Vol.XX No.I Pg.6
March 1983

You Owe Me!

Robert F. Turner

"I Paul...say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides" (Philemon 19). I am amazed. How bold for a preacher to say "You owe me." Yet he told the truth. I seem somehow to hear my teachers echoing the words. They have the right to demand ("enjoin" v.8) payment, but alas, how shall I pay them?

I can pay in material goods. Paul obviously expected a consideration in regard to Onesimus' material debt now on Paul's account (v.19) and he asks for lodging (v.22). Paul claimed right to "eat and drink," to "lead about a wife," and to "forbear working" (1 Cor. 9:5,6). Such rights depended upon his basic right to expect his converts to support him — he who plants eats the fruit (v.7). He sowed the spiritual; he should reap their material (v. 11). Paul did not demand payment, but they still owed him (v.18). And that is a long way from "employing" Paul! Likewise, the Philippians "from the first day" accepted their obligation and were Paul's partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5-7). By "giving and receiving," the partnership worked and they honored their debt "sending once and again to Paul's necessity (4:15,16).

I can become the teacher's helper. Paul expected such from Philemon — "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself" (Philemon 17). This kind of payment is suggested in the debt statement — "thou owest... thine own self" (v.19). Payment on such a debt is made by giving of self — by service. It is giving time and work to the teacher. Paul marks payment to Philemon for the vicarious service of Onesimus who "in thy stead...ministered unto me" (v.13) and was "profitable" (v.11). Epaphroditus on behalf of the Philippians ministered to Paul. Paul said, "...he ministered to my wants.... to supply your lack of service toward me" (Phil. 2:25, 30).

I can use my abilities to advance my teacher's cause. "Let him that is taught in the word (the debtor) communicate (join as a partner) unto him that teacheth in all good things (the spiritual cause Gal. 6:6). I repay my teacher by zealously serving the same cause he serves.

I can manifest a loyal attitude to the truth taught. As when I first "received the word with all readiness of mind," I now continue to love and learn and obey truth (Acts 17:11). And "brother Great says" never comes even close to "the Lord says." A great teacher expects such payment.

I pay on my debt by "spending and being spent" in behalf of others who need the gospel — even when they do not appreciate it (2 Cor. 12:15). I may win one and thus pay my teacher.

"Owe no man anything." All debts should be paid — except to "love one another" which is never paid in full (Rom. 13:8). And I might add, neither is my debt to those who have taught me the way of salvation, have enlarged my perception of truth, have enriched my stewardship. "Thou owest me" they call. Yes, its true. How numerous the debtors; how great the debt! I will never pay out, but I must keep making the payments.

Joe Fitch, San Antonio, TX