Bearing One Another’s Burdens – Galatians 6:2-5

In the context of verse 1, this “bearing a burden” may refer to a burden carried by the brother caught in sin. But the language could also refer to financial burdens. This is possible since the next paragraph deals with helping others financially. There is a great deal in this paragraph that indicates Paul has money in mind here, although it is not good to limit the “burdens” to only financial distress.

Image result for bear another's burdenThe warning in verse 3 is significant since it implies that the person who is not willing to help other believers carry their burden deceive themselves by thinking that they are “something.” Perhaps someone might think that they are too important to help the poorer members of the congregation. They may think that they are “above” that sort of thing. Paul’s preference in v. 5 is that everyone takes care of their own “load” (φορτίον, a word that can refer to cargo, Acts 27:10). This is similar to Paul’s teaching that people ought to work hard to provide for their needs (1 Thess 4:11-12, 2 Thess 3:12; Eph 4:28)

By bearing one another’s burdens, the believer “fulfills the Law of Christ” (v. 4). What is the Law of Christ?

One possibility is that the “Law of Christ” is at least a portion of the Mosaic Law, perhaps the moral aspects of the Law. It is hard to believe, however, that Paul would say that the Gentile believers in Galatia could do part of the Law by helping those who struggle with sin.

A second possibility is that this refers to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. This is attractive since Paul taught the churches in Galatia about the Life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But it is hard to point to a verse in the Gospels (which were written after Galatians), such as the greatest commandment (Matt 22:34-40) as “the Law of Christ.”

A third way to read this verse is that the “Law of Christ” stands in contrast to the Law of Moses. Romans 3:21-26 makes this point by contrasting the law of works (the Mosaic Law) with the righteousness obtained through the death of Jesus. In this view, the Law of Christ is equivalent to the New Covenant (1 Cor 11:23-26), the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2), and walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

Yet another way to look at the Law of Christ is to read it in the light of “bearing burdens.” Christ bore our since in his body, if we are to be like Christ then we should be ready to bear the burdens of others who are in Christ.

To “fulfill” (ἀναπληρόω) this Law is to carry out a responsibility or obligation. The word occasionally means “to complete a work” (Josephus, Ant. 8.58; TDNT 6:305). Members of the Galatian churches wanted to fulfill the Law of Moses, yet they could never actually keep the whole law, let alone “complete it.” Paul now tells them that they can fully complete the Law of Christ by bearing the burdens of their brothers and sisters.

As a general rule, Paul thinks that people ought to support themselves, but he also knows that there will always be people who cannot do so. Circumstances are such that they are unable to meet their obligations. In those cases a “mature spiritual community” will be “able to distinguish those loads which individuals must bear for themselves and those burdens where help is needed” (Dunn, Galatians, 326).

8 thoughts on “Bearing One Another’s Burdens – Galatians 6:2-5

  1. As the body of Christ there has to be a certain obligation to one another to share struggles and burdens that’s what makes the body of Christ the way that it is. The body of Christ is meant to be a unified support of one another. Paul speaks about wanting believers to handle things alone but recognizing that people also need one another and that should hold true within the body of Christ. The body is unified or rather it should be and bearing one another’s burdens should go without saying and be a regular practice of the body of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” This should be a common practice of the body that if members are struggling in any way people within the body should build each other up and share their burdens whatever they may be. While I can see where Paul is coming from in saying that people should be able to handle things alone I also prefer to think about the second part of him recognizing that people cannot do everything individually. People need one another to come along side and be able to share in their struggles and hardships whatever they may be.

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  2. Concerning this topic, I have both questions and opinions. My first question is exactly why is someone supposed to carefully examine their own life before restoring another believer? My initial thought is that one would need to do so to ensure they are without sin before telling someone else to get rid of their sin. This cannot be exactly true because obviously, sin will be found in both lives. Galatians 6 says “…But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1b). I am confused as to what this verse is expressing about temptation. Is it saying that one can easily become sucked into doing what the person they are trying to restore is doing? If not, the other answer would be temptation being expressed as the possibility of providing unnecessarily judgement towards the other person’s life.

    One of my thoughts concerning this subject is that self-examination is always beneficial—not solely before restoring a fellow believer. In addition, I also have a firm belief that if someone is restored in public, their possible humiliation can easily turn them farther away from Christ. ‘Praise publicity, correct privately’ can be applied here.

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    • Doesn’t it always seem to be the case the person who most loudly condemns some sin is secretly addicted to it as well? How many evangelists scream about some sexual sin while doing the same things in their private lives. That kind of hypocrisy does no one any good.

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  3. I completely agree with what you have to say about believers separating themselves from others who have burdens because they think they are “something”. In some peoples minds there is a ranking system in the church, and the higher up you are, based on how long you have been there, who you know, how much you give financially, or where you sit, means that you are too important to help those lower on the scale. It is strange that that mentality has become such a norm in the church but it also does not surprise me either.
    There are many mistakes that seem to happen when approaching the journey of bearing someone’s burdens. Obviously these will not apply to everyone but there are some common patterns that we want to avoid, especially if we are going to be effective. It is not necessarily easy to help bear burdens of fellow believers because you can get caught in a web of their problems thus, emotional boundaries can go out the window. It is important to create a relationship that is focused on walking along side someone rather than carrying them. The believer who tries to pick up the pieces of their brother/sister is going to get burnt out very quickly. When you help someone, don’t baby them (as much as you might want to). The point is to help them through their current state while leading them to be self-sufficient. “For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:5) It is easy for the victim to get attached to their “savior” and that will be more destructive for the relationship in the long run.

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  4. We are all a part of the body of Christ and we need to treat each other as such. We are supposed to humble ourselves before God but I also believe humbling ourselves before one another. To not think we are above others. No one is above the other, not based on rank, education, success, God made us all equally and we need to understand this. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, doesn’t that mean to help one another out. “With freedom comes responsibility. The responsibility that Paul highlights is this: serve one another humbly in love: (TTP, 102). We are supposed to help one another and carry each others burdens. Or how I word is it help each other unload one another’s burdens and lay them before the Lord. Galatians 6:2 specifically says to carry each other’s burdens. And burdens can stretch to mean many things, finances, health, responsibilities no matter what it is we must sacrifice for one another and carry one another up towards Christ.

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  5. When we look at this portion in Galatians, I think we need to be able to understand that we should be able to help each other by carrying each other’s burdens because the body of Christ should be unified. As one body, we should know that we need to love. However, we cannot do this on our own. We need the “power of the Spirit” (TTP, 103) to help us with our own abilities in helping each other. I think when we read the word “burdens” in this verse, we should take it mean a variety of things because no matter what it is, we should helping one another and bringing each other closer to Christ. It is by doing this that we can carry each other’s burdens and lift each other up in love and in Christ.

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  6. I like what Paul says when he says we should be able to take care of ourselves, but there are some circumstances that there is no way out for some people. We should have a spiritually mature community that is able to figure out what is going to be best for those people. Sometimes just giving people hand outs can be even more harmful then just letting them continue where they are at. Some time need more of a relational help than someone just handing them money. We, as Christians, should be able to walk along someone and decide what should be best for them with God’s guidance. Our world has become all about money and I think that can be toxic for some people. We should be taking care of those who are followers of Christ, but we should be thinking of everyone around us. I think about the poor widow in the church who had nothing, but a few coins and she gave it all to God while everyone else just gave a portion of their wealth. “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on”‘ (Mark 12:43-44). We should be giving everything we have up to God and allow Him to use those things we do have for the glory of Him.

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