Scripture: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:2-5 ESV
Observation: Having addressed the issue of Spirit-led accountability (using gentle correction), Paul transitions to sharing and carrying burdens. The original Greek text clarifies the seeming contradiction between carrying others’ loads (verses 2-4) and carrying our own (verse 5). The word translated burden in verse 2 is “barē,” which refers explicitly to heavy loads. Paul then uses the Greek word “phortion” in verse 5, a common term equivalent to one’s backpack—a load we can manage.
In verses 3 and 4, Paul cites two sinful attitudes that cause us to refrain from helping those in need. The first is arrogance (verse 3). We attribute others’ struggles as a sign of weakness, whereas we would not find ourselves in the same predicament. Paul points out that such self-deception proves that even though we think of ourselves as “something,” we are actually “nothing.” The second roadblock toward helping others is the comparison trap (verse 4). Others can do a better job than me. Maybe so, but that’s not the point.
Takeaway: Regarding helping others who struggle in life, our attitudes should always align with the Great Commandment: to love our neighbor as ourselves. It need not matter whether others might be better equipped. We can always call on them to lean in with help. But when we delegate without initially reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ who we see struggling, we make a mockery of our faith and miss an opportunity to share and receive Christ’s blessings.
As it pertains to carrying our burdens, if we are quick to call on others to ease our load when capable of pressing through a challenge with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we not only irritate others but cheat ourselves of the opportunity to grow spiritually and emotionally. In this sense, we fail to uphold the Great Commandment by not loving ourselves.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the wisdom of Paul’s letter to the Galatians that tells us how to practically fulfill the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Would you please help us, through the provocation of your Holy Spirit, to rightly discern when and how we should bear each other’s burdens and carry our own? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling