The following is an excerpt from my new book – LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission for Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven. For more information on this book and it’s expected launch date write to email@example.com
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 command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [Romans 13: 8-10]
Before I continue I would like to pause here and give a clarification about the first century context for any discussion about debt. Debt in Paul’s world is not simply about money. Indeed for much of world history, up until the last few centuries debt was a moral concept wrapped up in human relationships, intrinsic value and ultimate reality.
In today’s world we tend to think only in terms of physical capital. Cold hard cash as it where or credit instruments measured in fiat money. But we tend to forget that in ancient times “debt” went further than that and became a concept indistinguishable from relationships and human morality.
Human Capital is best defined as a measure of the skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or population. To carry a debt therefore in a society governed more in terms of human capital than physical capital is to owe your life in exchange for comfort and security. Viewed in terms of human capital, institutions such as indentured servitude and even all out slavery start to take on a little more context and even a hint of moral acceptance. In a world before modern financial instruments, if my debt to society or an individual can be paid only in my skills, knowledge and experience than the only way to pay it back is to work it off rather than simply purchase my freedom with something as impersonal as money.
Don’t get me wrong, slavery in today’s context is wrong. As a society we have evolved and most people, at least in the west understand that human capital is infinite and therefore an inappropriate way of measuring one’s worth. But is the current system of financial debt, whereby a large portion of our earnings are earmarked for repayment even before we earn them any different in actual fact than a life of debt peonage from ancient times?
Often in ancient times people in bondage were abused, ripped from their relational context and held down by corrupt and dishonest systems of accounting but in world without banks and modern account, as a system of morality it does make some sense. Provided the masters were honest and kind to those who were in submission to their care.
So when Paul talks about debts in Romans 13 he is really talking about Human Capital. Just before is words on debt he says this:
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. [Romans 13:7]
Stay out of “debt” so that you can focus you Human Capital on the things that really matter. Love is not only the fulfillment of the law but way in which you balance your Human Capital in the account books of society as a whole.
For more information on the The Meekonomics Project and my upcoming book LeaderSheep: Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven, write to firstname.lastname@example.org