Biblical Contradiction: Juggling the Burdens

In a rather strange charge of contradiction, are critics right when they say that Paul is telling the Galatians to juggle their burdens? I think a little context is needed.

At the expense of suspending our disbelief, this claim of contradiction is found within the first 5 verses of Galatians 6. This alone should make anyone skeptical. Our problem lies in verses 2 and 5.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal, 6:2)

“For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Gal, 6:5)

There are a couple of ways one can harmonise this discrepancy. The first way is to note the differences of the Greek in each of these verses. The words used for burden in each verse differ from one another, thereby suggesting that these verses aren’t implying the same thing. I’ll point readers to Tekton’s article below for further details.

The second way and the one I prefer is to note the entire context of the passage. This lesson actually stretches from verse 1 to 10, the subject of which is doing good to one another.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden. 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

The context makes the harmonisation of the verses in question abundantly clear. The first (6:2) is an admonition to help others who are struggling alone (again, Tekton’s article is recommended here), while the second (6:5) suggests that each one of us must take note of our own actions. We must carry our own load (i.e. the mission God gave us) by supporting others in need. This is made clear in verses 8-9 which use the Jewish metaphor of sowing and reaping. We receive only what we first give.

In the end, I find it increasingly difficult to keep giving critics the benefit of the doubt. Surely they didn’t just jump the gun and suggest any and everything that might make Christianity look unreliable. Surely we can trust our critics to provide a thorough and honest evaluation, right? Anyone?

Link to Tekton’s Article