"Owe No Man Anything"

by David Padfield

"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8). This is one of the verses where the New International Version gives us a better understanding of the text. It says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another..."

Christians are commanded to pay their bills! All of us can think of someone with a reputation for not paying their debts. What do you think of people like that? Would you be willing to loan them money?

While a young man, Abraham Lincoln went into business with William Berry. Months later, when Berry died, Lincoln was left with an enormous debt. Eventually he paid it all back, but it took him several years. This is one of the reasons he was referred to as "honest Abe."

Some years ago Reader's Digest (June 1992) told of a ship builder named Walter Meloon who was forced into bankruptcy. It took a while, but Meloon paid back over $500,000, even though he was not legally bound to do so. I admire people like Lincoln and Meloon.

"The Bankruptcy Code" in chapter 7, or liquidation, cases, the debtors property is sold off by a trustee to pay the debts owed to creditors. An individual debtor can keep a modest amount of household property or realty under federal or state exemptions" (The Academic American Encyclopedia). People today often carelessly spend money they do not have, and then go declare bankruptcy, without any thought of paying the money back.

When you go to the mall and sign your name on a credit slip, you are giving them your word the debt will be paid. Failure to pay the debt means two things: you are a thief and a liar! A thief because you now have stolen property and a liar because you have not kept your word. Thieves and liars cannot go to heaven (Rev. 21:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Bankruptcy is legal, but so is gambling, drinking, and in some places, prostitution).

A thief can be forgiven, but he must make restitution for what he has stolen (Num. 5:6-8 and Lev. 6:1-7). The "golden rule" provides us with a higher standard of conduct: "whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matt. 7:12).

I have met men who have declared bankruptcy and still thought they were qualified to serve as an elder in the church of our Lord. Such men must not be allowed to serve until their debt is fully repaid (with interest) for they will not "have a good testimony among those who are outside" (1 Tim. 3:7).

I wish every Bankruptcy Court had the following verse engraved in stone: "The wicked borrows and does not repay" (Psa. 37:21).