This verse is another example of a wise saying in Proverbs being restated elsewhere in Proverbs. It’s identical in both Hebrew and English to 20:16.
The fact that the same message is stated twice suggests two possibilities: Either God got confused or He considers this to be really important for us!
In truth, it’s a rather common theme in Proverbs (see also 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26).
Today we call it “co-signing.” In antiquity it was when someone “puts up security” for another.
If I make an agreement to cover another person’s financial commitment to a third party — I promise to pay if the obligation is not met. That’s co-signing.
To do so for a loved one or good friend might not seem so bad. I’ve done it…and I also had to pay! But to do, as this verse says, for a “stranger” or “outsider” whom we hardly know — that’s crazy!
In fact, our proverb says to just go ahead and “take the garment of one…” and “hold it in pledge” if we decide to co-sign for them — because we’re going to lose our shirt over this arrangement!
Yet, if I really think God wants me to cover another’s financial commitments, maybe I should just give them the money in the first place.
That way I won’t be upset by anything that happens — it’s now their money and their choice. Hopefully, this wouldn’t put pressure on our relationship if aren’t able to take care of their obligation.
Proverbs offers God’s views on co-signing. It’s not a sin — it’s also not very smart…and will probably cost us!