“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” –Galatians 6:2

Do you ever have to deal with someone you know you are supposed to be responsible for that just sucks the very life out of you? A person you want to be there for, and in theory should be there for, but they just make too many demands of you? I’m going to try and do more than just vent in this blog, so I’m going to at least go through the motions of examining the responsibility of a community (be they friends, family, church, or what-have-you), even as individuals, in taking on one another’s burdens.

There are times when we ought to take as much of another’s burdens as possible. There will be times when I’m in a good place (financially, emotionally, physically, time wise) and a friend or family may be crunched and I can take that burden from them. However, while propping them up is one thing, but it’s not the ideal long term solution.

As I wrestle with the practical implications of what it means to support one another, what it means to share one another burdens, I can’t help but think—counterintuitive as this may sound—sometimes being a constant safety net keeps folks from growing, trying, experimenting, risking failure. Knowing someone is always there can make folks lazy and dependent. When I think of my role as a parent, the goal is to get the kids out of the nest by preparing them to be on their own, not constantly following after them in case they falter. There comes a point when we have to let go of the handle bars and trust that we’ve taught them how to ride the bicycle.

The problem arises when we encounter some folks who try to get by on pity. They won’t work or won’t hold down a job. They seem content to continue to put people in bad positions. It’s a form of emotional blackmail, like tagging along when folks are going out to eat knowing that you have no money: being invited along is one thing; infringing on them is another. Community is a two way street. It’s often hard enough for many folks to ask for help in the first place, these are the same folks who wouldn’t want to be supported that way – dependent on other’s good natures, sponging off folks, mooching our way through life, especially if they want to be seen and taken as grown-ups.

“God helps those who help themselves” is an ancient proverb that shows up in the literature of many cultures, including a 1736 edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, however, it is not in the Bible. This truism does speak more to our nature than it does to God’s: it’s easier for me to help those who are trying for themselves. We don’t want folks to use community as a crutch unless their leg(s) are truly broken.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” –Colossians 3:13

(But I’m still going off to listen to Tim Wilson’s song “He’s my Brother-in-Law.” Right now, I’m finding it … soothing.)

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