‘Being a burden’ has to be one of the biggest fears in our society. We don’t want to reach the place where we can no longer control our own lives. We don’t want to have to rely on anyone else. We desperately don’t want to put anyone else out.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (CEV)
9 My dear friends, you surely haven’t forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so that we could tell you God’s message without being a burden to anyone. 10 Both you and God are witnesses that we were pure and honest and innocent in our dealings with you followers of the Lord.11 You also know we did everything for you that parents would do for their own children. 12 We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. He is the one who chose you to share in his own kingdom and glory.
13 We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you.
Paul seems to make a big thing here about not having been a burden to the Thessalonians. He is keen that they know that he was making his own living, not relying on them for income.
This is interesting. Historically and generally the Methodist Church pays its ministers a stipend. This is not a wage, but money paid to you so that you can meet living expenses without having to do other work, in essence so that you are free to fulfil your calling – a calling that the church has set you apart for. So as someone who has lived off a stipend in the past, I have a bit of an uncomfortable wriggle in my seat at this point. Though I hope I was no burden and fulfilled my calling! I was also very grateful that was the case and realise how fortunate I was to be freed in such a way.
Anyway, I digress from the point. This passage made me think about being a burden. Specifically, are there times in which I am a burden to my community? As someone with chronic illness, I can easily perceive myself as a burden. I need help and lots of it, I rely on other people to do things that I would much rather prefer to be able to do for myself, I can’t offer all I long to. But I hope that is not truly being a burden and is incorporated as being part of a healthy community.
But are there other ways I can be a burden? Being unhelpful? Dragging others down by my attitude? Being bolshy (a particular specialism of mine!)? Not doing what I could? Not sharing what I have? Not letting others help me, when it would help them to do so? Being protective of my gifts? Letting others get on with things without helping? Thinking I’m a special case? I’m sure the list could go on. These are ways of being a burden that are choices. Decisions that make anyone a weight or a carrier of weight.
Am I a burden on my community? On my church fellowship? On the world? Am I weighing down when I should be lifting up? Expecting others to carry me, when I should be doing the carrying? Or can I stand before God and his people in the knowledge that I do all I can in the best way I can for the service of him and the world?
We are called to be burden bearers, not burden makers.
Forgive me Lord,
the times I have got in the way,
held things back,
dragged things down
and not pulled my weight.
Forgive me when I have been a burden
and ultimately myself.
I want to be a burden bearer.
Show me how I can carry the weights of others,
the needs of my community,
the burdens of your world.
You are the great burden-bearer
who carries all our weights,
may I find my strength in you