Proverbs 17:18

Foolishly Helpful


1. There seems to be a connection in thought between vs. 17 and vs.18.

2. Vs.17 spoke of being a faithful, loyal friend…

a. Even in times of adversity… a loyal friend will stick with you.

b. A true friend loves at ALL times.

c. You can count on a true friend to come through.

d. And we should BE true friends to others.

e. Our friends should be able to count on us!

f. We should be a loyal friend to THEM at all times.

g. We should stick closer than a brother.

h. We should bear one another’s burdens.

i. We should be there in times of adversity.

3. However, Solomon presents us with a stipulation in vs.18. There are LIMITS to what a friend should do for a friend.

a. Here Solomon teaches that we should use care and caution in our financial obligations and promises to a friend.

b. Friendship and emotion can lead a person to commit himself to an obligation he might regret later.

c. This is a warning against rash, thoughtless generosity that might come back to bite us!

18b And becometh surety in the presence of his friend.

1. Surety.

a. This is a subject mentioned often in Proverbs.

b. Surety defined:
• pledge, token, bond,
• pledge, i.e., an object of value that is given as a guarantee of repayment of a loan, or fulfillment of an obligation
• Interestingly, one of the related words to this word family is “hostage.” (The relationship is that when one guarantees the repayment for another, he is a slave or a hostage to the owner of the loan until it is paid off.)

c. Gen. 43:9 – Judah agrees to be the surety for his youngest brother, Benjamin, to his father, Jacob. He states, “I will be the surety for him; of my hand you shall require him.” It was a promise to his father to be responsible and to bear the penalty if he is not returned. It was a pledge to “deliver” (pay up) or else!

2. Becometh:

a. To give a pledge, i.e., give an object or personal security in an agreement to ensure that an agreed future event in fact happens.

b. It is virtually the same word as “surety”. It reads: if you pledge a pledge… if you guarantee to be the one responsible for paying the debt…

3. In modern terms…

a. This is the equivalent of agreeing to sign for a loan… putting up bail… making a promise to pay… promising financial security for someone else’s loans or debts… putting up your house as collateral.

4. A friend.

a. This is the same word for friend as in vs.17

b. It means an associate. It does not necessarily imply a close friend. (lit. = another person)

c. But even with a close friend, it is not always the wisest thing to do.

d. Money problems can turn friends into enemies.

5. In the presence of…

a. Presence: face; superficial;

b. The meaning seems to be: in the presence of your friend.
• When your friend is standing right there… eyeball to eyeball…
• When there is the threat of losing his house, or his car if he doesn’t come up with the money or a guarantee to pay… it’s hard to say NO!
• There is undue pressure on a person to make an important decision—especially in the presence of a friend in need…

c. If you were NOT in his presence, the decision might be easier.
• You might reason, “I’d like to help Joe, but I have bills of my own. I need to put my family before my friend.”
• What happens if Joe doesn’t pay that bill? I’ll get stuck with it! I can’t really afford to take on that responsibility right now.
• Without being put “on the spot”, a much more sensible decision can be made.
• When put “on the spot”, we often agree to things on the spur of the moment that we would otherwise never agree to.
• Salesmen know this. That’s why they put great pressure on a person to make the decision NOW… because they know if they go home and THINK about it sensibly, you will probably not make the purchase at all.
• When under pressure, people agree to things they might NOT agree to if there was no pressure.

18a A man void of understanding striketh hands…

1. Striketh hands:

a. This was an Old Testament custom similar to a gentleman’s handshake – a means of closing a deal.

b. It was the final and binding part of becoming a surety or a guarantor of the other person’s debt.

c. It virtually meant, signing on the dotted line.

2. Solomon says that a man “void of understanding” is often snared by that trap.

a. It is NOT WISE to do so!

b. A man who operates on the spur of the moment without thinking about future ramifications is not wise.

c. A man who makes important decisions based on emotion is not wise. He is void of understanding.

d. Here’s another reason why it is not wise:
• When Joe takes out a loan—paying that loan back is on his mind.
• There is pressure on Joe to work hard; to be diligent; to pay his bills; to get that yoke of debt off his back.
• But once YOU step in as his guarantor, the pressure is gone!
• Joe doesn’t feel such pressure any more to work hard and pay it off.
• Now he has a cushion, and you are it!
• After all, why should Joe break his back working to pay down that debt? If the debt doesn’t get paid, they go after YOU not him!

3. If you HAVE a lot of money—beware!

a. A person looking for someone to bail them out… or to sign a loan for them… or to pledge to be their guarantor for some kind of debt is going to be looking for a person with money.

b. If you have money, you will be a target for such folks.

c. You might discover that you have more so called “friends” than ever when they discover you are wealthy. Beware!

d. Don’t let people talk you into obligating your hard earned money to bail them out of debt!

e. Solomon says this is a trap… those who fall for this trap are not wise.

4. For those who do NOT have a lot money. It is always best to keep OUT of debt ourselves.

a. Do whatever you can to AVOID personal debt.

b. Prov. 22:7 – “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

c. Hence, taking on the responsibility for someone else’s debt is not very wise.

d. You become servant to the lender—and your financial stability is now out of your control… in the hands of another.

e. You could become servant to HIS lender—and gain nothing from it.

f. It’s bad enough becoming a servant for our own bills… be very careful about the possibility of becoming a servant to someone else’s bills!

g. Prov. 22:26–27 – Here Solomon warns about the possibility of signing as a surety when you don’t have the resources to actually MAKE the payments if called upon!

h. If you are willing to sign, make sure you are ready and able to take on the debt… for you may have to!

5. A note to parents:

a. When your kids live under your roof, their financial responsibilities are really yours.

b. However, once they move out on their own—do NOT feel responsible to bail them out of debt.

c. That could be the worst thing in the world for them. You could cause them to become dependent upon you for the rest of their lives…

d. They might never learn to be responsible UNTIL they begin to feel the PAIN of being irresponsible with finances.

e. When face to face with your adult child who is agonizing over the financial hole he has dug for himself… don’t allow the emotion of the moment cause you foolishly to promise to pay what he SHOULD be paying.

f. Don’t allow him to play on your heart strings and wrap you around his or her little finger…

g. That is not love… Love wants the very BEST for the other… and what is best is for that adult child to learn to BE responsible… and to not spend more than he makes…

h. Even if you can afford to bail him out—it is not best for him.

i. That can be a painful lesson. It’s hard to see your kids suffer or go without… but sometimes that’s the only way they will learn.

6. Prov. 11:15 – for a stranger—you are really foolish! (smart – be broken)

a. If Solomon warns us about doing so with a friend—doing so with a stranger is doubly foolish!

b. That person will smart for it!

c. There are lots of folks who pose as friends… good salesmen come across as your best friend… one who is out for YOUR best interest… even though he is a total stranger and is seeking to get your money into his pockets.

d. Beware!

e. Don’t let anybody force you into signing on the dotted line when face to face. Take a day or two to think and pray about it!

7. Men VOID of understanding bind themselves in such agreements.

a. Thus, be careful about signing on the dotted line for a friend… especially under the emotion of the moment.

b. Think and pray about it.

c. You might be better off GIVING him a small amount of money than to agree to be his guarantor.

d. If anything happens YOU are responsible to pay the whole debt in full!

e. Suppose you sign a loan for his car…
• He could die… and you have to pay off his car. His widow may know nothing about it.
• He could become ill and unable to work.
• He could be dishonest… and LET you pay.
• He could have several other debts that other people have signed for and he has no possible way to pay them all off.

f. Solomon warns us here to be careful. A man VOID of understanding falls for this snare. Wise men avoid it.