Summary: There are three kinds of burdens: The kind we share; the kind of we bear; and the kind we wear.
On my mission trips to China, I’ve noticed the standard of living keeps rising. More Chinese people are driving cars, and because of American fast food, they are getting overweight as well. But there is one thing that hasn’t changed yet—the main mean of transportation and delivery is still the bicycle. And inside the cities I’ve seen men on bicycles carrying loads weighing hundreds of pounds. You wonder how they loaded that burden on the bike and how they are even moving it. Whenever I see one of those heavy bike burdens, I always think it’s a picture-parable of most Americans. We aren’t carrying a visible load of cargo on our backs. But most Americans are carrying a crushing weight of invisible burdens.
Everybody has burdens. Not everyone has wealth, but everyone has burdens. Not everyone has health, but everyone has burdens. Not everyone has talent, but everyone has burdens. At this moment you may be carrying family burdens, financial burdens, or physical burdens. You may be struggling under a vocational burdens or an emotional burden. Emotional, physical, and relational burdens are a part of life. If you’re not carrying any kind of a burden today, then you’re free to leave and get an early lunch. But for the rest of us—me included—we need to see what God’s Word says about this.
Galatians 6:2-5. “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. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.”
Now we’re reading this passage from the New International Version, but I grew up reading the King James Version. In the KJV verse 2 says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” And verse 5 says, “Every man must bear his own burden.”
That can be confusing. In fact, during my senior year in high school I was on fire for the Lord. I was already known as a preacher and many people called me that just to make fun of me. I had a classmate named Steve who didn’t care for my faith or the Bible. Steve was always ridiculing me saying the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions. So one day I handed him my Bible and said, “Find me one mistake or contradiction.” I thought that would shut him up. But to my surprise he turned to Galatians 6 and he read those two verses. He said, “See! In verse two it says, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens.’ But then in verse 5 it says, ‘Every man must bear his own burden.’ Which one is it? I guess God can’t make up His mind.”
I wish this story had a good ending, and that I gave him some clever reply to defeat his logic. But the truth is I was a little shocked myself. That seemed like a glaring contradiction to me. There were some other guys standing around and they join in laughing with Steve because the “preacher” had been shot down.
So later when I got to college, and started learning to read Greek, the original language of the New Testament, I was glad to finally learn the answer to Steve’s taunt. There are two totally different words used in verse 2 and verse 5. The word for burden in verse 2 is baros, which means a crushing weight, like being trapped under the rubble of a building after an earthquake. The word in verse 5 is portos, which was used to describe a soldier’s backpack.
With that background, I want to talk about how to handle burdens; I want to mention three kinds of burdens. There is a kind of burdens we share; a kind of burden we bear; and a kind of burden we wear.
1. A BURDEN TO SHARE—THE PAIN OF OTHERS
Verse 2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens (crushing weight), and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is the law of Christ? In the Old Testament there are over 600 laws, and when you add the regulations of the Talmud that meant a good Jew had to remember several thousand laws and rules. But Jesus made it simple for us. There is only ONE law of Christ. If you don’t know what it is, just turn one back Galatians 5:14, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” When you love someone you are willing to share his or her burdens.
The other day I saw a pickup truck stalled near a busy intersection. The driver had gotten out and was trying to push the pickup off the road to get it out of traffic. He wasn’t able to push it because there was a slight incline. So without hesitating, I pulled my car to the shoulder, put on the flashers and jumped out and started helping him push his truck. One more guy helped, so the driver could get in and steer the truck off the road. I asked him if he needed a ride and he indicated he had a cell phone to call someone. He said, “Thanks a lot!” I said, “Happy to help. I did it in the name of Jesus.” I don’t know if I’ll ever see that guy again, but he might remember someone who helped him with a burden in the name of Jesus.