Read This Week: Romans 13

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does not harm a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10 NIV

Debt, in any context, is usually seen as something negative that needs to be stopped and eradicated. We spend a lot of time, energy, and resources each year learning about how to put an end to personal and collective debt. However, Romans 13 tells us about a debt that we should never pay off. It is the unpaid debt that will probably never be mentioned at a financial seminar but is vital to living in freedom. 

In this chapter, Paul instructs believers to pay their debts as is their moral and civic duty, but then makes one exception to the rule. He says the debt that we cannot pay in full is our command and obligation to love one another. The love of God in our hearts that is to be freely given and poured out to others is the singular, permissible unpaid debt. Verse 8 states:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The point here is that in our life with God we are bound, like a debt, to the fulfillment of these essential truths: love for our neighbor (any person we come in contact with) as well as love for God. The love that we share with the world is a debt that we are to continuously pay and never satisfy throughout our lifetime. We will always owe one another this wholehearted devotion.

Paul evokes the words of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-40 and tells us to follow his example of love in our lives. He reiterates that Jesus said the underlying principle that governs all commands and human behavior is to love God and our neighbor. Verses 9-10 says:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does not harm a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Those who genuinely love people will not break the law or violate directives that hurt, damage or exploit others. Those who follow and say they love Jesus but don’t extend that love to people are exposing an improper, misguided understanding of God’s principles of love. Paul is making it clear that a tangible indication of loving Jesus is found in loving and serving others and never stopping.

This passage teaches us that the key to a successful life – being a good citizen, living in a society with honor and respect, fulfilling our responsibilities, having moral integrity, and not being overcome by sin – is properly loving God and allowing that to underwrite, inform, and empower the love we give to other people. When we are filled with God’s love, we will not harm our neighbor (v.10) and will not even think about how to gratify the desires of our flesh (v.14) while making a consistent payment of eternal impact every day.

10 Comments

  1. Heidi on September 5, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    God is love! I love Romans 13 because it teaches us how we get to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ to help us daily! In life, we need Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to help guide us. We need their instructions 24-7 when it gets difficult. All we have to do is ask Father God to help us with His strength to do what He wants us to for Him, ourselves, and others.

    Truly loving someone means wanting what is best for them in the long run. The ultimate good is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. A change in behavior will never last without a change in our hearts and minds. And that’s the kind of transformation Jesus provides.

    In loving others, we need to learn that doesn’t mean enabling others. As we seek Father God He will help us through as we learn to say yes when it’s a good thing or no when we know we have to say no because in the long run, it’s not good for them. Like a horse, you can lead them to water but you can’t make them drink either. All God asks us is to be ready first to lead them to Jesus, we may be part of their journey daily, maybe on the phone, maybe for a season, we don’t always know. But always be ready to do God’s work. Most important, because we never know when our time here is over or when others’ time is over, so always be ready to share Jesus and salvation, and a new life with Father God Jesus, and Holy Spirit.

    The most rewarding thing is to help people to grow in the ways of the Lord. That’s love! That’s our purpose here on earth to share the good news, to love others, help others for God. I’m so thankful I get to do that. What blesses Father God is when we want to live with Him. I feel like God is saying through this chapter is when you have a change of heart, desire to be a good citizen of heaven and on earth, and when you know how much I love you, nothing can stop you from learning and growing in our ways. The key is every day is a new day to practice, practice, and practice some more to be the best servant like Jesus!

    • Jason on September 8, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Thank you for all of this rich insight from Romans 13, Heidi. This really resonated with me:

      In loving others, we need to learn that doesn’t mean enabling others. As we seek Father God He will help us through as we learn to say yes when it’s a good thing or no when we know we have to say no because, in the long run, it’s not good for them.

      This is such a good and necessary distinction of God’s love that we are to express to others. Love always involves truth and truth doesn’t enable, it empowers. Complete love (that is represented here in Romans 13) doesn’t mean condoning or enabling behavior that is harmful and detrimental. Jesus didn’t condone our sin problem. His love paid the price for, covered, and redeemed it. He then empowers us to live for Him as forgiven people.

      Paul makes it clear in this chapter that Jesus is the standard of truth-filled, empowering love, and I appreciate you pointing us to this as well.

  2. Ken on September 5, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    it’s not cool being under anyone’s control, especially a worldly debtor. The world system wants you to be under it’s control and to be beholden to the people of the world – Don’t fall for the trap.

    There’s good debt and bad debt. Good debt is God-directed and something that’s going to appreciate or to allow you to be able to make more money, where bad debt is just for things that you want, that you can’t pay cash for and will usually just turn into a big fat zero, zip, nada. It’s all bad.

    God gives you the desires of your heart, so when you really learn to listen to God, you’ll know what’s best for you and what you really need. Also, God will give you what you need.

    I would much rather be receiving what I need from God and doing life God’s way, than trying to get what I need from this crazy world.

    Thank you God, for supplying all of my needs according to your riches and glory.

    • Jason on September 8, 2020 at 11:43 am

      I couldn’t be in more agreement with this statement, Ken: I would much rather be receiving what I need from God and doing life God’s way, than trying to get what I need from this crazy world.

      His way is better in every aspect and facet of life and every time I’ve tried to get what I need from the world, it has not gone well or worked out. Conversely, when I seek God, He always gives me what is best and it turns out for my good and His glory.

  3. Jeri Centers on September 5, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    God gave me a poem from Romans 13 verse 12:

    Lord, give me a joyful heart, a spirit that is bright
    Let me look at everything through your amazing light.

    Let me see the sunshine, even when there is rain
    Let me see the blue skies even through my pain.

    Let me be grateful for whatever comes my way
    Let me appreciate every minute of the day.

    Let me see the sunbeams, even when it’s gray
    Let me see the sunlight even on a cloudy day.

    What that means to me is that I see everything in God’s amazing light. I see rays of hope every day or in the night, I put the armor of light on. Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing armor of light!

    • Jason on September 8, 2020 at 11:38 am

      This is another beautiful artistic expression of your love for God and His Word, Jeri. And the words of your open are very relevant to the challenges and struggles of the current times. I put your poem in an Evernote and am going to share it and refer to it when we need encouragement.

      May our prayer and cry to God be: “Let me see…” I pray He will show us His light and truth in every moment of our day and journey when we need His strength, hope, peace, joy, and wisdom. Let us see His will and purposes for our lives through His armor of light!

  4. almaschmidt on September 8, 2020 at 11:03 am

    This week God gave me a song out of the great chapter of Romans 13 called, “God’s Power”:

    We have the power of God, the power of God
    We have the power of God

    His mercy, grace, and understanding is his gift to us
    Even in the darkness, God will show you his light

    So let’s stand together, enjoying the armor of light
    Trusting, believing, and loving one another

    We have the power of God, the power of God
    We have the power of God. Amen.

    God is so awesome! He understands us and will bring us out of darkness into his Armor of Light. Even when there is darkness at night, He causes the moon to shine bright for us.

    • Jason on September 8, 2020 at 11:30 am

      Alma, I love what you did with the beautiful imagery in Romans 13:12 of the armor of light. God is always faithful to shine his light in our lives to help us see through the darkness and to reveal His truth to us when we need it most. Your song this week is similar to one that has been ministering to me lately called “Clarity” by For All Seasons. A part of it goes like this:

      You’re my guiding light in the darkness
      Lead me through the night

      You’re my harbor on a moonlit night
      The kindest calm in the fiercest fight
      The brightest star in the darkest sky

      You’re my clarity, my clarity, yeah

  5. Kathy on September 11, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    God was speaking to me in Chapter 13. I heard him say the only debt you are to carry is the debt to love one another. Love your neighbor means to love the people you actually meet with and deal with every day. Your love is the true measure of your obedience to me. Because the know the dangers of the times and you anticipate the soon return of Jesus, you should be committed to a right walk with me instead of a sleepwalk with me. I want you to be truly aware and active in your life before Me.

    Every day put on the Lord Jesus Christ. You must cast off before you put on. There must be a renouncing of the habits of sin, or else you cannot be a Christian. I want you to come out of the night into My light. I don’t want you to be lost to shame. When you put on Christ, you put on all My armor and are equipped to both defend and attack. The flesh will be as active as you allow it to be. You have to be willing and an active partner with My Son Jesus.

    What this says to me is my mission field is my everyday life. If I draw closer to Him, His love will flow out onto others through me. I have to continue to get rid of habits that hurt my relationship with Him. His power can help me.

    • Jason on September 14, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      I appreciate your commentary as always, Kathy. This line from your comment stood out on this one: You have to be willing and an active partner with My Son Jesus. As you said, there is no way to be on mission with God every day without being a willing and active partner with Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

      Willing indicates the state of our attitude and active describes the posture of our lives. I love how you made the distinction on both of these.

Leave a Comment