Wise words from the book of Proverbs

He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it, Prov. 11. 15.

A friend of mine, with his wife, moved to Bath a while ago. John had emigrated from Botswana to the UK to read for a post-graduate degree in Bath University. He had been a primary school teacher for several years, and had taught our children when we were resident in Botswana. His wife is a qualified pharmacist, who had run single-handedly a pharmacy in Francistown. Both were mature, had been married to each other for twenty years and had put aside money to fund John’s post-graduate degree.

Given, then, that they were a mature, professional couple, who intended to settle in Bath for post-graduate studies and had funds available, one could be forgiven for thinking that finding a flat would not be difficult.Try it. Some estate agents would hardly give them the time of day as, wishing to be sensible in their use of funds, they did not want to rent a sumptuous apartment. Others refused even to consider them as John was a student and,‘We don’t rent to students’, or because they were self-funding and had no guaranteed income.Whatever happened to self-help and independence these days? Happily, one estate agent was willing to rent to them, providing they could get good references.

Was I prepared to give them a reference? Of course I was. I had the highest opinion possible of them and was even prepared to stand surety for them, guaranteeing payment of the rent if necessary. I am sure you would have done the same. To stand surety for a friend is one thing: however, to stand surety for a total stranger is another. Would I give a good reference and be willing to bail out a total stranger should the need arise? Probably not. The proverb above tells us that one who is willing to stand as guarantee for a stranger may get into trouble – may ‘smart for it’.We would think twice about that. Yet Christ Himself stood surety for sinners when we were not just strangers to Him, we were even enemies. He suffered on the cross, ‘the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God’.He took upon Himself sins He had not committed and bore the punishment for them, so that all who come to Him in repentance and faith might be forgiven and have peace with God.You might say that was foolhardy.He certainly smarted for it, but He did so knowingly and willingly. His death for sinners, rather than showing folly in standing for them, shows His great love, for ‘God commendeth his love toward us in that, whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’.

‘What love to Thee we owe, our God, for all Thy grace’.

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