Proverbs 20:13-16

Solomon tackles more character issues in Proverbs 20:13-16.  He begins with a focus on laziness, which he’s addressed multiple times before. To love sleep and the laziness connected with it can lead to poverty.  Hard work is a common theme in Proverbs. “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” It takes some initiative and energy to open your eyes, to get out of bed and get to work. But the reward is worth it; you will avoid poverty and you will be satisfied with bread in Solomon’s words. In God’s economic system, hard work is rewarded. He does have an economy that we need to respect.

He next tackles the world of haggling, which was common in that day.  Bad, bad was what the buyer cried out. In the game and competition of bargaining, the buyer always wants to speak less of what he wants to buy, hoping to get a better price from the seller. Our marketplace today has less of this behavior, but it still exists in some places. “Bad, Bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts.” The bargaining words of the buyer are empty. They are only a strategy for negotiation. This proverb reminds us that what people say isn’t always what they believe, and people will speak falsely if it works for their own advantage.

Solomon presents the picture of a large pile of gold and precious stones. We think of this pile and are impressed at its value. He uses that to talk about the importance of knowledge. He compares those things of value to the precious jewel of wise words. “There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” We immediately see the value in a pile of gold and rubies, but we need to better appreciate the value of wise words. Money and valuable stuff is fleeting, but wise words of knowledge are far more important and lasting.  Wisdom is the gold we should seek.

In Exodus 22:26-27 it says an Israelite could take someone’s outer garment as a deposit or a guarantee for a loan as long as they returned it each evening, so it could be used as a night covering or blanket. Solomon’s advice here is that if you loan to someone has already foolishly agreed to be surety for a stranger, make sure you get the deposit or guarantee. If they were foolish enough to be surety for a stranger, they should be regarded as a credit risk. “Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.” One should demand more security for a loan to someone outside one’s knowledge and reference.

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