The word of the day is “owe. ” In today’s reading of Romans 13:1-10, St. Paul speaks of the believer’s duty to the government. He writes that we are to be subject to its secular authority, for God has appointed it. By it, the Almighty orders the world for its good (Romans 13:1-4).
However, elsewhere, St. Paul said that we are citizens of another Kingdom. He wrote in Philippians that “… our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20a). And in Ephesians, the Apostle wrote, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). Today we will answer the question that if we are subjects of the heavenly Kingdom, why should we be concerned about our duty to the governments of this world?
Avoid Entanglement with the World
The answer comes in verse 8: “Owe no one anything except to love one another…” (vs. 8). To owe is to be a debtor and to have an obligation to pay the debt. St. Paul is concerned that believers should be free to give undivided devotion to the Lord. Thus, they should avoid the obligations of debts that would tie them down to the affairs of this world. In 1 Corinthians 7, St. Paul advises that celibacy is better than marriage because it enables one “to serve the Lord without distraction” (1 Cor. 7:35). Likewise, they should be sure to pay their dues to the government because refusing to pay taxes would further entangle them in earthly matters.
Live an Uncomplicated Life
Paul would have believers live uncomplicated and straightforward lives. In the preceding chapter, St. Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peacefully with all men” (Romans 12:18). To be free to devote oneself to the Lord and His Kingdom, we should owe only one thing (vs. 8). We should accept the obligation to love one another (vs. 8).
The kind of love that St. Paul refers to here is the self-giving, sacrificial love of God shown in the cross of Christ and given to us to share with others. This love is the highest law of the Kingdom in which we have our actual citizenship. And since it harms no one but helps everyone (vs. 10), no government in the world can object to it.