Last Friday when working out at my local YMCA, I had just finished my reps on the Ab Curl and was waiting for a fellow to finish the Back Extension machine, so I can get on.
The guy on the machine next to me quipped, “You don’t have to do that one. he’ll do it for you.”
I laughed and said, “Yes, that would be nice, if that’s the way it worked.”
Imagine getting someone to do your exercising for you. Their workout counts as yours and you get the benefits. It sure would save time, effort, and energy. But, reality says, “That’s silly. You have to do your own exercising.”
However, when it applies to spiritual matters, that concept doesn’t seem quite as absurd to some folks. Apparently, there are some church members who think they can enjoy the benefits of others’ efforts without doing much, if anything, themselves.
Some people attend, but never get involved. They are content to let others do the work. They benefit from the efforts of fellow members who prepare for a Bible class, but never teach themselves. They enjoy the worship service led by others. Through the years, I’ve even noticed some who just sit and watch as if they were attending a concert watching the performers.
It’s obvious some people never prepare for a Bible class, they just listen to the teacher and others commenting in the class. If you ask them a question, they don’t know the answer because they haven’t studied.
This attitude spills over into thinking the preacher can be hired to do their ministry, their visiting, their teaching and apparently their studying. Since it’s the Shepherd’s job to “watch for souls,” they don’t pay attention to the needs of fellow Christians. And, we have Deacons to do the dirty work, so they don’t have to engage in physical ministries. As one preacher put it, “Many sit, soak, and sometimes sulk, and do little else.”
This thinking is not scriptural. It’s not in agreement with the Biblical commands regarding personal responsibility.
In Galatians 6:5 Paul wrote, “For each one shall bear his own burden.”
This command also seems like a contradiction from verse 2 where we’re commanded to “bear one another’s burdens.” But the emphasis is different. There are burdens too heavy for one person to bear alone. We need help. Comfort. Assistance. And someone to come along side us when life gets tough. The numerous “one another” commands teach the mutual responsibility we have to help each other. In times when we’re burdened with sickness, sorrow or sin, those who can lift the burden and relieve the pressure provide a welcome respite.
However, verse 5 points out there are other “burdens” I must bear myself. No one can do it for me. In fact, the Greek word is different in this verse. Warren Wiersbe writes it was used of a soldier’s back pack. He comments “there are personal responsibilities that each man must bear for himself. Each soldier must bear his own pack.”
No one can do my Bible study for me. I must do my own praying. My own meditation. My own worship. My own giving. My own singing. And my own ministry. My own Christian living.
You can’t pay a preacher enough money to fulfill your personal responsibility. The Bible teaches that every member is a minister. It’s different from the ministry of the preacher and the pastors, but its your ministry. Romans 12:3-8 says that we all have gifts to use in the Lord’s work and they are uniquely yours.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
There’s much to unpack in this passage, but the bottom line teaches personal responsibility to do what you can do. In the words of The Message paraphrase, “Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
We would all do well to contemplate the warning of Sir Josiah Stamp. “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
“Exercise yourself” (1 Tim. 4:7).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
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