He Ain't Heavy - He's my brother
When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a song
by the name of (you guessed it) “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the
Hollies. It was a hit song of that era
and originally came from the motto for Boys
Town located in Omaha, Nebraska. Boys
Town was founded by
Father Edward Flanagan in 1917 as a home for troubled or homeless boys. The inspiration for the motto came in 1941
when Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a boy carrying a younger boy on
his back with that motto as the caption.
Father Flanagan received permission to erect a statue of the drawing
with the inscription, “He ain’t heavy Father, he’s my
brother.” It became the logo for Boys Town. The logo was updated in 1979 with the addition
of a girl carrying a younger girl.
The Two Brothers concept preceded the drawing that Father
Flanagan saw. Originally, in 1921, there
was a young boy at Boys
Town who had difficulty
walking due to leg braces. Other boys
would take turns giving him a ride on their backs. There is actually a famous photograph of this
young boy and another one of the boys giving him a ride.
So what does this story have to do with the Christian
life? It is directly applicable to the
Christian and the duty to bear each other up under the burdens of life. If it is applicable, then what does this duty
really mean? In the Book of Galatians,
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Gal. 6:2 (KJV)
The phrase “bear ye” comes from the word “bastazo
(bas-tad'-zo)” meaning to lift, literally or figuratively to endure, declare,
sustain or receive. (See Strong’s
Greek-Hebrew Dictionary NT:941). This command goes far beyond the idea of just
sympathizing or even empathizing with someone who is subject to the problems or
trials that come with life. It literally
means what it says; that is, we are to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, side by
side, with our brothers and sisters in Christ and endure those burdens with
The translation then carries the idea even further by
stating that this word also encompasses the idea of lifting those burdens from
them. We are to carry the load with
them. By doing so, we receive that load
and sustain our fellow believers during their times of hardship.
There is another meaning to this word that is
intriguing. It is the idea of declaring. Declaring conveys the idea of stating with
authority, i.e. as a truthful statement.
There are many times in life that our Christian brothers and sisters are
persecuted or criticized for their beliefs and it is during these times that
we, as fellow believers, should “declare” our unity and our shared belief in
Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth and the life.” This particular burden may be even more difficult
than the actual physical and financial burdens that we face in life. This burden exposes us to possible ridicule
and rejection. It is a burden that goes
against what all of us want in life and that is to be accepted by those around
us. When you step out and declare your
faith, you may endanger that very desire.
The word “burden” is derived from the word “baros (bar'-os)”
meaning a load, abundance, authority or weight.
(See Strong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, NT:922). This idea of a burden doesn’t just apply to a
physical load but rather seems to cover the entire gamut of possible
problems. When I read this definition, I
envision the picture of Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders. There are times in life when it literally
seems that we have the weight of the world on our shoulders and there is no one
there to help us shoulder that burden.
Those are the times when we as fellow believers need to step in and
The idea of helping another with the burdens of life brings
up another issue. That issue is the
willingness of the person burdened to allow someone to help. We have grown up with the idea of being
independent and self-reliant; we need to be strong when we have problems. We shouldn’t have to rely on others to help
us deal with our issues. What a bunch of
baloney!! That is nothing but pride
speaking. Burdens are meant to be shared
and consequently, are much lighter when they are. We are not destined to be prideful but rather
we are to be humble. Humility means
accepting the fact that there are things in life that we cannot and should not
handle on our own. Additionally, by
failing or refusing to accept help, we deprive others from the blessings of
bearing each other up. Enough said; just
don’t do it. Allow others to help.
Finally, the law of Christ is the law of love. When confronted with an issue concerning the
greatest of commandments, Jesus Christ responded with an answer that left
nothing more to be said.
34 But when the
Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were
gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a
question, tempting him, and saying,36 Master, which is
the great commandment in the law? 37
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first
and great commandment. 39 And the second
is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law
and the prophets. Matt. 22:34-40
Bearing each other’s burdens is fulfilling the second
commandment, i.e. loving your neighbor as yourself. By doing so, we are evidencing the love of
Jesus Christ. This command of Jesus
Christ is not just contained in the Gospel account but is also declared in
other books of the Bible.
9 For this, Thou shalt
not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not
bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other
commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour:
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Rom. 13:9-10 (KJV)
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself. Gal. 5:14 (KJV)
8 If ye fulfil the
royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself, ye do well: James 2:8 (KJV)
Jesus also gave a practical example of this kind of love
when He posed the following pertaining to the final judgment
34 Then shall the King
say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an
hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a
stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye
visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the
righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an
hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?38
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?40 And the King
shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matt.
This is a true example of bearing another’s burdens and
these verses and the verses following go to the idea of “sins of omission” as
opposed to “sins of commission.” In
other words, if you know that you should do something to fulfill the law of
Christ (see Matt. 22:39 above) but fail to do so, have you sinned? I respectfully submit that you have according
to Matt. 25:41-46. The failure to live
out the love of Christ violates that law just as much as committing a sin
We see the idea of bearing another’s burden vividly
illustrated in the account of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Although he did not assume the burden
willingly at first, the ultimate act of assumption demonstrates fulfillment of
32 And as they came
out, they found a man of Cyrene,
Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. Matt. 27:32 (KJV)
Simon of Cyrene had the privilege and honor of carrying the
burden of the cross prior to Christ’s crucifixion. At the time and from a physical perspective, I
am sure that it did not seem like a privilege and honor. However, from a spiritual perspective it was
truly special. Likewise, when we bear
the burdens of another, it is very special from a spiritual perspective.
The ultimate example of bearing another’s burdens is shown
by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. The sole purpose of Him going to the cross
was to assume and bear the sins of all mankind.
He took those sins upon Himself as the perfect sacrifice, as the Lamb of
God, as the Son of Man. When you think
about the possible reasons why Jesus came from heaven to suffer this
ignominious end, there can only be one reason.
That reason was to fulfill the second greatest commandment – loving His
neighbor as Himself (actually more than Himself). There was no one else who could bear this
burden. There was no one else suitable
for this job. He was the only
alternative. He was the only One with
shoulders big enough to assume the load.
He was the only perfect sacrifice.
In conjunction with the idea of bearing one another’s
burdens is the idea of not laying burdens on others. This doesn’t seem to be reconcilable at first
glance but it is two different ideas.
Jesus Christ, in addressing the religious leaders of His day, spoke to
46 And he said, Woe
unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne,
and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Luke 11:46 (KJV)
The burdens that He was alluding to were the burdens under
the law that the Pharisees heaped upon the people. Those burdens were used to assert power,
authority and control over the masses.
These were not the burdens of life brought on by the circumstances of
life but rather, were artificially created burdens that were in direct
contravention of the law of Christ, i.e. the law of love.
Many times it seems that it is practically impossible to
actually assume the burdens of another.
How can we literally assume physical problems experienced by
another? The answer is that there are
times when we can’t literally assume those problems but there is another way to
bear each other up in times of difficulty.
That bearing up takes the form of prayer, encouragement, comforting and
16 Confess your faults
one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The
effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 (KJV)
11 Wherefore comfort
yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 1 Thess.
13 But exhort one
another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened
through the deceitfulness of sin. Heb. 3:13 (KJV)
While these are not foreign concepts, how often do we
actually practice what we preach? Life
is busy; there are things to do, places to go and
people to see. I have always heard that
if Satan cannot make you sin, he will make you busy. Life rushes on and what do we accomplish that
I wish I could see the headlines in the “Heaven Daily
Press.” I suspect the notable news
stories would be much different from what we read on a daily basis here. I can imagine the leading story being
something like “Joe Smith Comforts Neighbor in Distress,” or “Jane Smith Prays
for Friend.” I believe the eternal
perspective is much different than the temporal one.
Finally, as we know, Satan’s time is short. He “goes around like a roaring lion, seeking
whom he may devour.” Satan also knows
his time is short. During that time and
leading up to the Rapture of the saints, troubles will be on the increase. Jesus spoke of the signs of the times (Matt.
24:3-8) and how these signs would increase.
Take time to read the paper. We
see tragedy on every page. We live with
fear and foreboding. What should we
do? What can we do?
25 Not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one
another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Heb. 10:25 (KJV)
15 For this we say
unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the
coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord
himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thess. 4:15-18 (KJV)
Our witness to the world and to each other is evidenced by
what we say and more importantly, by what we do. You have heard “Do you walk the walk or do
you just talk the talk?” My question to
you: Do you do both and fulfill the law
of Christ? I hope so especially during
these end times.
Comments or questions may be directed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.