This chapter can be broken into two sections. The first section is about how we deal with situations where we owe something to someone. Some of you may be thinking that you don’t owe anything to anyone, and you have not offered a security for what someone else owes, so this doesn’t apply to you. That is good, but remember it is unlikely you will go through life without owing anything, so be prepared.
So, how do we deal with owing someone? Verses 3 and 4 say:
So do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
and give your neighbor no rest!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
We need to work hard to free ourselves. We need to repay what we owe as quickly as possible. We also need to repay this through honest measures. Verses 16-19 talk about this:
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
These verses by themselves are good wisdom, but don’t seem to have anything to do with owing someone. However, in the context of working hard to repay what we owe, it could be tempting to scheme, or cheat our way out of what we owe. Doing this would cause us to do at least one of the things God hates. So, when we owe anything, we need to take responsibility for it , and work hard and honestly to pay it back as quickly as possible.
The chapter then transitions to talking about adultery. This seems to be an abrupt transition to me, and I thought about that for a while. Then, I thought of the 10 commandments, and specifically Exodus 20:17:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
So, both parts of this really come back to wanting what we don’t have. We borrow to get what we don’t have, and adultery comes from wanting what we don’t have.
Acting on either of these will cause us trouble, but the problems caused by adultery will be much greater. Verses 30-33 show this:
People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.
I think the chapter really shows the perils of not being content with what we have. We can be content with everything we have in live because God is always with us as stated in Hebrews 13:5:
5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”