I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. What a statement to make! When I first read this I thought, of course Paul considers himself in debt to the Greeks and to the wise, this only makes sense, but this verse holds more than that. Paul, an apostle of Christ is claiming to be in debt to barbarians and the foolish as well, which makes one wonder what barbarians are, and who the foolish are.
When I think of barbarians I think of uncivilized people who only communicate through grunts and have no understanding of any complex concepts, it is something entirely wild, which makes me wonder what anyone can learn from someone so purely uncivilized. But then, what is civilization? Granted civilization is necessary; but at the same time there are also boundaries that exist in civilization that do not exist in the wild. When we are in civilization we are obliged to keep our emotions in check, we cannot express certain religious feeling, it is hard to just look around and see the beauty of a flower, and it is truly difficult to marvel at the stars. But in the wild the stars can be seen and flowers studied, and we can feel small and express that feeling.
So it is not hard to see how Paul could be in debt to the barbarians, because, despite initial reactions, they could, indeed, teach him something; but that still leaves the foolish. I know that when I want to learn something I go to those whom I consider to be wise; in college I try to find qualified professors, when I am researching I read things by experts in the field, but I do not go to people I consider foolish. But, when I was considering what makes someone foolish, one thing above all struck me as making someone foolish: unconditional belief in one thing or one person; and that, I believe is something that we could all learn to do a little bit better.
May we come to realize who we are indebted to.