Solomon gives this piece of wisdom to one who has foolishly entered into a ruinous financial obligation. "My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth" (Vs. 1-2). It was the case of one who had committed himself to be responsible for the debts of an acquaintance - debts that could outstrip his resources and ruin him.
Solomon advises urgency in seeking release from his friend for these obligations. "Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend" (Vs.3). He was taken in a snare; this was no time for a lazy, ho-hum attitude. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise" (Vs. 6).
We live in a world on the brink of ruin because of debt, both personal and national. Yet the counter-intuitive and counter-Biblical thinking of Keynesian type economics continues with the ludicrous advice to spend your way out of debt. World conditions prove it won't work, but political correctness and political intrigue insure its continuance.
According to Solomon, an unconcerned sleepy attitude toward the problem of such crippling debt is sure to bring poverty. A 19th century Christian writer once suggested that Solomon is saying that poverty comes "step by step" (as one that travelleth) and "with irresistible violence" (as an armed man). The downward spiral of increasing debt is a course of gradual erosion of one's substance and concludes by a crash that it is too late to resist.
The greater message of Proverbs concerns spiritual debt from sin not dealt with - and the danger of the coming crash of God's judgment. There is a way to get release from that debt. Jesus Christ paid the price required for our forgiveness when He shed His blood on the cross. Knowing this, but living in apathy and spiritual laziness, is the gradual erosion of opportunity until it is too late. "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep" (Vs. 9).