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The Sixty-Second (What is a Burden?)

I hope you're doing well. Before we get into this week's topic, I want to remind you to cherish every moment with those you love and share the gospel with as many people as you can. As believers, we know that this life is not the end, but I have noticed a wave of people passing away recently and I don't think that's going to stop or get better as we get closer to Jesus' return. There is a great tribulation coming, and I believe that our Merciful Father is ensuring certain people don't have to endure it. Jesus said the end will be as it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24), and we read that Yehovah allowed all those that walked in His ways to die before He brought the flood (Jasher 4:20). I believe He is doing the same for some before the tribulation. It's hard to lose those we love, but we can take comfort in knowing Yehovah has a plan and we can trust Him that it is perfect. He will wipe away all our tears one day, and there will be no more sorrow or crying (Revelation 7:17, 21:4).

This week we're asking, "what is a burden?" We had the opportunity to watch God's Not Dead: We the People last week, and I highly recommend it. One of the great points they brought up was the nature of society today and the belief that everyone has their own "truths." For example, someone's "truth" could be that despite having male reproductive organs they are a woman. The world is rife with propaganda that tells everyone they can make whatever claims of "truths" for themselves and everyone around them has to accept that "truth" and comply with the individual's expectations for others regarding that "truth."

We know however, that Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). We also know that we access that truth via the Holy Spirit (John 16:3). But even though we know these things, we can be influenced unknowingly via the propaganda of the world, much like I wrote about last week. We can read a passage of scripture and think we can make our own "truth" from it rather than taking the truth written in the Word.

Now, just to be clear, I am not referring to reading something and finding deeper meanings to it. That involves reading, studying, praying, and letting the Holy Spirit lead you. What I'm referring to is reading that we shall have no other gods before Yehovah (Exodus 20:3) and making the "truth," that as long as we go to church we can go worship whatever we want. Or, we read that we are to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18, Zechariah 8:17, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8) and making that "truth," that it doesn't apply to non-Christians, or to those that annoy us, or to those that we disagree with, or to those that don't have the status we have in society, or to those that aren't as wealthy as us, or to those that work for us, or to those that we work for, or those that we do business with... That we somehow justify being mean to someone or letting someone else be mean to someone without stepping in, despite the fact that none of those verses give any caveats whatsoever to when or who we should love. Maybe even giving it a name, like "tough love." Another propaganda term of the world letting people feel ok with being mean to others. Make no mistake, these actions are part of what Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24:12 that's causing the love of many to grow cold, since He states loving your neighbor is a law (Matthew 22:39).

So how does that all tie into burdens? Merriam-Webster defines a burden as something that's carried, or worrisome/oppressive. This is essentially the same definition as the Greek phortion from which the word burden is translated. It occurs five times in the New Testament, in four verses, and three of those verses are Jesus' words. Two of those verses have Jesus talking about the burdens the Pharisees and lawyers place on people without bearing them also (Matthew 23:4, Luke 11:46).

So Jesus is saying in this context that a burden is some requirement that is imposed on a person from someone with some sort of authority over that person. For example, Pharisees imposed limits on traveling distances for Shabbat, even the number of crumbs you could clean off the table after a Shabbat meal. This caused people to worry about what they could or could not do, rather than focusing on the purpose of Shabbat: a rest and not a burden (Mark 2:27).

So what does that mean for us? We don't have Pharisees imposing limits on us like they did then. Perhaps you may have a pastor that does that. But likely, the burdens we get are self-imposed. And, if I may, perhaps the majority of them are false burdens. For instance, we may place a burden on ourselves that we must give ten percent of our income to church. Or, perhaps we place a burden on ourselves that our salvation depends on how many charities we give to, or how many times we volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Jesus tells us His burden is light (Matthew 11:30), so a general way to discern if our burdens are self-imposed is if they are heavy. But then the question becomes, what is heavy? I can tell you I wholeheartedly believe my generation and later has a severely skewed view of the answer to that question. We have not had to go through a world war, a great depression, gas rationing, the cold war, etc. Generally, we have not been forced, based on global circumstances, to make sacrifices in our lives. It may seem like that may change in the near future with inflation, but the majority of these generations have been tricked into thinking debt doesn't matter. So they'll likely continue their lifestyles and just add credit card and loan debt to their financial status.

But really what it comes down to is Satan's desire is for us to be so heavy-laden with burdens that we lose sight of God, His Word, His truth, because we're so focused on the burdens that we don't take time to come into His presence. His worldly propaganda tells us we need to go to college, we need to make a lot of money, we need to have a nice car, a great job, a nice house, etc., and that those things should be our focus rather than letting Yehovah lead us to our purpose and to happiness. We say we need to do this or that, go here or there, buy this or sell that, rather than living by God's will (James 4:13-15). We impose those burdens on ourselves and create the unhappiness we think will go away if we just had a better job, or if we just had a nicer car.

We need to take regular inventory of what are self-imposed burdens, and which of those burdens we can shed to allow us to spend more time with Yehovah. What are the things God didn't give us so we can lighten the load and give ourselves the ability to live like Jesus, loving our neighbors rather than being so consumed that we lose sight of the fact that what we do to them is what we're doing to Jesus (Matthew 25:32-46). These may not be easy to get rid of as we may have become so intertwined in worldly things that it's hard to extricate ourselves. In fact, it may require sacrifice of some lifestyle comforts since one of the ways Satan sucks people in is with the lure of money. But in the end, are we storing up treasures that dull, rust and decay or treasures of heaven?! (Matthew 6:19-20)

Shabbat shalom! Have a blessed week!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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