Three Kinds of Burdens

Matthew 11:28-30; 23:1-4

THE burden business has been misunderstood and overworked by all too many believers. There are those who invent extra loads and devise all sorts of excess luggage—who think it a mark of exceptional piety to slave through life with uprolled eyes beneath a ton of baggage. Such souls mistake their own petty burdens for the cross of Christ and moan dismally about their load. Job said, “I am a burden to myself,” and so are these self-appointed martyrs. What a dour time one has trying to live with such specialists of gloom, who never have learned that the spirit-life is not weights but wings!

The Master spoke of the Pharisees, the orthodox religionists of His day, as binding heavy and grievous burdens and laying them on men’s shoulders, while they themselves would not move them with one of their fingers (Matt. 23:4). Many there are whose religious life is only a dull routine of formal observances, the shadow without the substance—”faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null”—a ritualism without redemption. A load instead of a life!

The Word speaks of three kinds of burdens of which we must dispose. There is, first, the burden we share. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Whatever we lift lifts us, and as we get under our brother’s load with him we find that our own is lightened. The early church had all things in common. We have departed somewhat from that early church ideal, but we, at least, ought to have in common those burdens which we can share.

Then, there is the burden we bear. “For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:5). There is no conflict here with the other verse just above, as so many have supposed. Here Paul is speaking of our load of personal responsibility, which no man can saddle off on someone else. There are obligations which no other man can carry for us.

But the highest summit, the burden we forswear, is reached in Psalm 55:22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.” That reminds us of 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” How many trust God with their souls but never with their burdens. The conquest of care is not a matter of fighting them but of surrendering them! Victory here begins with surrender.

Nor is there conflict between bearing our own burden of responsibility and casting our burden upon the Lord. While there are obligations we must assume, we must remember that God carries both ourself and our burden. So, the whole load is His; yet, there is a load that is ours.

The lightest hearts are not those who acknowledge no responsibility but those who share and bear burdens, trusting in the Lord. The tracks on the main railroad lines stay shiny, for they bear burdens; the sidetracks are rusty, for few loads come that way.

Paul says this burden-bearing is “the law of Christ.” But that means no heavy and irksome thing. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy.” Now a yoke is not an extra burden but a device to make the burden light. Our faith is not to be lugged along as an extra obligation, like our insurance or taxes; rather, it makes life portable.

Finally, the Master said, “My burden is light.” That sums it all. His requirements are not heavy and enslaving. Indeed, He invites all the heavy laden to Him to find rest. For His Law brings liberty. “The truth shall set you free.” “And you shall find rest unto your soul.”

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