Thursday, January 21, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verses 4 & 5

Galatians 6:4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

Two verses today.

“Each one should test his own actions.” The word used for “test” here means to examine, to prove, or to scrutinize. It implies a very careful, meticulous overview. It is also a test to prove authenticity – to see whether what you have is the “genuine article.” This Greek word was used to describe the process of testing precious metals such as gold or silver to prove whether genuine or not. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 11:26, and is translated as “examine,” where Paul exhorts us to carefully examine our lives to be sure we are worthy, or in the right “spirit,” to take the Lord’s Supper. This word implies a great personal responsibility – Paul has just spent a good portion of the letter warning us about how easy it is to fall back into the bondage of relying on the law, or on our own performance, and about caving in to our flesh. But the “test” here is not for a grade – this is not an exam like we have in school, or a test of skill or ability. Rather, its like the kind of experiments we used to run in junior high science class – a ph test – where we are simply determining whether what we have is indeed what we thing it is. Paul expounds on this in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, where he explains how our works will be ultimately judged by God. If what we have accomplished in life is done from a selfish motivation (“wood, hay or straw”), it will not survive the fire of God’s judgment. If, on the other hand, our works were motivated by the Holy Spirit, from the heart of God, and done in selfless service to others, they will survive the fire and endure for eternity (“gold, silver, costly stones”). Remember on the old television game shows like “Jeopardy” or “The Newlywed Game,” one of the prizes each contestant would be awarded was the “home version” of the television show, so they could “play at home?” Here in Galatians 6:4, Paul is showing how we can do a little “home version” of the “big show” that will play out at the end of time, and figure out midstream whether what we’re doing is what God’s wants us to be doing, and whether what we’re doing will survive the fires of judgment.

“Then he can take pride in himself” I think the NIV misses the mark somewhat by translating this as “pride.” “Pride” has such negative connotations in the context of the Bible. The original word here deals with the concept of glorifying in your accomplishments. While it carries with it the connotation of boasting, its not necessarily negative. The old saying “its not boasting if you can do it” comes to mind. Even that carries with it the negative connotations of ego and selfish pride, but it begins to scratch the surface of what Paul is really getting at here. When the Chicago White Sox won the Word Series in 2005, the team celebrated in an extravagant way on the field and in the locker room. That’s the sort of thing I think Paul is driving at here – it’s taking personal satisfaction in doing a good job, and celebrating that feeling with exuberance. There is the implication of great joy here, rejoicing for the commendations of our Master, of doing what God wanted us to do. Even the World Series championship is an inexact comparison, although it helps us see the community/relationship component – this is not like running a race and winning as an individual – this is truly a “team effort.” But there are no trophies or prizes here. The glory is in the accomplishment itself, and in itself alone – in Christ alone!

“without comparing himself to somebody else” The New American Standard translation renders this section of the verse as “having a reason for boasting in himself alone.” There is no need to compare with others. Ultimately, the “test” here is to prove that our actions are motivated by something other than our own self-promotion. Therefore, we shouldn’t care about accolades, or accomplishment, or our standing within the church community. Our motivation should be to serve. This also ties in with Galatians 5:26, and Paul’s warning about conceit and “vain glory.” We need to keep a sober and objective view of ourselves and what we are trying to do to serve God and each other.

Verse 5: “for each one should carry his own load” The word here for “carry” is the same word used back in verse 2, but he emphasis in context is different. It implies a lighter touch. It implies we will all be equal to understanding this concept and calmly and submissively receive the “load” spoken of here. This is indeed the sober, objective recognition that all of us have a sin nature, all of us fall short, and that we all need each other.

The word for “load” here, however is different than in verse 2. It’s the diminutive form of the word – implying something small, or on a smaller scale. The word was commonly used by the ancient Greeks to describe the cargo of a ship – a “load,” yes, but one that is manageable and designed to be so. This is the exact same word used in Matthew 11:30, when Jesus says, :”My Yoke is easy, my burden is light.” There is an expectation Christ places on us with regards to how we live our lives, but it is not an oppressive burden of performance, as the law requires. In the context of this passage in Galatians, this is simply an encouragement to see ourselves as we are – imperfect, carrying our own faults and personality issues, and dealing with them properly and responsibly. The underlying emphasis is on getting along with and serving others. Again, the primary foundational principle of the Kingdom is being in a RELATIONSHIP.

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