For every man shall bear his own burden.
— Galatians 6:5
When Denise and I were first married and were just getting started in the ministry, our heart desire was to help people who were in need. Word of our efforts to help people soon spread throughout our city, and it seemed like there was always a long line of people approaching us to request help for all kinds of needs. Some of the needs were serious and legitimate, but soon we recognized that some people just wanted to take advantage of our goodwill.
That latter category included those who didn’t want to get a job. These people had myriads of excuses for why they couldn’t go to work, and they came up with fantastic reasons to explain why everyone else should be paying their bills. At first, Denise and I didn’t realize that we were the newest gullible victims they had discovered to help them freeload. But after a while we looked at each other and said, “Wait a minute! These people aren’t serious. They’re just looking for someone to pay their bills so they can get a free ride in life.”
Most needs you become aware of will be legitimate needs. However, there is a category of people who live like leeches on the goodwill of others. Helping people like this with financial assistance really doesn’t help them at all. You are simply helping to prolong the way they are living and empowering them to keep being irresponsible. Why should they get a job if they can keep getting someone to pay their bills and relieve them of their responsibilities?
In Galatians 6:5, Paul makes a statement which at first sounds like a contradiction to Galatians 6:2 (see May 23). It says, “For every man shall bear his own burden.” What about this verse? Is it in conflict with Galatians 6:2? Are we supposed to help bear each other’s burdens, or is each person supposed to bear his or her own burdens? Do these verses contradict each other?
The word “burden” in Galatians 6:5 is completely different from the one in Galatians 6:2. In Galatians 6:2, the word is baros, but in Galatians 6:5 it is the Greek word phortion. These words are completely unrelated to each other and don’t even look the same! The second word, phortion, is a military term that was used to indicate the expected amount of weight that every soldier was expected to carry in his bag, kit, or backpack. In the secular world, it was used to denote the normal responsibility that every man must carry for himself. Because it is a load we are expected to carry, it really is the idea of a person’s individual responsibility in life.
You see, there is a certain amount of responsibility we are required to carry by ourselves. For instance, no one can do our work for us, and no one can make our decisions for us. Our bills are our responsibility to pay; our children are ours to raise; our dog is ours to feed; our yard is ours to mow; and our kitchen is ours to clean.
If you haven’t discovered it yet, let me inform you that there are many freeloaders in the Body of Christ who would love to shirk these responsibilities and find someone else to do everything for them. These are the people Paul was referring to when he said, “For every man shall bear his own burden.”
In Galatians 6:5, the Greek expresses the following idea:
“For every man is accountable for a certain level of personal responsibility in life, and he cannot look to anyone else to free him of these obligations that are his to take care of himself.”
So when Paul addresses these two kind of burdens in Galatians 6:2 and Galatians 6:5, he is describing: 1) a crushing burden that is too much for you to bear by yourself and that necessitates the help of someone else; and 2) the daily duties and obligations you must bear by yourself as a responsible adult.
If you know someone who shirks responsibilities, it’s time for you to start helping that person accept responsibility for his own life! If you know someone who is freeloading on the goodwill of others, God may want to use you to tell him to stop it!
People like that need to grow up and act like adults! So make sure that you don’t empower and prolong their irresponsible existence by giving them everything they ask for. Saying no may be hard for you to do, but doing it a couple of times will help them realize they have lost their free ride, awaken them to reality, and thus put them on a right track!
It is very important that you think soberly about these things. Your actions are so important because your response will either help or hurt people. If they have sincere needs that they cannot overcome alone, you need to pray about what God wants you to do to help them. But if your analysis of the situation reveals that they are needy because they won’t do what is necessary to fix the problem, it may be God’s will that you tell them no.
If you seek the help of the Lord, He will show you what to do in every situation. So ask the Holy Spirit today to give you the mind of Christ for every situation that is presented to you. If you will listen carefully, God’s Spirit will advise you about what you should do.
My Prayer for Today
Lord, what I have read today is very hard for me personally. I know some people who need to grow up and start taking on more of the responsibilities of life. I must admit that I’ve gone to their rescue too many times and that I’ve probably enabled them to continue their wrong behavior and inappropriate lifestyle. Saying no is so hard for me to do, but I am asking You to help me stop empowering them to keep living irresponsibly as they have been doing. Holy Spirit, please give me Your mind and Your power, and help me to do what is right on this issue.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I have the mind of Christ to help me know when I am to help and when I am to say no. The Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and shows me what to do in every situation. God’s Spirit advises me about what I should do. I am obedient to Him and am NOT led by my emotions.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Is there anyone you’ve been harming by giving him so much help that he hasn’t had to assume responsibility for himself?
2. What change is required in your own heart and character to cause you to respond correctly to that person who has been living irresponsibly?
3. Is it hard for you to say no? Can you identify the reason it is so hard for you?