The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

The Millennial Evangelical, Chris Martin, examines Galatians in regards to the hardships that we all bear and how to recognize and abstain from self-reliance.

Chris Martin  ·  January 3, 2017

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In one of my papers, I was spending a lot of time in Galatians 6:2-3, which reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (ESV).

As I was studying and writing about this passage, I came across Dr. Timothy George’s New American Commentary on Galatians. I thought his words on Galatians 6:2-3 were profound, so I wanted to share them here on the blog. I have edited the excerpt’s paragraph breaks and took out some of the annotations for readability. Here is Dr. George:

The church of Jesus Christ is not a charitable organization like the Red Cross or a civic club such as the Rotary or Kiwanis. It is rather a family of born-again brothers and sisters supernaturally knit together by the Holy Spirit in a common fellowship of mutual edification and love. In this context Paul admonished his readers to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. The immediate context refers back to the preceding verse and conveys the idea of the spiritually mature bearing with and helping to restore those who have fallen into sin. But burden bearing cannot be restricted to that one situation alone.

The word for “burden” means literally “a heavy weight or stone” someone is required to carry for a long distance. Figuratively it came to mean any oppressive ordeal or hardship that was difficult to bear, as in Matt 20:12, where Jesus spoke of the workers in the vineyard “who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” The old-fashioned English word “tote” conveys something of this idea in our language. To tote something is not simply to pick it up and put it back down again. It is rather to carry or haul a heavy load, usually on one’s arms or back, for a great distance, perhaps many miles. We may gather four important truths about practical Christian living from Paul’s injunction to bear one another’s burdens.

The Reality of Burdens

All Christians have burdens. Our burdens may differ in size and shape and will vary in kind depending on the providential ordering of our lives. For some it is the burden of temptation and the consequences of a moral lapse, as in v. 1 here. For others it may be a physical ailment, or mental disorder, or family crisis, or lack of employment, or demonic oppression, or a host of other things; but no Christian is exempt from burdens. Creation itself is broken and groaning, and believers groan with it, waiting for the final deliverance that will come only with the return of our Redeemer in glory (Rom 8:18–28). Prosperity gospels of easy believism and quick-fix recovery belong more to the spirit of this age than to the Spirit of Christ, who “Son though he was, had to prove the meaning of obedience through all that he suffered” (Heb 5:9).

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