The Bible speaks often of burdens that we bear. In the Bible, “burden” can refer to a duty or responsibility as well as to a physical load.
Galatians 6: 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5 For each one shall bear his own load.
There are no contradictions in the Bible. How then can the Word command us to Bear one another’s burdens and then within a few verses tell us that each one shall bear his own load?
Scriptural questions like this can only be resolving by examining scripture. Where else in the Bible is this topic presented? How does the totality of scripture reconcile the verses and expand our understanding?
Our search takes us to the Old Testament.
Numbers 11:11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? …
14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.
15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”
16 So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.
17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
Leading the nation of Israel was Moses’ burden, his responsibility. The weight of caring for so many complaining, rebellious, ungrateful folks weighed so heavily upon Moses that he cries out to God, “Help me or kill me! I can’t take it anymore!”
God responds by telling Moses to choose 70 other men. These men will share Moses’ burden (Galatians 6: 2).
Sometimes God gives us a task that proves too much for us to do. It is not the Lord’s will that we stumble and fall under the weight of our God-given responsibilities. It is God’s will that we let others help us. However, as Numbers 11 notes, we must be careful about whom we let share our burden.
The Lord tells Moses to carefully choose men out of the congregation of Israel. The burden-sharers must
(1) have demonstrated in some degree the qualities necessary for the responsibility/ burden in question (Numbers 11: 16)
(2) be willing to go through a period of consecration/ preparation for the responsibility/ burden (Numbers 11: 18)
(3) operate in the same spirit, the Holy Spirit, that has guided and sustained the Moses, the original burden-bearer;
We also learn that you (the original bearer of your burden) must be willing to let the Holy Spirit guide you to burden-sharers even when they who don’t promote themselves (Numbers 11: 25,26).
Numbers 11: 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp.
We tend to make two chief mistakes in the carrying of our heaviest responsibilities.
We either try to continue shouldering a load that has grown in mass beyond our ability to balance alone (usually out of pride); or we share our burdens with the wrong folks.
Imagine you have a 200 pound bag to carry. Over time the bag grows heavy or just awkward so you call 3 friends over to help. Each of the three gets under a corner and lifts. Whew! That’s much better. But then, everybody starts walking in a different direction. Now instead of simply bearing a 200 pound weight, you find yourself tugging on a 200 pound weight against your friends who want to take it somewhere you know it shouldn’t go. That’s what happens when you share your God-given burden with someone who doesn’t share the same Spirit. They pull you in the wrong direction.
If you are a husband or wife struggling to maintain a godly relationship, don’t share your problems with someone’s who’s already cheating on their spouse or with someone who’s never had a successful marriage themselves. If you’re a parent trying to keep your child out of crime and immorality don’t turn to advice from someone who buys alcohol for their 14 year old. If you’re a young person stumbling in your walk with Christ, you can’t get any real help from your buddies (as much as you love them) who don’t know Christ and really just want you to stop talking about church and party with them anyway.
Understanding what Gal. 6: 2 means, how does the Bible reconcile that with Gal. 6: 5 For each one shall bear his own load?
Look to the Gospels.
Matthew 11: 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [KJV: of me], for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus makes us an offer we can’t refuse. He offers to receive our heavy burdens: the responsibilities, sins, guilt, mistakes, history, and issues under which we labor. In return for these, He offers to give us (1) rest; (2) His yoke; and (3) His burden.
(1) The rest Christ promises is both inner peace in this lifetime (John 14:27) and eternal holiday in the life to come (Hebrews 4; Revelations 14: 13).
(2) A yoke was a harness placed on beasts of burden that kept them walking in the same path and/or direction. Yoked creatures moved as one. Yielding our burdens to Christ means receiving a new direction. No longer should we follow the paths which led to our troubles, but we should follow a path of unity with other believers, a path on which we increase in our knowledge of Jesus.
(3) Jesus offers His burden. We give up everything for Christ (Matthew 19: 27). By doing so, everything in our lives becomes Christ’s responsibility, and our only responsibility/burden is to live for Jesus (Matthew 6: 33).
In other words, the only burden we are meant to bear is the responsibility to live and to share the gospel. God wants us to give all other burdens to Him.
Understanding now that we are meant to have just this one burden, Galatians 6: 5 makes sense. We are each to bear the responsibility of living and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Galatians 6: 5 makes sense with Galatians 6: 2 because we are to share the work of living and sharing the gospel with others who walk in the same Spirit.
As we live for Jesus, applying the gospel on our jobs, in our families, among our friends, and in our churches, the burden may become too heavy or too massive to bear alone. We should be willing to accept the help of those who share the same Holy Spirit. When we see our brothers and sister struggling we should reach out to them share their load.
By both bearing our load and sharing one another’s burdens we fulfill the law of Christ.