Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (NIV)
Here is another seemingly contradictory passage.
On the one hand it says carry each other’s burdens and on the other it says you must carry your own load!
Do we throw out the Bible for being inconsistent or conflicting? Or shall we try to understand and perhaps (as the current buzz-trend around here is) ‘harmonise’ the passage?!
Well, straight off the bat, a quick dig into the original Greek throws up two completely different words:
‘burdens’ is the Greek word baros which means heaviness, weight, burden, trouble.
‘load’ is the Greek word ergon which holds various meanings ranging thus:
1) business, employment, that which any one is occupied
a) that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking
2) any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind
3) an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opp. to that which is less than work
To summarise that, the word for ‘burdens’ seems to relate more to troubles or heavy loads and the word for ‘load’ seems to be pointing at acts, deeds or works.
Yes, you can see where I’m going already!
It seems to me that the passage is encouraging the believer to be gracious in helping others unburden their troubles and weary hearts, whilst still ensuring they take seriously their incumbent responsibilities to do the job they are required to do (in the church community especially but also in the context of the rest of their sphere of influence and personal network).
Obviously, we all have different jobs that we are called to perform (1 Corinthians 12 amongst others) and the latter part of the Galatians passage is guiding us to disseminate these with the gifts we have been blessed with. I think that if we consider this verse first, then it can easily be applied to verse 2 – sharing each-others burdens. Some people are better equipped and more gifted in the counselling and encouragement of their community, but we all still have a responsibility to try to ease the burdens that our fellow believers are struggling with.
Which brings us neatly to verse 9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Which I have previously discussed here and talked about here with two slightly different angles on the passage.
The verses in the middle of the galatians passage will have to wait for another post.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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