And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid…
The figure of calamity given in ver. 1 is that of emptying a vessel by turning it upside down. In national calamities all classes share alike. There is indiscriminate ruin. No distinction is made between the different ranks and conditions of life, though the idle poor are always the first to suffer. Illustrations may be taken from the great Lancashire cotton famine; or from times of trade depression which., as year after year passes on, reaches every class and section of society. "It is in a special manner true of the destroying judgments which God sometimes brings upon sinful nations; when he pleases he can make them universal, so that none shall escape them or be exempt from them; whether men have little or much, they shall lose it all. Those of the meaner sort smart first by famine; but those of the higher rank go first into captivity, while the poor of the land are left. Let not those that are advanced in the world set their inferiors at too great a distance, because they know not how soon they may be put upon a level with them" (Matthew Henry). The Apostle Paul advises that we accept the fact of burdens being common, and strive to turn the bearing of them into Christian virtue. "Bear ye one another's burdens." "Every man shall bear his own burden." It is as if he had said, "Bear ye one another's burdens, by kindly sympathy and ready help, as far as ever you can, partly because you have a very heavy burden of your own to bear, so you know what burden-bearing means, and partly because, come near to help one another how you may, you know from yourselves how true it is that every man must bear his own burden; the really heavy weight of it can rest on no shoulders but his own"
I. THE BURDENS THAT PRESS ON EACH ONE. The text suggests such as are special to times of calamity and distress, but we may treat our topic in a comprehensive way, so as to get direct practical applications. Each one of us has burdens as directly related to his sins and sinfulness as the woes of Jerusalem were to the national transgressions. The histories of cities and nations do but picture in the large the story of individuals. The cursory reader of the Pilgrims Progress will tell you that the pilgrim lost his burden from his shoulders when he gazed so trustfully upon the cross. But the more careful reader, who notes Christian's infirmities, and frailties, and stumblings, and falls, will tell you that the pilgrim bore his burdens right through to the end, and that they weighed him down even when crossing the stream. We have our burdens in our frail bodies - frail in the nerves, the head, the bones, the lungs, or yet more secret organs. Each one has a real "thorn in the flesh," which has influences far wider and more serious than he thinks. We have our burdens in our dispositions and characters - burdens of despondency, or of impulsiveness, or of carnality, or of masterfulness, or of vanity, giving a bad appearance to all our work and relationship. And the problem of our life is just this: "How true, how beautiful can we become, with that burden, under the pressures and hindrances of that burden?" There is divinely arranged a great variety and wide distribution of burdens and disabilities, both in the sense of infirmities and calamities, so that we might come very near to one another, and really help one another. As we meet and feel "I am a man with a burden," we look into the face of our fellows, and he is a poor face-reader who does not say, "And my brother, too, is evidently a man with a burden." Perhaps a suspicion even crosses our mind that our brother's burden is heavier than our own. Burdens, when rightly borne, never separate men from each other. The sanctified bearing of our own makes us so simple, so gentle, so tender-hearted, that we can bear the burdens of others, in the spirit of our meekness and sympathy, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
II. THE BURDENS THAT WE MAY BEAR WITH OTHERS. There are common burdens in the home life; common burdens in the business life; common burdens in the social life; and common burdens in the national life; and we properly think ill things of the individuals or the classes that isolate themselves, and refuse to share the common burden. But it will be well to ask how practically we can take up the common burden so as to really help our brethren who are in the common trouble? Our great power is our power of sympathy. We can come so near to our brother in his weakness, his disability, even in his sin, that he shall feel as if another shoulder were put under his burden, and it felt to him a little lighter. We all yearn for sympathy; we all want some other human heart to feel in our trouble-times;
"Oh what a joy on earth to find
A mirror in an answering mind!" But we can often enter, as a relieving power, into the circumstances that make the burden. The doctor takes the sufferer into his interest and care, and deals helpfully with the circumstances that make the burden. And every one of us can be a doctor for the moral difficulties and distresses of life. We have all more power ever the circumstances that make trouble than we think; we can "lift up hands that hang down, and strengthen feeble knees." Beautiful in time of national calamity is the help which the poor give to the poor. Beautiful ought to be the help which each gives to each, and all to all, in the ordinary burden-bearing of family and social life. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
WEB: It will be as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the creditor, so with the debtor; as with the taker of interest, so with the giver of interest.