Does “Owe Nothing To Anyone” Mean What You Think It Does?

One of the stock verses that Christian financial gurus often quote is the first part of Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone …”.  But it is always best to take a verse in context. When you do that with this particular passage, you might discover that the verse is not the admonition many people believe it to be:

In context, Romans 13 opens with a discussion of the importance of being submissive to governing authorities.  Then, being more specific, :7 commands us to “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.”  In other words, give to each governing official or agency whatever is due to them as responsible citizens.  It is at this point that verse 8 then says: “Owe nothing to any man except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.”  The context reveals that this verse is not particularly addressing individual financial practices. It is referring to submission to government authorities and officials, and says that you should give them everything you owe them: tax, honor, respect, or whatever.  It is NOT a blanket statement that a Christian individual should never borrow money.

One MIGHT still make the application stretch as far as paying what one owes on debts, but it is not at all the primary meaning of this verse.  The emphasis here is really NOT: “never borrow money.” It IS saying that you shouldn’t neglect any obligations you have towards anyone.  A better primary application would be: respect President Obama and other government officials, and treat them with the honor due their position, even if you disagree with them! Do not neglect to give the honor you “owe” the position.

The truth is, for many of us, this is a much more difficult admonition than just not borrowing money!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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5 Responses to Does “Owe Nothing To Anyone” Mean What You Think It Does?

  1. Lynda Rich says:

    Love your explanation of this verse. The last sentence of your commentary is definitely the hardest for me!

  2. Alan Brown says:

    Pastor Shawn, I think you wrote this just for me pursuant to our conversation the other day, ha! Seriously, thank you for your confirmation of what I already knew in my heart. You are a blessing to me and many others who read your blog and are fortunate enough to sit under your preaching and teaching.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      LOL I’m speaking to a whole lot of us, I’m sure, Alan, myself included!
      It is a blessing to be able to preach to people who are enthusiastic about, and responsive to, the word of God! Thanks!

  3. Christ’s commandment is a new one, always new, and will never be antiquated; his and his Father’s love always continue, and the relations believers stand in to each other are ever the same; and therefore love will be always paying, and always owing in heaven to all eternity.

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