With regard to finances, surety is probably the least taught and least understood principle in God’s Word. Considering the number of times the Scriptures warn against surety, its amazing to think that so few actually heed God’s cautions.
The fact that so many Christians can violate a basic biblical principle about money and seem to get away with it temporarily neither negates the truth of God’s Word nor its caution concerning surety.
In a literal sense, surety means to pledge money, goods, or part payment for a greater obligation. In essence, it is taking on an obligation to pay later without a certain way to pay. “A man lacking in sense pledges and becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor” (Proverbs 17:18).
What Makes Surety Wrong?
Surety is not a biblical law, but it is one of God’s financial principles. A principle is a biblical guide that can help keep God’s people on the correct financial path and out of the money traps set by the world’s economic system.
People don’t get punished for violating principles unknowingly, but they do suffer the consequences of such violations. The consequence of violating the biblical principle of abstaining from surety is that when someone takes surety that person presumes upon the future. In other words, when people sign surety for a debt, they pledge their future and presume upon God’s will.
Why is the Principle Violated?
If surety is a biblical principle, why is there so much violation of the principle of abstaining from surety in today’s Christian society (over 95 percent either have or will in the future most likely violate the principle)?
The primary reason why the principle is violated is because surety is the primary mechanism used in our society to “buy now,” rather than saving to buy. Surety allows people to buy things now that they probably cannot afford to own with a promise of paying for it in the future, when in fact they don’t know what the future holds.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty”(Proverbs 21:5). Nowhere is this seen more often than in the purchase of homes and automobiles, whose surety acquisitions have been the driving force behind the rise of these industries. They require an ever-expanding source of credit, and generally the borrower must pledge to pay, regardless of future negative situations or circumstances.
“He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it, but he who hates being a guarantor is secure” (Proverbs 11:15). Because cosigning is by far the most known form of surety, logic would assume that Christians would not pledge as guarantor for the debt of another. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Why?
In most cases, Christians cosign either because of ignorance of what God’s Word says about surety or because they feel guilty about disappointing fellow believers. Although they may not have the financial resources to give the believers the money they need, they can cosign loans for them.
But regardless of the justification or the reason, pledging payment as a guarantor against a loan for another person is not an acceptable practice for God’s people. Practically speaking, when a person cosigns a note for someone else, the person cosigning is more often than not allowing the borrower to borrow beyond his or her limit to repay without negatively affecting the family’s financial welfare.
Surety is a principle—not a law. Although the violation of the principle does not carry punishment–like violating a law of God would–it’s violation does carry negative consequences. Even though surety is one of the easiest cautions to recognize in God’s Word, pastors seldom teach it. Consequently, today’s Christian society in America is suffering from broken promises, broken relationships between one-time friends (failure to pay means the cosigner has to pay—many times this results in broken relationships), suspicion, anger, debt, and marriage hardships. As much as any other biblical financial principle, pastors must warn against the dangers of surety.
Originally Posted October 5, 2012