You ever read something and be like, ‘wait a minute… that don’t make no sense!’ Well, that was my reaction when reading this passage. Like so many others, I’ve read this several times before, and I saw the apparent contradiction, but I just let it be. The way my faith compels me to approach scripture is that, if something doesn’t make sense or I don’t understand it, it is ME who needs to be taught. The Bible is right and I regard it as God’s infallible Word.
Yes—the Bible was written by mere mortals, and the canon was organized by some other fallible men (some of whom may have even had their own agendas); but I believe it was inspired by God. Just like I believe that God can cause all things to work together for my good (Romans 8:28), I believe that he can take the writings that He inspired, along with the scholarly work done by those assigned to build out the canon, and the result be His infallible word—without any errors.
I know the Bible is right…
Last week, in the “War Room” preparing for Bible Study with Rocc, Jonathan and I were working in Galatians 6 and this apparent paradox jumped out at me.
Galatians 6:2-5 | “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”
Did you catch that? Look at the first part and then the last part. We’re supposed to carry each other’s burdens, but then, each one should carry their own load. Na’how that work?!
Well, I said it was an apparent paradox. Upon further investigation, I found that it didn’t mean what it looked like (to me, at least). It looked like it was saying to help each other out with whatever we’re carrying and then also that we gotta carry what we’re carrying by ourselves. That didn’t really make sense to me. Fortunately, that’s not what it says lol
What I ultimately discovered is that the words ‘burden’ and ‘load’, though similar in English, are nothing close to the same word in Greek (which is the primary original language of the New Testament). The original word for ‘burden’ refers more specifically to weight that has been applied. Something that is heavy, oppressive, or even violent! The word used for ‘load’ is used to describe something like the freight of a ship. It is cargo—something that is carried or brought by the person or vessel.
This was a major WOW moment for me! I was like, “Oh, oh, oh…yo…check this out!!!” Burdens are placed upon people. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to help one another out with the heavy, oppressive, and even violent forces that we see placed upon each other. When you are weighed down, it is my Christian duty to come, stand along side you, and help you carry that weight. If you are oppressed, it is my responsibility to prioritize your needs above my own and work along side you to eradicate the oppressive force.
Here is how the Apostle Paul shared this same thing with the church he planted in Philippi:
Philippians 2:3-8 | “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Jesus helped us with our burden—the burden of sin. He came to where we are, became like us, and in His sinlessness, came along side us and took the penalty for the sins we committed (and would commit). This is the example we are supposed to follow.
Now, before you hit me with the “but I’m not Jesus” line, remember that being a Christian really means being a Christ follower. We might not be Jesus, but we are to do our very best—with help from the Holy Spirit—to follow Jesus and model our lives after His.
That’s the weight. Here’s the freight…
I’m going to paraphrase Galatians 6:2-5 for you, and see if this makes it a little more plain:
We should help each other out with whatever the other is struggling with. Don’t let your brother or sister suffer under a weight that was placed on them—especially when it is within your ability to help. But don’t get so big on yourself that you get to thinking that you’re somehow better than they are, just because you don’t struggle with their struggle and aren’t weighed down by what has been placed on their shoulders. You’d be fooling yourself. In fact, don’t even compare yourself to them or try to rate your goodness in relationship to theirs. Grade your own paper, check your own work, worry about your own test score. While some are weighed down by things that were placed on them, you brought your own baggage with you. You loaded your own ship with that cargo… and nobody else is going to help you carry the baggage you brought by yourself.
Now seems like a good moment to remind someone reading this that, when you go on trips, only pack what you can carry. Don’t pack a bunch of extra stuff and then try to get your travel companion(s) who packed reasonably to carry your extra bags. You didn’t need alternate outfits.
A lot of the time, we create our own problems. Some things aren’t weights placed on us. Instead, these things are cargo and extra baggage we loaded onto ourselves. That’s the difference between weight and freight. Does the freight weigh something? Sure it does! That doesn’t change the fact that weight is something that gets put on—baggage is something we chose for ourselves.
This passage in Galatians chapter 6 goes on to encourage us not to fool ourselves. We reap what we sow. Our best bet is to be good towards one another; help out with each other’s burdens. If we only care about ourselves, then we are all we’ll be left with in the end. If we keep putting good out, eventually good will come back to us.
Keith Goosby II is the founding minister of NET Church. He has served in ministry for over 20 years, in various capacities–including music, social media management, teaching, preaching, consulting, and leadership. Keith’s first church experience as a child was a home church. Since then, he has attended and served at churches sizing from just a few to over 10,000–of various denominations and affiliations. As NET Church is being planted, Keith continues to serve at his Dallas home church, Golden Gate MBC, in Dallas, TX, under the leadership of Minister Vincent T. Parker. Keith is married and currently lives in the Dallas area with his wife and three sons.