Surety means to braid; to intermix; to be security for another; for the debt of another person. When we serve as surety, we are co-signing our name to the debt. We are vowing that we will pay the debt if the other person defaults. The Bible has several very clear statements about financial surety.
- God views a person as senseless if he enters a surety agreement. A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, and becomes surety for his friend. (Proverbs 17:18)
- We should despise surety. Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you? (Proverbs 22:26-27)
- We should not enter into surety for a stranger. He who is surety for a stranger will suffer, but one who hates being surety is secure. (Proverbs 11:15)
- If we have obligated ourselves, we should get out of it if we can. My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1-5)
- If we cannot get out of it now, we should get out of it as soon as possible.
To help us see how serious this matter of surety is, consider three non-financial ways surety is used. By understanding these examples, we can see our Lord’s perspective on surety.
Example #1: In Genesis 43:9 and 44:32, Judah became surety for Benjamin. Judah made a promise he did not have the personal power to fulfill.
Example #2: In Ezra 9:2, it was used to speak of the Israelites who mingled with heathen cultures. They became so intermingled and connected with these cultures that it had long-term consequences.
Example #3: In Hebrews 7:22, our Lord Jesus is described as surety of a better covenant. Through His sacrificial death, we have a binding eternal relationship that will never be undone; and I am so glad that is true.
This is why God discourages and even forbids financial surety agreements. When we enter into them, we are binding ourselves to fulfill the agreements of the loan if the borrower defaults on the loan. We are putting ourselves under the bondage of another person. See Financial Principle #5 for some review. That principle reminded us to be free of debt. If we enter into surety for another person at that moment, we are no longer free of debt.