"Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
Paul, in this chapter of his letter to the Romans, is helping them to understand the duty they owe to governmental authorities. Their submission to their authorities meets these requirements. Then he goes on to share with them the importance of biblical love, and how loving others makes payments to the love debt they owe and will fulfill the law.
“Owe no man anything,”
To those believers striving to live the “American dream,” these words seem impossible. How can a household today “owe no man anything?” According to the Federal Reserve, “the average American household carries $137,063 in debt.”1 What does Paul mean by this statement? Barnes translates the Greek text like this,
“Be not ‘in debt’ to anyone”2 (Barnes).
This is not a hard phrase to understand. But the concept runs countercultural to the habits of the average American household.
“The precept, in its particular application to money-debts, no doubt counsels immediate payment where possible and desirable. Its spirit, however, obliges the Christian only to a watchful avoidance of a state of debt, by careful restriction of expenses within means; and a thoughtful care for the interests of the creditor, to whom deferred payment may be a serious loss.”3
Avoiding a “state of debt” is a crucial factor of learning to “live within our means,” or a “pay as you go” mindset.
Solomon understood the principle of paying debts quickly when he wrote,
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee” (Proverbs 3:27-28).
Believers, we need to have the highest ethics and have integrity in our finances. Lord, help us to live by your Bible principles, not by the deeds of our culture.
As important as it is to strive to live debt free financially, this is not the primary meaning Paul was going for in this verse. He says that there is a debt each of us owes that we can never fully repay.
Come back tomorrow to learn of this debt that we all owe.
1. From USA Today, November 17, 2017, online version.
2. Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, the electronic version in eSword.
3. Cambridge Bible, the electronic version in eSword.