Proverbs 6 opens with a warning, and one that may not immediately strike a cord with you. When was the last time you acted as collateral for your neighbour? Not recently I’d wager, so does that mean we can ignore these words of warning? Let’s read them and see if there are elements which do apply to us.
My son, if you have become collateral for your neighbor,
if you have struck your hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 you are trapped by the words of your mouth;
you are ensnared with the words of your mouth.
3 Do this now, my son, and deliver yourself,
since you have come into the hand of your neighbor.
Go, humble yourself.
Press your plea with your neighbor.
4 Give no sleep to your eyes,
nor slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.Proverbs 6:1-5 WEB
Verses one and two describe a situation where someone has trapped themselves with their words. In our modern day world, we might imagine someone signing up as a guarantor for someone else. For example, when signing a rental agreement, you may need to provide a guarantor who will back you in the event that you cannot pay. The guarantor, like this person in Proverbs, is “trapped” in that contract.
Have you ever been asked to be a guarantor for someone else? If so, then the chances are it was a good friend or family member. In such cases, you may have been rather hesitant to sign up. How so? Usually it is because we do not want to end up footing the bill for someone else when we have our own bills to pay. There may, of course, be situations where it is appropriate to enter into such an agreement – most commonly in my experience, this is when a parent acts as guarantor for their (adult) child.
What about a stranger though? What if someone you had never met before advanced on you, pen and clipboard in hand, seeking your signature on a contract… run my friend, as fast as you can!
Verses one and two describe becoming entangled in a situation with either a neighbour or stranger, and this risking your own situation to do so. In the time these words were first written, there were no bankruptcy courts, and no administrators to mediate between you and your debtors. You paid up what you owed, or could end up becoming enslaved. The warning is clear then, do not jump into such agreements.
Verse two in particular opens out the meaning for us here. It is our words that have ensnared us; our ill thought through commitments have led us into danger. While you may not be at risk of becoming someone’s guarantor any time soon, have you made commitments with your words that you now regret?
Do not be trapped by the #words of your mouth! #Bible #Jesus #Christianity #WisdomTweet
When I think back, there have been a number of times when I have committed to something in the moment, and later regretted it. “Yes, I can do that…” I say, and then the time comes and the effort, energy or cost is more than I wanted to offer.
I heard someone telling a story about a time they visited a city, met some new friends and casually said to them they should come visit with them “sometime.” Several weeks later, these new friends called up and said, “We’re ready to come.” “Ready to come where?” the individual thought… They had been hung by their tongue. It was simply not convenient, and not really something the person wanted to do. They even prayed for a way out of it, and God told them that they would indeed honour their own words, put these people up and show them around, and perhaps learn a lesson not to be so flippant with their invites in future. What a lesson!
What commitments have you made that you later regretted?
Verses three to five then turn to what we should do if we have entered into something we shouldn’t have.
Firstly, they advise us not to wait! Go now! Do not let yourself sleep, and do not put it off until tomorrow! Go! Resolve it straightaway!
It can be difficult to undo words we have spoken. Yet, it is better to put things right than to let other people down by not meeting our commitments. How often do people sign up for one church rota or another, and yet the tasks go unfulfilled? I know there have been times when I’ve signed up, and not done it. This isn’t the way excellent Christians should live.
It can be difficult to undo #words we have spoken. It is better to put things right than to let other people down #Bible #Christianity #wisdomTweet
It is indeed difficult to admit we are wrong. Two little words in the midst of verse three are key here, “humble yourself.” It does certainly take humility to recognise our faults, and it can hurt our pride to tell someone else. I will let you in on a secret though… it will not surprise anyone else to learn that you are not perfect!
I have no small amount of pride, and am constantly wrestling with it. Admitting my faults is time consuming (he says, somewhat tongue in cheek!) but I must humble myself before God and others. If I trap myself with my words, like a gazelle (as above in verse 5) then it is right that I correct things. If it causes me some small amount of embarrassment, then that is a lesson to learn.
I want to close this post by picking up similar words of instruction from the Lord Jesus Himself.
Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’Luke 14:27-30 WEB
Jesus’ words here refer to the cost of being a disciple. Of course, they do apply more widely than this, but in context are crucially important. Reflecting on the importance of our words, and not making commitments we cannot fulfil, are you prepared to fulfil the requirements of claiming Jesus as Lord? In my post – Lord, Lord! – I pointed out that it is one thing to call Jesus Lord, and yet quite another to live a life serving Him.
Do not let your words be worthless. Do not sign up to do something unless you are able to fulfil it. This applies to small things in life, but even more so to the commitment to follow Christ.