Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider. Proverbs 20:16
(From Constable’s Commentary) “The proverb encourages us to hold people to their obligations.” It’s okay to keep people accountable.
Often we read Jesus’ directives, like this one from Matthew, and feel like we are called to be doormats and never confront people over unreasonable requests: “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40-42).
Yet when we consider the context in which Jesus said this, we realise his followers were living under Roman oppression. It was common for Roman soldiers to make unreasonable demands of the Jews. Jesus didn’t want his disciples to create conflict over the soldiers’ lack of respect. There were more important issues at hand.
In our culture, we may be on the receiving end of an unreasonable request, and our refusal, may cause discomfort, but probably won’t land us in jail. However, our agreement may create a bridge of friendship. At such times, we need God’s discernment whether his cause is better served by our agreement or by our refusal. Sometimes holding people accountable is necessary for their maturity. At other times, letting people take advantage of us, is a blessing that later reaps a bigger reward.
There are times to let ourselves be wronged (1 Corinthians 6:7). Likewise, there’re times to call people to account. May God give us the wisdom to know how to respond when we’re faced with an unreasonable demand.