A Commentary by John Stott
Galatians 6:2-5. 2). How Christians should treat each other. (Con’t).
The apostle continues in verse 3: *For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself*. The implication seems to be that if we do not or will not bear one another’s burdens, it is because we think that we are above it. We would not demean ourselves to such a thing; it would be beneath our dignity. Again it is apparent, as in Galatians 5:26, that our conduct to *others* is governed by our opinion of *ourselves*. As we provoke and envy other people when we have self-conceit, so when we think we are ‘something’ we decline to bear their burdens.
But to think thus of ourselves is to be self-deceived. As we saw earlier, conceit is ‘vainglory’. entertaining a false opinion of ourselves. The truth is that we are not ‘something’; we are ‘nothing’. Is this an exaggeration? Not when the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see ourselves as we are, rebels against God who made us in His image, deserving nothing at His hand but destruction. When we realize and remember this, we shall not compare ourselves favourably with other people, nor shall we decline to serve them or bear their burdens.
Moreover, when we are Christians, redeemed by God through Jesus Christ, we shall still not compare ourselves with others. It is these comparisons which are so odious and dangerous, as the apostle goes on to say. Verses 4 and 5: *But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each man will have to bear his own load*. In other words, instead of scrutinising our neighbour and comparing ourselves with him, we are to test our ‘own work’ for we will have to bear ‘our own load’, That is, we are responsible to God for our work and must give an account of it to Him one day.
There is no contradiction here between verse 2, ‘Bear one another’s burdens’, and verse 5, ‘each man will have to bear his own load’. The Greek word for burden is different, *baros* (verse 2) meaning a weight or heavy load and *phortion* (verse 5) being ‘a common term for a man’s pack’. So we are to bear one another’s ‘burdens’ which are too heavy for a man to bear alone, but there is one burden which we cannot share – indeed do not need to because it is a pack light enough for every man to carry himself – and that is our responsibility to God on the day of judgment. On that day you cannot carry my pack and I cannot carry yours, ‘Each man will have to bear his own load.’
Tomorrow: Galatians 6:1 3). An example of burden-bearing.