18It's stupid to guarantee
someone else's loan.
16You deserve to lose your coat
if you loan it to someone
to guarantee payment
for the debt of a stranger.
26Don't guarantee to pay
someone else's debt.
27If you don't have the money,
you might lose your bed.
In these verses Solomon is warning us of the danger of entering into agreements without considering all the potential consequences. At that time “striking hands” was a public way of sealing a transaction, much in the same way that people today “shake hands” to confirm a deal. Solomon teaches us that what used to be called a “gentleman’s agreement” is morally binding on both parties. If a friend sees us make a bargain and later becomes aware that we didn’t do what we agreed to do, it becomes a serious threat to our friendship.
At that time the agreements that people made were usually done publically; an agreement might involve guaranteeing another person’s debt, with or without “security.” People had few possessions that could be transferred. Often the surety was a coat, or perhaps a sleeping mat. To do so for a friend is risky: to do so for a stranger is foolish.
Solomon’s advice is straightforward: if you enter into an agreement with another person you are morally obligated to live up to it, even if it is costly.
O God: give us the proper mix of compassion and wisdom, so that we won’t make foolish promises; and when we make promises, give us the courage to honor them, even when it is costly. We pray in the name of Jesus. AMEN