This is not intended to be a highbrow discussion!
I would prefer it to be an interesting examination of something which affects each of us on some level (or has done) in our lifetime. To wit: moral responsibility.
What is it? Where did it come from as an idea, a concept, a thing held over our head as a social and religious necessity?
In the New Testament Greek we find the following word:
Original Word: ὀφείλω
There are 35 instances of the use of this word in varying contexts in the Christian-Greek Scriptures. From these situational uses, a consensus of meaning is extracted.
opheílō (a primitive verb, NAS dictionary) – to owe, be indebted, i.e. obliged to rectify a debt ("ought").
If you borrow money from the Bank, you are legally required to pay back the loan. This is different and distinct from the same act borrowing from a friend.
Bank loan = legal responsibility
You might say to your friend who borrowed a hundred bucks until payday:
"Hey Bozo! You ( ought ) to pay me back that $100. You got paid yesterday."
If you put the word ( opheílō ) inside the ( ) where the "ought" is--you get the basic idea.
Hereafter is where the simple idea starts to acquire new layers.
Bank loan = legal responsibility
Friend loan = moral responsibility.
What really is the difference and why does that difference matter?
(opheílō) "originally belonged to the legal sphere; it expressed initially one's legal and economic, and then later one's moral, duties and responsibilities to the gods and to men, or to their sacrosanct regulations. . . . opheílō expresses human and ethical responsibility in the NT"
Here is where language gets tricky!
Writers and speakers can't help themselves--they love to exaggerate, stretch, and retool the way words are used.
People like to use very specific terms--but-- poetically, metaphorically, and colorfully to make a point in their everyday speech.
"I died laughing" is a pretty good example. No, you didn't actually die. The word "die" is a distortion and exaggeration to emphasize the EXTREME and ABSOLUTE nature.
Such a distortion of language is with us and always has been. If you aren't aware of it--you may be an idiot, or just not paying attention. You aren't an idiot, of course. But do pay attention!
Where are we in this discussion so far?
We are about to discover how humans became MORALLY RESPONSIBLE: as in
"owing a debt" and we are examining the metaphorical transfer of meaning from an actual legal debt to a friendly debt to a general social debt. We aren't there yet, however.
Let's add one more instance of "owing" or obligation to "pay back". . .
how about GIFT?
When your grandmother sends you $20 for your birthday, where is the ὀφείλω "owing" or "debt"?
I think this will be easy to understand.
Granny loves you and gives money without your having to ask for it because she knows it is something useful. Where is there an implicit obligation for you to pay back granny?
I hope this isn't too subtle. I hope you can see where I'm going.
How about a phone call thanking her, or a "Thank You" card, or a hug and kiss?
Before you nod your head in agreement. . . STOP!
If you love your grandmother, it is natural (inborn) to feel a genuine sense of response to her gift of $20--(wait for it. . . wait for it. . . wait for it) but--if you don't feel anything--WHAT THEN?
OTHERS, who see the situation and feel sorry that you are an ingrate, will step in and chide you by REMINDING YOU OF A MORAL RESPONSIBILITY to thank your grandmother.
See where we ended up?
Suddenly we have this category of IMPOSED BURDEN of "owing a debt" which is neither a legal requirement nor a friendly loan.
Where is the role of your "conscience" if you must have an outside imposed burden laid upon you?
If you are a child, your "conscience" is nurtured through counsel, examples, discipline, and life experience. If you are an adult, you might be easily distracted, carefree, or otherwise negligent about ordinary duties.
But if you are an unthinking, unfeeling, callous person, you may find you are always being reminded, urged, chided, pressured and otherwise obliged to respond against your own feelings of debt.
The Bible is filled with MORAL OBLIGATION imposed directly by Deity upon mankind with various punishments, penalty, fines, and disciplines attached.
Moses transmitted 613 commands/laws/ debts or obligations in the Old Testament.
What about the New Testament?
The entire books of Galatians and a major theme of Colossians communicates the central idea that CHRISTIANS are NOT obligated to those 613 laws or obligations of owing / opheílō
therefore. . .
Does this eliminate moral responsibility as well?
DOES THIS ELIMINATE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY?
Romans 13:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled. . . the law.
Romans 13:8 Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament (MOUNCE)
8 Owe (opheilō) no (mēdeis) one anything (mēdeis), except (ei mē ·ho) to love (agapaō) one (allēlōn) another; for (gar) the (ho) one who loves (agapaō) his (ho) neighbor (rheteros) has fulfilled (plēroō) the law (nomos.)
Chime in with your response to my conclusion, which follows.
You cannot obligate another person morally to LOVE. They either feel love or they do not.
You can nag somebody into behaving a certain way and pressure them, but you can't penetrate the center of their character from which emotions arise.
If you guilt-trip a person into actions which appear to be meeting moral debts or obligations what have you actually accomplished?
Love is love when it comes from within the central persona, character, mindset, and emotional core of a human being. Imposing an obligation to love is a ridiculous distortion of human nature.
A "moral" person is one who naturally, spontaneously feels moved to pay and pay back.
Forcing these actions is the act of a prison warden or taskmaster or tyrant.
THE WATCHTOWER RELIGION consists of obligations placed on its members to fill their minds, their days, their activities with "moral gult trips."
The Governing Body is your mother. Loyalty and Love are imposed toward anything and everything they teach.
In view of this discussion, isn't this over-reaching self-aggrandizement?
If a member FAILS to "pay" their "debt" to the Governing Body's rules--they are threatened with Armageddon death and shunning until that time.
Where is love and where is the tyranny in this? You can answer that easily.
What are your views on moral responsibility?