What do we owe to God? What do we owe to others? Many today might answer that we owe God and others nothing. Instead, they might say, we owe it to ourselves to focus on building up ourselves, alone.
This message is reinforced in almost every aspect of the society we live in. Advertising tells us that we owe it to ourselves to Grant our every desire, without hesitation.
We are told that we deserve every luxury and every Indulgence we can think of. It's very easy to fall into this trap, to believe that by gratifying ourselves that we will somehow be happy.
Even some preachers teach that we owe it to ourselves to be rich - and that God endorses our quest for riches. They even say that our main religious goal in life is a Self-centered goal to "get saved," and save our souls for the next life. Once that's accomplished (and it's done quickly and easily, they claim - with just one prayer!) we may continue to focus on getting rich, and they tell us that we have no other obligations, to either God or other people.
And many church leaders rarely speak of OUR duties, but speak of, and sing about, holding GOD to HIS promises to us, which seems backwards.
But as we have seen again and again, people who have lived in luxury beyond our wildest dreams have the same feelings of unhappiness, of being unfulfilled, of feeling alone and unloved we all have.
It's almost a stereotype and a truism that money and fame does not really bring happiness. And yet some still believe it, and chase that false hope.
If we follow Jesus, however, then the question of what we owe God and what we owe others is a simple one to answer. We owe everything to God and we owe complete and total service to others in the name of Jesus, whom we serve.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said that we are to love our God with all our hearts all our minds all our strength and all our understanding, and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:37)
Some say this is just a simplistic and easy summary of all the laws of God. And while it is a summary, for sure, it is not simplistic, but an incredible, powerful challenge that Jesus calls us to take up daily.
Because if we owe everything to God, our creator, we will live our lives full of gratitude to him for this creation and for our lives in it. If we owe everything to others, we will serve them and love them and cherish them. We will do everything to comfort them to ensure they have what they need to survive and thrive in this world.
When we understand that our lives here are meant to build up an Earthly kingdom of God, one that reflects the spiritual Perfection of our Creator, we will do all we can to alleviate others'
This leaves little room for simply piling up riches. In fact, Jesus repeatedly calls on us to reject riches for riches' sake, saying (perhaps most clearly) that it's easier for a rich man to go through the eye of needle than to enter into the Kingdom. (Mark 10:25)
Perhaps not as well kno, but just as important, is his warning that we ought to, "be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)
This is the selfless vision and the mission Jesus was sent out to preach. Jesus calls us to individually reach out to those among us and serve them. We literally owe it to others to do so.
We as Jesus followers are called to deny ourselves, not focus on gratifying ourselves - to put others first, even ahead of our own enrichment. Jesus calls us to pick up the cross of service, the cross of love, the cross of self-sacrifice and love of our neighbor.
Jesus actually warns AGAINST seeking to save oneself. To do so means we will actually lose ourselves. (Matt. 10:38-39) Jesus seemed to know that we lose our souls when we focus inward, not outward.
And he specifically says that simple praise, crying out or reflexively using repetitive phrases or long prayers will not impress God, and will not save us, either. Only by doing what he commands us to do leads directly to Godliness, and pleases God. (Matt. 6:7; 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)
We should seek to live in a way that lets God's spirit flow through us in the same way in which it flowed through Jesus, our Master.
When we do this, we are obeying our Master, whom God sent to us as an example and our teacher. We are then telling God that we are living lives of gratitude and service, just as his chosen son, Jesus, called us to do.
As his followers, we ought to do no less.