They say it all began with Roman General Gaius Marius in 107 BC. The general was frustrated with the supply team slowing down his warriors. So he commanded his warriors to carry their own loads. That included rations, weapons, armor, shield, saw, wicker basket, shovel, waterskin, sickle, and pickaxe. It amounted to 80 pounds of load and the warriors were expected to march 20 miles a day/ This earned them the nickname, "Marius' Mules." Though that load decreased to about 60 pounds for the medieval knights, once firearms were developed, the soldier’s load began to increase. Starting with the Civil War, when it was still 60 pounds, by the time of World War II, it rose to about 75 pounds. This is one of the reasons why so many soldiers drowned during the D-Day Invasion.
The military is aware of the problem and has been working at reducing the load. The joke nowadays is that today’s solider carries a load of 100 pounds of the lightest kit imaginable. Were that all the load that the soldier has to carry! In different theaters, there are different requirements, with the average soldier’s load in Afghanistan being about 150 pounds. Some carried more. On top of all of that, no one wants to have too little armor, or too few weapons or bullets, so more is loaded on.
How grateful I am that in our spiritual battle, we can bear one another’s burdens, as we learned last week. But just a few verses later, Paul says in Galatians 6:5, “For each one will bear his own load.” In the King James translation, it uses the same word “burden” for both verses, but in the Greek, they are two very different words. In Galatians 6:2, burdens refer to a crushing weight that is too much for one person to bear. The second word is a military word that refers to what is the normal responsibility for the soldier to carry by himself.
It is likely that each of us knows someone who does not carry what is the normal adult responsibility. Instead, they have excuses to shirk that normal responsibility. They expect others to pay their bills, raise their kids, and even finance their travel. Some have that travel financing down to a science. In Los Angeles, it was a friend that pointed out to me that this type of beggar always has an object, usually a plastic milk jug, with him to validate his story that he only needs a few bucks to put enough gas into his car to make it to the gas station.
What I have learned is that when I help such a one as that, I am not really helping that person press on to maturity. I am empowering them to remain immature. Years ago, I was working with a man who had just became a Christian. He ran into a financial difficulty. I gave him money because that is what I thought would solve his problem. I found out a little later, that I had merely treated the outward appearance of a symptom rather than the real cause. I had also become his answer, rather than allowing God to work so that God could demonstrate that He was the answer, to this immediate issue, the root problem that created it, as well as the best and wisest solution to all of this man’s challenges. I realized later that it was God who used circumstances to separate the two of us, because I was the one getting in the way of God wanting that man to press on toward maturity.
I have learned that just as I have a load for which I am responsible, so others have as well. And before I relieve someone of their load, I best pray for discernment for God’s direction if I really want to help another.