My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.
Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
This is one I have learned (and am learning) the hard way. “Striking your hand with a stranger or being surety for your friend” is Proverbs’ way of describing getting a loan/credit card, or becoming a co-signer on a debt.
The thing about “striking your hand with a stranger” is also an admonition to read the terms of any agreement – especially when it involves money. Easy money is easy debt. Living on credit is a sure way to bondage. Don’t go down that road. If you’re on it, work hard to pay off what you owe and get off that road as soon as you can. Any deal that says you can get now and pay later, is probably a bad thing. Remember: Anything you think you “can’t live without,” you’ve lived without up until now. Chances are you can live without it until you can actually afford it.
Also, mixing money with friendship, “being surety for your friend,” is a quick and easy way of turning a friend into an enemy. Your friends should be your friends, not your co-signers on debts.
Most people look at verses 6-8 as an admonition to have a good work ethic – and those verses do advocate for that. But the context also makes it clear that these verses are about working hard to get out of debt. Verses 9-11 are about working hard to stay out of debt. The best advice? Don’t get into debt.
Some debts are unavoidable (like rent or mortgage). You’ll always carry some kind of debt. But if you want to live a prosperous life both spiritually and financially, keep your accounts short and paid up!