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, Paul states:

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 them. 

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 help.

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 (KJV)

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. 25:34-40 (KJV)

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 against another.

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 the love.

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 this issue.

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 exhortation.

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. 5:11 (KJV)


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 is eternal? 

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 info@rapturenext.com.