Be not one of those who give pledges,
who put up security for debts.
If you have nothing with which to pay,
why should your bed be taken from under you?
To unscramble this verse, some background is needed.
Pledges = collateral for a debt.
Cloak = doubled as a blanket for comfort and warmth in bed at night.
Pledge made with a cloak = single-day loan (because the owner would need it at night). [And, one’s cloak was often a simple, portable item for collateral against a debt.]
Hence the proverb: Careful about giving your cloak as the collateral for a short-term loan, because you may end up without something warm to wrap yourself in that night!
[But short-term loan with a cloak = person is poor and/or desperate.]
And so we are encouraged to not engage in quick, turn-around loans which may cost us the shirt off our backs.
But let’s dig a bit deeper. A parallel passage to our proverb today is from Deuteronomy 24:12-13: "And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge. You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the Lord your God."
Handling of money in a wise way is a major theme in Proverbs (12 verses; cf. 11:4)…as is the way one treats the poor (35 verses; cf. 21:13). And as the passage in Deuteronomy demonstrates, Scripture is very strong about treating the poor with dignity and not taking advantage of their weakened position. For the one who knows the Living God, both stewardship and compassion have their genesis in a relationship with him.
This relationship also defines the way we view money/assets. We should consider carefully any decision to borrow or lend money – knowing our Lord is watching how well we use his money. You remember that truism: all the “legal, tender” in your wallet/purse is the Lord’s (slight paraphrase of Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26). It is our Lord who provided through jobs and investments, gifts and opportunities, healthy bodies and strong minds. So the real beginning for any loan decision is in prayer.
The wisest suggestion is to pray ahead of time by thinking through now how the Lord might bless others with the monies he has entrusted to our stewardship. Then we share in the enjoyment and excitement of seeing our Lord provide for his children…and we may be called upon to join in the need/fun/opportunity to glorify him.