Beware of Sure Things

March 30, 2012

While my daily Bible readings were in Proverbs, our local television news did a story on an Internet scam. This Internet company claimed to be located in Grand Rapids, which is why our investigative reporter worked the story. The company supposedly made loans.

A victim in the report told her story. She had applied for a loan of $10,000 but was told to send $1000 to guarantee the loan. This should have been the first clue that something was wrong. Now the $1000 is gone, there is no loan, and the Grand Rapids address is phony. But what made me think of Proverbs was the comment this lady made.

My friend Rose that loaned me the thousand dollars. That was her rent money and now she’s on the verge of being kicked out of her home because we didn’t get the loan.

Proverbs has many warnings about “putting up security” or “making a pledge” for someone else. The longest of the passages is in Proverbs 6:1-5. It deals with the case when you have put up security for your neighbor. It advises “to plead urgently with your neighbor” and “save yourself” like a gazelle from the hunter or a bird from the fowler. Proverbs 17:18 is a good example of the warnings.

One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor. Proverbs 17:18, ESV

Many years ago, I had a man who called the church building. He asked me to bail out his son from the county jail. The man was out of state. The bond was $2000. I didn’t know either of them. At the time, I probably didn’t have the ten percent for the bond available in the family budget, and I certainly couldn’t have afforded to lose $2000 if the son skipped on the bail. I offered to visit the man’s son in jail and help him get in contact with a local bail bondsman, so that he could bail out his son, but I made it clear that I could not personally bail out his son. He didn’t want the help I was willing to offer, which is telling. It is not unkind to say no to what you cannot afford.

That, after all, is the point of Proverbs. It is cautioning us against putting up security, if we think we will never be asked to pay it, because we are legally and morally on the hook for the loss. If you can afford the loss and are willing to put up security that may be a different matter. You must count the cost and be able to afford the loss.

The Rose of this story no doubt was told that this was a sure thing. Her money would be back before her rent was due. Beware of sure things.