Romans 13: Goin For Broke

Read Romans 13:8-14

Goin For Broke

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one
another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
~Romans 13:8

Digging Deeper: American history is littered with scores of humorous tombstones, and one of my favorite epitaphs simply reads, “Owen Moore Passed Away—Owin’ More Than He Could Pay.”  From the beginning of time right up to the present, the reality of debt aptly describes far too many people in our world, and it is certainly weighing heavily on our collective minds currently as we think of what the burgeoning national debt might do to this great country of ours.

In the 1950’s, Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded a song describing the dark and difficult challenges of the lives of coal miners. “Sixteen Tons” became a number one hit and its most memorable line was one that people can still relate to:

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store.

Maybe that’s how you feel—you owe your soul, and everything else, to the “company store”, or whoever it is that holds your debt.  Perhaps Owen Moore’s epitaph aptly describes your life right now.

By and large, debt is a crippler, and we ought not to get enslaved to it.  In fact, we ought to do everything we can to get out from under it. My advice: Get yourself educated about money management, get ruthlessly disciplined with your finances, develop a strategic plan for debt reduction, and then go after it with reckless abandon.  You will never regret debt elimination, but you will always bemoan indebtedness.

Now let’s be very clear about what Paul is saying here, because his words are often used to wrongly hammer anyone who borrows money.  Paul is not prohibiting borrowing, especially since the Bible makes provision for it.  Deuteronomy 23:19—20 and 24:10-13, as well as a host of other Scripture, assumes lending and borrowing, and provides very clear guidelines for both.  What Paul is simply saying is that believers are to pay their financial obligations when they are due—including their taxes (Romans 13:7) as well as payment on their debt.  Obviously, other scriptural teaching on finances comes into play as to the wisdom and limits of healthy indebtedness.

But Paul has a bigger point to make here: The biggest debt we owe, and it is definitely an un-repayable one, is the debt of love. This debt derives from God’s unmerited love for us, most graciously and tenderly demonstrated in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Romans 5:8 powerfully reminds us of this love, and by extension, the debt of love we owe to God:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This terms of our debt repayment are clearly spelled out both in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18), and by Jesus, himself, in Matthew 22:39,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Here’s the thing on this love debt:  You cannot love God with all your being without loving your fellow man with all your energies; and you cannot love your fellow man properly without loving God as he deserves.  But if you get love for God and love for man right, you have nailed the laws of God governing human relationships (Romans 13:9), and are well on your way to paying your un-payable debt of love.

But just remember, you will never pay that one off—and that’s a good thing.  So in the love-your-fellow-man department, you might as well go for broke.

“Our only business is to love and delight ourselves in God.”
~Brother Lawrence

This Week’s Assignment:

Read: Romans 13:1-14

Memorize: Romans 13:8

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

For Your Consideration: When Paul wrote Romans 13, he didn‘t insert a chapter break at the end of chapter 12.  Chapters and verses were later added by editors, so what Paul wrote in this chapter was a simply continuation of his call in Romans 12:1-2 to offer our everyday lives as pleasing worship to God.  In light of that, consider how your attitude toward governmental leaders (Romans 13:1-7), your treatment of the people in your life (Romans 13:8-10), and your personal purity in immoral times (Romans 13:11-14) might need to change to in order to be offered as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

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