Word to the Wise (part 3) – Proverbs 22:26-27

 

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Proverbs 22:26-27, “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?”

There will always be goods, services, and experiences that are beyond your reach to afford. In this day of relentless marketing, some scrupulous entrepreneurs seem to deliberately exploit our natural tendency toward discontentment. Those who fall prey to this way of thinking find themselves pursuing the stuff money can buy without the money to buy it. Creative financing is used to buy now and pay later. Inevitably something goes wrong with pay later part and the desperate search for rescue begins.

If you have more money than you need to sustain your routine, then you become the target of appeals for financial aid. For some people there’s a temptation to help. It feels good to be needed. It feels merciful to assist. It feels awkward to say no. Unfortunately, none of those reasons justify the move. You’re not obligated to put your good name (and money) on the line to subsidize someone who doesn’t have the income to justify their lifestyle.

The pledge Solomon talks about was a promise to pay a debt if someone couldn’t. At the time it’s made, I’m sure the evidence suggested default was a remote possibility. No one with even a token amount of financial sense will voluntary obligate themselves to pay the debt of another person who clearly doesn’t have the income to make the payments. The only exception would be certain banks during periods of time, most recently in the early 2000’s.

The bottom line is, it’s a bad idea to agree to pay someone else’s debt. If your own debt is worth getting out from under, why risk yourself with someone else’s? Why avoid a situation where you could get stuck the debt? There’s a strong possibility you will. The consequence is that what you pledged is gone before you know it. This practice involves offering something of value that the lender could take from you in exchange for the money they owe. It’s called security. However, the security is not for you, but for the lender. Solomon clearly states that this is a bad idea.

Notice the emphasis is not necessarily on debt, but risk. Wisdom is shown by an aversion to any situation that threatens their own financial security. When we talk about security it should be from two sides. The first side is security that comes from wealth. When a family accumulates a certain amount of wealth, it can live peacefully, knowing that any unexpected cost can be paid for or insured against. They have reached the point where they are essentially impervious to the economic forces that bring others to their knees. The other side of security is the absences of financial stupidity, and that kind is not dependent on income or wealth. You can have very humble means and still be secure. When we look at this kind of security, we see a person who is wise enough to avoid the pitfalls that bring poverty and destitution to the fool. The wise person may actually be lowly in comparison to others, but they are not foolish enough to imperil what little they have by securing the debt of others.

In this example, the creditor will come looking for money, and if you don’t have cash to back up your promise, then he will take what you pledged, in the case your bed. So the pledge here is a bed, and it serves as security. The person in view here likely doesn’t have much gold or silver, so they need to put up their own personal property as collateral. A modern day example would be a parent who takes out a second mortgage to finance a child.

Picture it. Danny Blunt, an unemployed forty-year-old who lives in his parent’s basement and plays video games decides to do something with his life. So he approaches his parents because the only thing between him and biblical manhood is the tuition money to attend a University named after his favorite real estate mogul. He knows mom and dad don’t have the cash to lend him. So he takes the advice of an advisor and encourages them to get a thirty-thousand-dollar loan against their home, which just happens to be most of the equity. He explains that interest rates are low, and then guarantees that when he makes his first big deal he’ll pay them back and then some. It’s basically a no brainer.

Can you guess where this is going? Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. The training program turns out to be less than useful, and now mom and dad owe the money they’ve borrowed but can’t make the payments. The initial interest rate that made the payments possible for the first six months have doubled. To make matters worse, after a few delinquency notices, the bank sends the Sheriff over to evict them, and though they get to keep their bed, they lose the bedroom and the rest of the house it’s attached to. That’s what it looks like when foolish people make a pledge on behalf of someone else. They voluntarily put their own estate at risk to enable an unqualified buyer to purchase goods or services they can’t afford and shouldn’t have.

How not to pray for our leaders

Foot-in-the-Mouth-Award

I had breakfast this morning with my three boys and The Wall Street Journal. We took a couple days away to escape the “June gloom” marine layer of Oceanside in favor of Palm Desert, where the ambient temperature is approaching that of Mercury.

As we chatted over coffee, we discussed a short column with the headline ‘Prayer’ Sparks Furor. Evidently, at a conference of “prominent Christian conservative activists” (I’ll resist commenting on the dripping irony and inconsistency of that description) Sen. David Perdue (R. GA) made a joke about praying for the President.

He is quoted as saying, “I think we need to be very specific about how we pray. We should pray like Psalm 109:8 says: It says, ‘Let his days be few and let another have his office'”. Hilarious right? No. Read the rest of the Psalm. If you take a verse out of context and use it as a joke to mock the leaders God has appointed, you deserve all the bad press you get. There is nothing Christian about it.

I asked my son what the Senator should have done instead. He told me the better plan would be to genuinely pray for the man’s salvation, wisdom for his advisors, and a heart to do God’s will. Amen.

 

Here’s the online version: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/06/10/republican-senators-prayer-for-barack-obama-sparks-anger/

Politico adds even more detail: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/david-purdue-obama-pray-224185.

Word to the Wise (part 2) – Proverbs 22:24-25

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Proverbs 22:24–25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Anger is an attribute of God. So is wrath. His anger is authentic, passionate, dangerous, and justified. It’s aimed at wicked individuals (Psalm 7:11), nations (2 Kings 17:18), and religious leaders (Mark 3:5). Even Solomon, who is giving the advice here, found himself in a situation where God was angry with him (1 Kings 11:9).

Since God is infinite in every way, his infinite love, mercy, and grace are perfectly balanced with an infinitely strong hatred, anger, and wrath. God has every emotion, but in an infinite and infinitely holy way. So when Solomon talks about anger here, we need to make sure we understand what he’s talking about. Otherwise the anger of God will be confusing, and his wrath will seem unkind.

The point here is that some people are possessed by their own anger. It becomes an uncontrollable force in their lives, and there is nothing godly about it. These people are bloated with anger, and on a regular basis it explodes out of them. Once the eruption begins there is no telling when it will die down, and how much damage will be done. Friends and family members are smothered in a thick layer of ash like a city build too close to the mouth of an active volcano. Everyone within a certain radius of these people are frequently damaged by their unpredictable and unreasonable character.

When a little child throws a tempter tantrum, or screams uncontrollably, we draw several conclusions. The first is that the sound or scene is an annoying distraction that needs to be corrected. The second is that the child is too young to fully appreciate the magnitude of the disturbance. The third is that the child is just old enough to appreciate the fact that in the past this behavior worked, or else it wouldn’t continue. Fourth, the parents are responsible for fixing this problem. Fifth, if the child does not receive the proper correction now, it will only get worse.

Solomon is showing us what happens when the last step is not faithfully performed. Unfortunately, many people roam the earth who are physically mature, but emotionally infantile. They essentially throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want, or get something they didn’t want. Angry people simmer and brood until just the right event provokes them, and it detonates the bomb they carry around inside. Outbursts of anger are an early warning sign to anyone with wisdom.

Learning how to control your anger is one of the first steps to becoming a mature adult. There are only two kinds of people who show their anger, fools and toddlers (Proverbs 12:16). It’s one thing to see a three-year-old fly into a fit of rage, but it’s entirely different when the person is 23, or 53, or 83. Just a little reflection will likely call to mind several emotional infants you encounter on a regular basis. Consider the hot head who is always at the center of a fight (Proverbs 15:18), or the one who get’s angry like Cain did when a situation doesn’t go as planned (Genesis 4:5). Where did they learn this? The answer is that all foolishness was in them when they were born, but their parents didn’t drive it out (Proverbs 22:15).

Solomon is a concerned parent. He’s older now, has made a lot of money, seen what the world has to offer, and knows a thing or two about people. He realizes by now that the best plans and purest intentions can be utterly devastated by bad partnerships. So in his effort to help his son succeed, he identifies some best practices. One of the most important is avoiding angry people. If someone in your circle is a fool who looses his or her temper, avoid them.

We might assume Solomon encourages separation is because bad things happen to angry people. But it’s not. The main reason is that anger is contagious. Anger is a disease. It’s a systemic infection that touches the whole man. Sinful, foolish anger is a virus of the soul that spreads through close contact. Before you know it, you start acting like an angry person. Observation becomes imitation. Boys turn in to donkeys like in Pinocchio, but unlike the cartoon, jiminy cricket isn’t going to rescue you. In fact, the reality is closer to Carlo Collodi’s 1883 book the film is based on. Pinocchio is last seen hanging stiff from a tree branch.

The fool who cannot control himself or herself is a danger to everyone. They make foolish choices (Proverbs 14:17), and the damage they cause is sometimes irreversible. The behavior is primal and emotional. Like a child demonstrating his sin nature, they pour out the depravity of man. It’s a visceral reaction, not a state of mind. It’s virtually devoid of anything cognitive, and trying to reason with them is futile. The best option is to cut them loose and pray that a power greater than you will one day transform them.