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Romans 13: 8

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

This verse has often been used to teach people about financial debt. One substantial reading of this verse would say that we are not supposed to borrow money. That seems to be a fair reading but I think we can read it in a broader context as well. In order to see where I want us to go we need to read the verse which immediately precedes this one: “Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (v. 7). We see immediately that Paul is not discussing money alone, nor is he writing about just repaying what has been borrowed or refraining from borrowing at all. He teaches us to give people what they are due whether that be money, honor, respect or even love. This is to say, then, that you could be debt free in the sense that you have borrowed no money and yet still guilty of withholding something that should have been paid to another. The only debt we are to carry forward is the daily obligation to love our fellow human beings. Look at today’s verse from the God’s Word translation, “Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.” We can never completely satisfy our obligation to love all people because it is new each day but interestingly, Paul writes that even the Law of Moses is fulfilled in loving one another.

I do not want to lose track of the bigger picture though. There are debts we owe people beyond the love requirement. Surely Paul is telling us that if we have borrowed money or things from others we should be hasty in paying back or returning. And when we have borrowed an item love and kindness both require us to return that item in a condition which at least equals if not surpasses the condition it was in when we borrowed it. For goodness sake, wash the item, if a car, then fill the gas tank. If money was what was borrowed then deny yourself if need be and repay the money with appropriate interest. If you haven’t paid your tithes then be quick to pay that debt. Don’t allow yourself to owe a debt to God. He calls that stealing (Malachi 3: 8) and we don’t want to steal from God. That surely would reflect a scarcity of wisdom. 

If you have a mentor, pastor, teacher or even a friend who is constantly giving into your life, then make sure you render unto them that which is due them. A gift wouldn’t go amiss. Let us not lose sight of the intangibles either. We are meant to support and encourage each other. We are called to edify one another. Give honor and thanksgiving. Let people know you appreciate them and give them their due.

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