Lauren F. Winner (Mudhouse Sabbath) challenged me to not disdain the notion of obligation. Just as we are obligated to our Creator – to worship Him and serve Him – so too we are obligated to those that represent Him and His values here on earth.
Doing things out of a sense of obligation is sanctifying – it burns away our pride and self-centeredness. (It keeps us from making ourselves into an idol). Serving and giving out of a sense of obligation can be a joyful duty, a “holy looking-after” if we understand it so.
For example, Paul presented obligation as a motivation for taking care of our aged parents – we are to repay them (1 Timothy 5:4). They didn’t change our diapers, bath us, feed us, protect us and provide for us because it was convenient or profitable; they were obligated and now so are we (if our parents still live). This is just one example, there are many.
One other caution. Pride is always lurking in any area and this issue of obligation is no exception. Do not allow your pride to cause you to push people away that are obligated to you. Your pride is robbing them of a blessing and godly duty and it is costing you the joy of learning humility and joyful dependence. Remember, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven unless you are willing to become as a little child (Matthew 18:3).
Bottom line, being obligated is a good thing. Pity the poor man who is so morally empty of character that he flees obligations. The man who is not obligated is a lone wolf that is only looking out for self – beware him, he is a predator.
_david l. kemp (January 7, 2012)