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Last updated: Sep 23, 2013
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"Insights" from the New Testament Greek
By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida
BEARING ONE ANOTHERS BURDENS, Gal. 6:2-5
We find a command in Galatians 6:2, to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law (commandment) of Christ". We love Jesus and want to keep his commandments, but, three verses later, in Gal 6:5 we read, "every man shall bear his OWN burden". Now we have a problem, if every man must bear his OWN burden, when and how should we obey the command of Christ to "Bear ye one another's burdens"?
A careful study of the Greek words translated into our English word "burden" quickly solves this apparent dilemma. There are two different Greek words translated "burden" in Gal. 6:2 and 5, and they were originally nautical terms concerning the cargo of a sailing ship:
--- Baros = An overloaded ship. Gal 6:2 The idea of heavily pressing down.
--- Phortion = A normal load designed for a ship to carry. Gal 6:5 (Ship's "lading" in Acts 27:10)
A sailing ship needs a proper cargo weight to sail efficiently. If it is empty, it cannot set full sail and make full speed, and it tosses and pitches violently in rough seas. If it is loaded too heavy (baros) it is in danger of taking on water and sinking. When it is loaded with the proper cargo weight, the weight it was designed to carry (phortion), it sails fast and smooth.
My wife, Mary, and I, met Jim and Joyce Mazzulla, of BibleFood.ORG, in Savannah Georgia recently. Some of the streets by the river were paved with black and white speckled stones that came over from Europe on sailing ships and it reminded me of these Greek words for the cargo on a ship. When the European sailing ships had no cargo to bring to America, they were loaded to the proper cargo weight with "ballast" stones, and the stones were tossed overboard when they reached port in America.
Now we can understand about bearing one another's burdens from these richly descriptive Greek words! We need a proper load (phortion) to sail through life smoothly, and so, we are to bear our own burdens, or proper loads, as in Gal 6:5. And in Gal 6:2, we are to pull along side and help our Christian brothers and sisters with their burdens (baros), if they get unintentionally overloaded.
Sometimes we Christians tend to overload our own selves in an effort to please God, because we do not completely understand God's Word. Jesus tells us in Matt.11:30 that his yoke is easy and his burden (phortion - normal load) is light! When we are walking in the Spirit, God works through us to do the things that please him, and it is a joy to keep the commandments of Jesus!