own money. He needs to own up to that, and go work it off if necessary, instead of pinning his debt on some other guy. And Solomon’s son needs to trust the process that God had already put into place for that kind fo thing.
If he doesn’t—if Solomon’s son steps in to bail this guy out from his bad situation—he might just be making it worse. He’s not helping that guy learn to take responsibility for himself. He’s not helping that guy learn to keep his word. And he’s not helping that guy learn, from painful experience, to stay away from situations like that in the future.
We see this kind of thing in the New Testament, by the way. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” That sounds heartless, until we remember that hunger is a very good teacher about the importance of work. If someone can work, but doesn’t, they should experience the consequences, so that they can learn. Bailing them out won’t help them.
So when it comes to Solomon’s advice here in verses 1-5, of course there’s a concern for his sons. He knows they don’t have unlimited resources. He doesn’t want them to start off their adult life in a place of financial ruin because they acted foolishly with a stranger.
But beyond this, we should see a genuine concern for that stranger. He was in bad financial shape, but God had a process in place for that already. Bailing him out of that process might feel nice in the moment, but could really hurt both them and you in the long run.
So that’s our first wisdom lesson for today. Be wise in your generosity. Be really careful with debt, especially someone else’s debt. Don’t get caught in that trap.
The second lesson Solomon teaches is in verses 6-11, and has to do with the sluggard. “Sluggard” is a wonderful old word for someone who is lazy. “Slacker” is the way the CSB translates this. This is a guy who can work, but doesn’t. And Solomon has some pointed advice for him: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise,” says Proverbs 6:6.
It’s interesting that Solomon doesn’t name his sons in this section. Perhaps he is not so concerned about them becoming lazy, as much as he wants to warn them about other people who are lazy. In that case, this section would fit in really well with the first one. This is the kind of guy who would need a loan and would ask a stranger to co-sign for him instead of taking responsibility for himself.
He got into that spot because, instead of being wise and diligent and hard-working, instead of thinking ahead and preparing for the future, all this guy thinks about is how nice it feels to take a nap in the sun. And so he does that over and over again.
As Solomon addresses the slacker in these verses, there’s a real element of humour going on. Just think about what verse 9 tells us: that this lazy guy is lying down. He’s close to the floor, close to the ground, right where the ants would be scurrying around.
And so when Solomon says “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise,” it’s almost like he’s saying, “While you’re down there, enjoying another nap, just open your eyes for a moment and look around. You might learn a thing or two.”
Have you ever taken a moment or two to watch ants? Not while you’re napping on a workday, but when it’s appropriate. Have you stopped to watch how incredible they are, how they work together, how much they are able to accomplish in a short period of time?
We had an ant problem in our basement and backyard this year and it made me wish that those ants would learn a thing or two from the sluggard. But what Solomon describes here is bang-on. There’s no boss ants scurrying around with whips and whistles making sure they do their job. “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Proverbs 6:7–8).
Ants are working ahead, storing up food for the winter when it is available during the harvest. They make hay while the sun shines, as the phrase goes.
In contrast to this, the sluggard, the lazy guy, enjoys his naps. He’s really good at doing nothing. And Solomon rebukes him in verse 9: “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:9).
Notice that Solomon doesn’t just say, “Stop lying there, and get up from your sleep.” He asks him these questions, which force this guy to answer for himself. This is what it looks like to hold someone accountable instead of just scolding them.
But his questions aren’t open-ended. They have a point. It’s time to get up. The harvest is underway, and the window to gather food is getting smaller and smaller with each passing day.
And so comes the warning in verses 10 and 11: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10–11). If you sleep through harvest, you will be poor and hungry as if a robber broke in and stole all your stuff.
Farmers, ranchers, those who work in agriculture, you know this truth full well. But it applies to any of us who work—even the kind that I do. I was at a pastor’s retreat a few years ago, and the theme was rest. The reason pastors would want to talk about rest is that it is way to easy for us to work way too much, to go all in and burn out. So we need to be very intentional about rest.
But one of the guys got up to speak for a few minutes, and I remember he was wearing sweats and flip-flops, and he spent the first few minutes bragging to us about how good he was at resting. It was his favourite thing, and he did it as often as he cold, and now, like some master of the art, he was going to show the rest of us how to take it easy.
I was not surprised, within a year or two, to find out that he had been fired from his church because he had been caught preaching other guys’ sermons from the pulpit. It’s had to prepare your own sermons when you’re doing all that resting. So he stole material from other guys, and he suffered for his laziness.
And this is Solomon’s second lesson to his sons. Whether this is a warning against laziness in themselves, or a warning to be careful about these people in their lives, the truth on display here is that God made us to work, and choosing not to work when we can and should be working is sin. And if we persist in that sin we will reap the consequences of that sin.
If we look to the New Testament we see once again that this truth is repeated for us. I read a few minutes ago from 2 Thessalonians 3, but listen to this fuller quote from verse 6 to verse 15:
“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living [literally “eat their own bread”]. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–14).
Paul could have used his status as a missionary to excuse himself from working like everybody else. But the opposite was true. He worked harder than everyone else at a menial job to set an example for them all. And wisdom calls us to learn from that example and follow in those footsteps.
There’s a third lesson Solomon teaches us in Proverbs 6, a third type of person we are warned against. This person is described in verses 12-19, and could be summarized as a troublemaker. A man with evil in his heart who stirs up trouble and violence with his words and his hands.
Verse 12 says that he has crooked speech. He distorts the truth with his words. Verse 13 describe the signals that he uses behind people’s backs—he says one thing to your face, but is secretly signalling to others to cause you harm at the same time.
Verse 17 further describes who this troublemaker is. He has proud or haughty eyes, a tongue that tells lies, hands that kill innocent blood.
As I think of those words “innocent blood” I can’t help but think again of the awful reality of abortion in our land. Innocent blood being shed every day across our land in hospitals by taxpayer-funded doctors. And this passage tells us that God hates those hands. Those hands that end all of those little lives are an abomination to God.
Verse 18 speaks about the heart of this troublemaker, working up wicked plans, his feet running off to do evil. He spreads falsehood about others and he sows discord among brothers. He whispers things in peoples ears to make them suspicious of others. As he gossips he plants seeds, and when those seeds grow up, the fruit is discord—strife, tension, arguments, fighting, splits—among God’s people.
But this troublemaker is not going to last forever. Like we’ve seen, God hates these things which describe him. And so we shouldn’t be surprised by what we see in verse 15: calamity will come upon this person suddenly. He will be destroyed, broken beyond all healing, in a moment.
Once again, we’re not totally certain if Solomon is warning his sons not to be like this themselves, or to keep away from people who are like this, but in either case the lesson is strong and clear. Don’t mess around with these behaviours or the people who practice them.
As we step back and consider this passage as a whole, I wonder if you notice the progression between these three sections. First, Solomon warned his son against ruining himself for the sake of someone else’s debt. Second, Solomon spoke about the type of person who would get in debt and go looking for help from a stranger. Finally, Solomon speaks of the troublemaker, who goes beyond the sluggard. He doesn’t just not do good, but he is very busy with evil.
And the very simple wisdom lesson we can learn from our passage today is: don’t do these things yourself, and don’t get tangled up with other people who do them. If you do, you are inviting destruction into your life.
Christ, the Wisdom of God
But I want us to take one further step this morning. Because you and I, from our vantage point in the biggest story ever told, know that wisdom is not just about knowing how to live well. It is that, but it’s more. Wisdom has taken on flesh and bones and we know Him as a person: Christ, who is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30). In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
So as we step back and look at a passage like this, we want to ask what it shows us of Christ. And the way we’re going to get there is to actually first ask what this passage shows us about ourselves.
Have you learned anything about yourself from this passage? Did anything we read cause your conscience to feel a poke?
Think about verse 13 for a moment—the winking and signalling. Have you ever done this kind of thing? Someone is talking, and you look over at a friend with an eyebrow raised and a smirk on your face, using non-verbal cues to basically say “what an idiot, hey?”
Or what about verse 17 and what it says about “haughty eyes.” Have you ever looked at someone else proudly, feeling like you’re so much better than them? Have you ever driven by certain homes here in Nipawin, and instead of thinking “but for the grace of God, there go I,” and praying for God to have mercy on those people behind those doors, you’ve simply looked down on them and driven home feeling superior and smug—or worse, cracked jokes about the people who live in places like that? Have you ever looked at anyone with haughty eyes?
Verse 16 also talks about a lying tongue. Have you ever told a lie to hurt someone else? Verse 19 speaks about sowing “discord among brothers.” Have you ever done anything or said anything that results in discord among God’s people? Have you used your words to cause tension and strife, to start an argument, to undermine those who aren’t doing anything wrong?
I suspect that many of us in this room can think of times when this was us, when we acted just like this troublemaker. We did the things which God hates, which God finds abominable.
And the truth is that this is who we all are—this is who we all would be—without the Lord. Listen to what Romans chapter 3 says about our natural condition, our native tongue, apart from God’s grace in our lives:
“‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Romans 3:10–18).
That’s all of us—or at least, that’s who we would be in our default state. Full of the things that God hates and, like Proverbs 6:15 says, just waiting for destruction to find us.
But the good news for us this morning is that in that spot—with a debt of sin piled high to heaven, never able to pay it off on our own—Jesus stepped in and did what Solomon told his son not to do in verses 1-5. Jesus became our surety. Jesus put up security for us, giving himself as pledge for us. He made Himself responsible for our debt of sin.
Solomon told his son not to do that because he knew he had limited resources. He’d run out of money and it would ruin him. He also knew that if the heart of the guy in debt didn’t change, then helping him out with his debt would only make things worse.
But Jesus doesn’t have those limitations. As the Son of God, He has unlimited resources. He was able to die once to pay for all of our sins, forever (Hebrews 9:24-26).
Like we read at the beginning of our service, He’s forgiven “all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 3:13-14). And He didn’t stay dead. He lives and reigns today, continuing to pray and plead for the salvation of His people (Romans 8:34).
And Jesus doesn’t have to worry that forgiving our debts is just going to make us worse sinners than we were before. Like we read in Titus this spring, the same grace that saves us also trains us to say no to sin and live godly lives. As Jesus died to redeem us, that same sacrifice also purified us for His own possession so that we should be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
The old hymn by William Gadsby puts is so well when it says,
Mercy speaks by Jesus’ blood
Hear and sing, ye sons of God,
Justice satisfied indeed,
Christ hath full atonement made.
Jesus’ blood speaks loud and sweet,
Here all Deity can meet,
And without a jarring voice,
Welcome Zion to rejoice.
Should the law against her roar,
Jesus' blood still speaks with power;
"All her debts were cast on Me,
And she must and shall go free."
Peace of conscience, peace with God,
We obtain through Jesus' blood;
Jesus’ blood speaks solid rest,
We believe, and we are blest.
Would the Christian walk in love,
Circumspect and godly prove,
Then be this his constant aim,
On the blood of Christ to lean.
Here’s his strength to will and do,
And whatever he goes through,
This should be his only plea,
"Jesus’ blood was shed for me."
So I end this morning by inviting you to come to Jesus, the one who took responsibility for your debts when you were not just a stranger but his enemy (Romans 5:8), and has more than enough resources to pay for them all.
Whether you are coming to him for the first time, or whether you have been coming to him for years, turn to him again this morning and taste the freedom that comes from knowing that all of our debts have been cast on him, and so we must and shall go free.
And we we do that, walking in the freedom He bought for us, our hearts will be changed. We’ll want to please Him, and not ourselves. We’ll want to walk in His wisdom.
So today, on this first day of a new week, come to Jesus. Tomorrow, if Monday slaps you in the face, come to Jesus. When Friday afternoon weighs down on you, come to Jesus. Be transformed by the freedom that He died to give you.