I have written and rewritten this devotion twice now. I’m struggling with what Jesus said and how it applies to me. I’m struggling because I am hungry and can’t think straight. I’m struggling because I am stressed out by a variety of things that have been happening in my life and in the lives of those I live and work with. I’m struggling because I feel burdened in a variety of ways and those burdens just feel heavier and heavier.
In Matthew 23:4, Jesus said (referring to the religious leaders of the day), “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”
My first reaction to this verse is to be angry. How dare they put heavy burdens, burdens so heavy they are hard to bear, on people’s shoulders and then not be willing to help them in any way with that burden? But they did dare to do that, and even felt entitled to do that because of their position and power.
But after I thought about it (and I’ve been thinking about it for hours), something else struck me about this passage. Jesus didn’t say that no one should tie up heavy burdens that are hard to bear and put them on others people’s shoulders. He said no one should do it without being willing to help carry those heaven burdens. He’s saying don’t do it just because you can. He’s saying don’t ask others to do things you aren’t willing to do.
Good night nurse, do I throw my power around just because I can? Well, yes, I do sometimes. But I hope that most of the time I use my power for good. I do make mistakes, but I try to be teachable. Sometimes I think I’m doing the right thing, and maybe it is the right thing but I could be doing it in a different way that made it easier for others.
I think it’s important to note that this is one of those passages that ends with Jesus saying, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I believe there is a difference between organizing or taking charge and exalting yourself, though at times it might be a pretty fine line. One of the things that keeps us from exalting ourselves is our willingness to help shoulder the burden.