Summary: What does it mean to bear one another's burdens... and WHY should I do that?
OPEN: There’s a true story of a preacher trying to reach out to his community. His idea was to get a group from the church to go and work for free at local grocery stores and laundromats. He phoned several of these stores and for permission to do what he’d planned. But on one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated… then said, “I’ll need to ask the manager. But first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts, hold umbrellas for customers and you don’t want anything in return.” “Yes, that’s right,” the preacher replied. The employee set the phone down and went to talk to the manager. When he came back to the phone he said: “I’m sorry. We can’t let you do that. If we let you do it, we’d have to let everyone else do it, too!” (Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, KS Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”)
APPLY: Really? Why wouldn’t that store let them help? Well, I can think of several possible reasons, but my suspicion is that… they were suspicious. What caught my attention about this story was the comment by the employee: “let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts, hold umbrellas for customers and you don’t want anything in return.”
I think the store turned the church down because they suspected an ulterior motive
You see, we live in a world where there’s a lot of people out there who tend to have ulterior motives. A lot of folks seem to live their lives based on their own self-interest.
ILLUS: Just as an example, let’s play a little mind-game. Let’s say you just inherited $1 million. What would you do with that kind of money? Think about it for a few moments. (Pause) Now, some folks would pay off bills, maybe or buy new a house or a new car, invest in a business, or an IRA (money market account), or maybe even give some of the money to their relatives. Now remember… this is just a game. The money doesn’t exist. It’s all pretend.
Now DON’T RAISE YOUR HAND - but how many of you thought about giving a percentage of the money to the church (the first 10% off the top), or a portion of the inheritance to the poor or to a mission? Some of you may have thought about giving some of the money away, but there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t have. Or, if they had thought about giving some of the money away, it probably was… an afterthought.
My point is NOT to make anyone feel bad about how they’d spend inheritance. My point is, that it’s almost natural to think about ourselves first. WE learn it as kids (that’s why it’s so hard for children to share), but it comes almost natural to most people to think that way. That’s why Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
That’s why Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
And that brings us to our text today where Paul tells us “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) What that means is – once we become Christians – part of being a Grown-Up believer is learning to put others before ourselves. To bear their burdens.
Now, the hard part of putting others ahead of ourselves, is that folks often don’t deserve that treatment. There’s lots of folks who tend to annoy us; who disappoint us; who fall short of our expectations; who might even have treated one of us badly.
There was a German philosopher (Schopenhauer) that compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddled together on a cold winter’s night. He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter, eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.”
Now isn’t that a cozy thought?
Apparently, that was the kind of atmosphere that existed in the Galatian churches. In Galatians
5:15 Paul warned them “if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” And in 5:26 Paul writes: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Then in the next verse he says: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1