Bear One Another’s Burdens

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My husband’s work schedule changed. Again. His work schedule has been regularly erratic since we’ve been married. He has worked third shift, second shift, and day shift (but twelve to fourteen hours for a period of three days with two days off). Several months ago, they put him on normal hours for the first time ever. Five days a week, eight hours a day. It’s been glorious. Historically, I have not worked. With three kids and the high cost of childcare, we never really even considered it an option. But then after our third child was born, I felt like I needed to go back to work just to get out of the house and to feel appreciated. Motherhood, as any mom will tell you, is often a thankless endeavor. So I got a very part-time job at our local library and worked there very happily for a year. When my husband got put on normal hours, my rotating schedule became consistent. But now his schedule is going back to consistently erratic—long days for short bursts. During my year at the library, I’ve worked on all of his off days and we’ve had little time as a family. My son has been struggling in school. I began to have an inkling that maybe my time for self validation was coming to a close. I needed guidance. I turned to Acts 5:1-11.

In the spirit of context, I feel like I should include a brief explanation of the verses leading up to this story. Acts 4:32-36 talks about how the “company of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.” Furthermore, they shared all their property—“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” Everyone shared everything and no one had need of anything. So with this in mind, let us proceed.

“But a man named Anani’as with his wife Sapphi’ra sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Anani’as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ When Anani’as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.” (5:1-6)

Anani’as held back. Not that I blame him. In contemporary culture, we want to hold back. We must take care of ourselves first, right? Put on your own oxygen mask first so you can help others. We hear it all the time—moms especially. Make sure you take care of yourself first. Do you see a theme? Me, me, me, first, first, first. But that is not what the Gospel is about. The Gospel is about giving everything to the community. Parents give everything. My husband will probably kill me for talking about him in a blog, but I’d like to hold him up as an example. He works those crazy hours and those crazy shifts. He always puts us first. He has sacrificed everything for our family—a normal schedule, things he could have had if he didn’t have a wife and kids, his health. Never once has he held back. He rearranged his schedule when I was trying to finish school. He was working night shift and would stay awake to watch the kids so I could go to class. I have never once heard him complain. Ever. But I have complained. I have complained a lot. I am the Anani’as at our house. I have been angry and discontent. I have been angry at him for not having a normal job. I’ve been mad at him for being too tired to do anything on his off days. I’ve resented having to attend family functions alone when he worked night shift and had to sleep. Imperfect wife? That’s me. I hold back all the time. I give the appearance of “giving it all” but…full disclosure—I have held back quite a chunk of the proceeds.

“After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” (5:7-11)

The lie is compounded. Sapphi’ra is complicit in her husband’s falsehood and holds back as well. You can’t hold back. You have to give everything to the community. Please don’t take this as a lecture on how every woman should be a stay-at-home mom—that’s not what I am saying here. Not everyone has this opportunity. What I am saying is that no matter your situation, you can’t hold back. I know plenty of single parents who don’t hold back. They sacrifice everything for their kids. They don’t get to put on their oxygen masks first. I have the opportunity to stay home and I try not to take that lightly. We are not supposed to be first. We are supposed to be last. We could get into the whole bit about how it’s not fair to women and women should be working but I think the gender conversation is irrelevant here. So instead of arguing about what’s fair and about who should be doing what, we need to focus on the big picture. Everyone should be giving their all. Sacrifice is not popular in this culture. I made the giant mistake of Googling “should I quit my job to stay home with my kids”. While there was plenty of support, there was also plenty of opposition that ridiculed and dismissed it. It was the opposition that made me feel humiliated to even be considering it. It’s not fun to go to your boss and tell them you are thinking of quitting so you can be there for your husband and children. My twenty-year-old self would have quaked in HORROR at the thought. Heck, my thirty-one-year-old self is quaking in horror at the thought. But God says don’t hold back. If everyone gives their all, there will not be “a needy person among [us]”.

Let’s go a step further, because just worrying about your family’s needs and only focusing on your kids is still selfish. In this sense, “family first” is not compatible with the Gospel, because the Gospel is about building up the community, not building up the household of Anani’as and Sapphi’ra. If the Gospel demands that you give up everything for your spouse and your children, how much more does it demand we share with the broader community—church, neighborhood, school, etc.?

Mother Teresa once said, “to achieve world peace, go home and love your family.” The definition of family is very broad in Acts. Think less of yourself and more of the community. You don’t have to be a missionary in a third-world country to do this. I often feel like bearing other people’s burdens extends only to those who can do that kind of work, but it doesn’t. You can serve the Gospel anywhere and at anytime because there is always someone around to submit to. Don’t hold on to what you think is “your” piece of the pie because you’re afraid there won’t be enough for you too. Contemporary Christians are notorious for that. Trust God. Love your neighbor. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galations 6:2)

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