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 an adulteress.
The simple message here is to be cautious in loaning money or costly resources. It is one thing to give generously; it is another to freely loan or make risky agreements. To do the latter is to create troubling situations for everyone involved. Consider the three parties above (considering “adulteress” as synonymous with “stranger”).
You have loaned money that you need back and now must depend upon your neighbor to be true to his word and pay up if the stranger (whom you do not know and cannot trust) does not come through on his end. If that stranger does not come through, the neighbor must somehow come up with money he evidently does not have (thus the reason he has approached you). Your neighbor is caught in the middle, having made his own risk. He has vouched for someone you have reason to suspect will not come through. Thus anxiety is created for at least you and your neighbor, and possibly hard feelings if the stranger does not pay up, which will only magnify if the neighbor then must come through and is unable. Even if the neighbor does cover the stranger, there will some difficult feelings between you and him.
How does taking your neighbor’s garment as security help? First, if you are uncomfortable asking for such a security, then don’t make the loan at all. You are doing no one a favor by making loans that you cannot afford nor freely give as a gift. But asking for a security of some kind does have the effect of making clear at the outset to the neighbor and the stranger the seriousness of asking for the loan. People will glibly promise to pay back, thinking all the while that the lender really doesn’t care or at least can afford not to recoup the money. Asking for security impresses upon the receiver how seriously you take his paying you back. This is especially important for the neighbor, as it will cause him to count the cost of the risk he is taking. It can be too easy to say, “I’ll vouch for him.” To make him prove his confidence in the stranger, will motivate him to be surer of what he is doing.
It is good to be generous with what we have; it is also good to be wise. Indeed, it is only because we are wise with our money that we can afford to be generous. Give freely; loan cautiously.