For some time now I have pondered the difference between a load and a burden. Recently I noticed that my Bible concordance “defined” burden with the words “heavy load.” Webster, guru of definitions, in his 9th “New” Edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1983) that had it’s beginning as a first edition back in 1898 – the latest hard copy of a dictionary that I possess with all the online capabilities these days – lists burden three times. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll only share the first one: “something that is carried, load, duty, responsibility; something oppressive or worrisome, encumbrance.” There’s more, but that will get it for the moment. The same volume takes an entire half column to define load. Interestingly, beside burden in my Bible’s concordance is the phrase, “that which is borne, physically or spiritually.” So is there a significant difference, or not? Perhaps it is merely a matter of semantics dependent upon context.
Rather than take Mr. Dictionary’s or even my Bible concordance’s word for it, I decided to journey into the book that actually defines all aspects of life including the real or semantic differences between related words. Here are some verses that may give us insight:
Psalm 38:4…My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
Psalm 68:19…Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
Luke 11:46…Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not life one finger to help them.”
The passage I intentionally left off that short list is from Galatians 6:2-5…Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Here Paul uses my two words in the same context. If they are the same, then verses 2 and 5 seem to contradict each other. I am to carry another’s burden while still shouldering my own load. There must be a significant difference. What an amazing lesson for each of us. I have a responsibility to carry my own load – life’s daily struggles and challenges. At the same time I am commanded to help others with their “physical and spiritual” burdens. When the load goes beyond the norm, I am supposed to step in and step up. Perhaps another scripture will illustrate this more effectively than my ramblings seem to be doing.
In the very familiar story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), Jesus tells of a half-breed who, when he finds his Jewish enemy beaten and left for dead, doesn’t take the “religious” path – the other side of the road as the priest and Levite had done – but rather he “put the man on his own donkey” and takes exceptional care of him. I would surmise that not only did the Samaritan show love for an enemy demonstrating brotherly kindness and the Golden Rule, but he also spent his time and money bearing a burden. The Jew was way beyond carrying his own load. His daily load had indeed become extremely burdensome. He needed help. The Samaritan was the last guy by. He added the Jews burden to his own load and gave the Son of God the plot for a wonderful story of love. He also gave me a way to illustrate that load and burden can be much different. We need to be concerned about both.
Matthew 11:28-30…Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [load] upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
- ▼ March (5)