I’m soooo excited to share this because it is something I have recently learned, and the Holy Spirit has been helping me to utilise this understanding in my awareness of myself and my relationship with others.
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.
‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’.
This verse can lead to the false assumption that everything that seems too difficult for another person, we are, as obedient Christians, ought to help them to bear it, to carry it. This isn’t what the text is saying.
‘burden’ comes from the Greek word, baros, which means heaviness, weight, burden, trouble.
We are to assist others with weights that are too difficult for them, but we must beware not to help them with their ‘loads’ because as it says later on in verse 5, ‘each one should carry their own load’..and although some translations may use the same word for ‘burden’ in this second instance, in the original Greek, that word is phortion, which derives it’s meaning from the loading of cargo onto a ship, a load, freight or ‘lading’ of a ship. Cargo that is intended for that ship to carry, via the legal particulars such as a bill of lading. A bill of lading in biblical times would have been a legal document – a receipt from a shipping company regarding the number of packages with a particular weight and markings and a contract for the transportation of same to a port of destination mentioned therein. This is contractual – we are each assigned a ‘burden’ to carry – that we alone are designated to carry. It is our responsibility and ours alone.
Other Sciptures that have this word, baros are: Matthew 20:12, Acts 15:28, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Galatians 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Revelations 2:24
There is in between these two references in verses 2 and 5, a mention of the meekness that we ought to have concerning both burden and load. Verse 3 and 4 say, “3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else…”. This explains itself. We ought not think that we have no burdens or that we won’t have burdens, and that we are too great to help others with theirs. We will be deceiving ourselves. We should rather, be able to examine and then decipher our own ability to bear our loads, and our meekness and compassion in helping others with their loads. This would mature us, as we learn to operate with responsibility for ourselves, not thinking too much or too little of ourselves and our abilities, burdens and loads. Let me dig into verse 4, a bit where Paul espouses the merit of judging one’s own work before the Lord, and rejoice in the work as it has been done for the Lord, who will judge him and him only. Judging one’s work via comparison will not beget reward from God. We are to examine our own service before God:
- unto God, not man, and
- as compared to God’s word and will, not by comparison.
This humbles us as well, because we will be more forgiving and compassionate to others and their faults or burdens when we look unto our own. We are never to esteem ourselves as better because we place others as lesser in our eyes.