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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 27:13 When unreliability is known

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 23, 2020

13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
  hold it in pledge if it is done for an adulterous woman.

This is nearly identical to an earlier proverb (20:16). Putting up security is just about the same idea as our custom of co-signing a loan. If the one who borrows can’t pay it back, the one who co-signed has promised to pay. In the first line, the one who wants to borrow is a stranger, a person whose reliability is unknown. In the second line, the one who wants to borrow is an adulterous woman, a person whose unreliability is known. This proverb cautions against taking on someone’s debt who might not be able to pay you back. It’s one thing to help a stranger, but it’s another thing altogether to help them borrow and cause harm to someone else. If they need help, give help, but if they just want to borrow to get ahead, that’s not something you need to get involved with, and you should protect your friends and neighbors.

Spiritually, this proverb teaches us more than fiscal responsibility and caution. It also teaches us to be cautious about taking responsibility for the actions of outsiders who approach our fellowship. For example, should we admit to our fellowship just any stranger who approaches the Lord’s Table? Doesn’t Paul warn us against this in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29? Anyone who takes the Lord’s Supper without recognizing the presence of the body and blood of Jesus in the bread and wine is not of our fellowship; he is eating and drinking judgment on himself. “From obedience to the Word of God and from charity to those concerned the Sacrament is denied to all who cannot or will not examine themselves” (Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine p. 230).

A Christian who is unable or unwilling to examine himself is like the stranger in the proverb, whose reliability is unknown. He must not be admitted to the sacrament. The act of openly rejecting the doctrine of closed communion is a testimony that the individual is outside the fellowship of the Church by virtue of their confession. Such a person is like the adulterous woman in the proverb, whose unreliability is known. She must likewise not be admitted to the sacrament.

A stranger who comes into a community and is willing to abide by the local laws and customs can be welcomed. If the community in question is the Christian church, and specifically our own fellowship, then they will show their willingness by undergoing instruction (even if they have been instructed elsewhere) and by making their public confession to the satisfaction of the leaders of the church. More and more in our country, we cannot accept that someone who ‘belonged’ to a church elsewhere has been instructed in the truths of Scripture in the way that Jesus commands when he says, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). I have known retired pastors of other faiths—not merely members, but ministers of the gospel—who could not recite the Apostles’ Creed, who could not explain the simplest doctrines such as baptism or the forgiveness of sins, who could not name more than one or two apostles (I am not exaggerating at all) and who would struggle with the words of the Lord’s Prayer unless they were led. These were ministers who had mocked our faith and our adherence to the word of God, and yet doesn’t their complete lack of knowledge of the word stand as a testimony against them? May they learn to trust in Jesus even now, but may God pity their congregations who were led by such blind shepherds who took their sermon subjects from newspapers and current trends and not from the Gospels.

Treasure your garment, the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Be willing to share with anyone and everyone who needs it, but never give it up, and never offer it to anyone who will despise it. A bandage is for a man who is bleeding. A loan is for a man who is in trouble. The gospel is for a person who is terrified because of their sins. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is the promise of Jesus our Lord.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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