Proverbs 6:1-5. I had to learn the hard way that this ancient piece of wisdom is applicable today. I was at the computer in my study when a stunningly beautiful young woman knocked on my door. Her smile lit up the room as she asked, “Are you Ray Kasch?” I returned her smile and said, “Yes” Handing me a piece of paper she said, “You’ve been served.” In an instant she was far less beautiful.
Our parish had been helping Burmese refugees relocate in the area and a number of them were congregating in a nearby apartment complex. We wanted to help the newest family rent an apartment among their countrymen, but being new to the US they had no credit history. They were in the catch 22 of not being able to rent because they had not rented before. I wished that we had the money to pay their rent, but we did not. So I reasoned that the least I could do was to cosign for them. Proverbs 6 would have warned me against this but I was not listening. I was being Martha and not Mary. Shortly after moving into the apartment the husband was charged with a felony and sent to jail. Since he was the sole bread-winner, the wife who could not afford the apartment abandoned it and moved in with another family. The lease would not allow me to sublet the apartment so the management sued me for the unpaid months of the lease. I was able to negotiate a settlement, and so while it could have been worse, it was a significant financial blow. Lesson learned.
The problem with being surety, is as the proverb states, “you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy” (NLT). I placed my reputation and my resources in the hands of a stranger, who turned out to be a very bad guy, and he brought me down with him. Also, as with lending, it negatively affects your relationship. They cannot help but feel indebted to you and that can foment unspoken resentments. And if they break their word, or if they do not repay you, then it can end a friendship. It may make sense from the company’s perspective to have a cosigner but it a lousy deal for the cosigners. For the cosigner there is a great deal placed at risk and very little to be gained.