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Romans 1:14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at

I have read Romans 1.14 many times. To my embarrassment, I’ve often “skimmed” over the “introductions” in New Testament books, in a hurry to get to the “meat” of the Scriptures. It is a mistake to ever consider any part of Scripture something to “skim” over, whether it’s the opening greetings of the Epistles, the genealogies or the Levitical laws.

Every portion of God’s Word is a treasure to mined for those who have the faith and discipline to do so. That’s not the point of my lesson today, but it was something I was reminded of because I have brushed over Romans 1.14 many times, and only today did I really stop to think about it.

The Apostle Paul was a “debtor”. A debtor in this context is one who owes another; one who is held by some obligation or bound by some duty. What did Paul owe? What duty did he have? Before we answer that, let’s consider WHO Paul owed.

  • Greeks – in Paul’s time, the “Greeks” were considered the educated and civilized portion of humanity. The “Greeks” would have encompassed many cultures and nationalities who had embraced the Greek influence.
  • Barbarians – this term was applied to everyone else who was not Greek. It was not a flattering term and generally referred to the uncivilized, uncultured peoples of that time.
  • The wise and the unwise – if “Greeks and barbarians” didn’t cover every person, then this term does.

In other words, Paul was a debtor to all people. What did he owe them? More accurately, Paul owed God. Paul owed God the obligation to tell each and every person about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul fully comprehended that as long as there was one unsaved soul on earth, he would be indebted to tell that person about Christ.

Paul owed a debt to the lost because of his obligation to Christ. Do we owe any less?

This is a hard concept to embrace (easy to understand, hard to do) in the modern Western world. We are fiercely independent, self-sufficient and engrossed in our personal quests. It’s hard to truly see each unsaved person as someone we are “obligated” to, someone we owe a duty to… someone we are in debt to.

What a transformation today’s Church would go through if we were to teach and cultivate that we are truly in debt to share the Gospel. Not just in nice sounding Christian rhetoric, but in reality. What a transformation we would see individually if we TRULY felt a duty, an obligation, a debt to each and every person that God allows to interact with us… a debt to share Jesus Christ with them.

It is more honest to admit that most of us don’t have this attitude (at least not consistently). People come, people go, people are everywhere… and yet how many times a day do you look at someone and genuinely think “because Jesus Christ has saved me, I OWE it this person to share the Lord with them”? Lest I play the hypocrite, there are very often times in my own life when days will pass and I have gotten so busy that I have not felt like a “debtor” even once to any of the people I have been around.

How much more compassion and patience would we have for people if we truly felt indebted to them for Christ’s sake? How would our schedules and checkbooks be changed if we felt an obligation like Paul to every single person who has not heard the Good News? What would happen to our pessimism, cyncinism and criticism of other people if we began to view them as someone we owed a debt to on the Lord’s behalf? What if the person(s) who brought the Gospel to you never responded to the obligation they felt in their heart?

I’m not trying to pull emotional strings. This is a matter of 1) how we view the lost; and 2) how self-absorbed we are. It’s hard to think of being a debtor to the lost when our lives are consumed with a “what’s in it for me”, “look out for number one” mentality. Our entire modern culture is built on self-centered principles so it’s shouldn’t be shocking to admit that even most Christians today live a pretty self-consumed life.

I owed a debt. You owe a debt. We owe it to each and every person on earth who does not know Jesus. You owe them the same chance at Eternal Life as the Lord gave you.

Why do YOU owe them? Why are YOU a debtor to them? Because if you will not tell them, who will? If you will not spread the Good News, who will? If you will not teach them about Christ, who will? If you do not see the lost and hurting person at the desk next to you, at the grocery store, in the parking lot, on the golf course, walking by your house… who will?

When we learn to see the lost and hurting people of this world as someone we owe something to, we will be filled with compassion and love for them rather than whatever it is you feel now that makes them less than worthy of taking the time and effort to tell them about Jesus.

Lord, Help us to see all those who do not know You as someone we owe a debt to. Help us to repay our debt of love to our Savior who loved us and gave His life for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: When you see people walk by, does it ever cross your mind you might a debt to them? Do you understand why you owe a debt to every unbeliever? How do you think it would transform your perception of other people if you saw them through the eyes of a debtor?

Application: Because of what Jesus did for us, we owe each unsaved person a debt to tell them of the terrible danger they are in… and the Good News that Jesus can rescue them. Learn to see people as Jesus sees them.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?