Welcome to the first in my series of Bible Studies about the moral imperative for caregiving. When I was feeling disheartened about the church and the lack of support I felt they were providing our family, and myself, as a caregiver, I turned to the Bible to give me hope and encouragement to know that I was doing the right thing. Turns out, that God has a lot to say about the responsibility of taking care of your loved ones.
The first scripture I’d like to share with you is out of the book of Galatians. Galatians, of the New Testament, was written by Paul, a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might be familiar with Paul’s story, which unfolds in Acts. Paul started out as Saul. He was born to a Jewish family and grew to hate the followers of Jesus Christ with a fervent passion out of what he felt was his obedience to God. Until he met Jesus, he did everything he could to put away and even eradicate Christians. When he met Jesus on the way to Damascus, Jesus called him out for being a hater and Saul went blind from the light of the Lord. God sent a man named Ananias, who healed Saul in the name of the Lord. Saul then became Paul, and Paul became one of Jesus’ most devoted evangelists.
I can relate to Paul more than I realized. I always say that caregiving has changed me. Before I started taking care of my grandma, I was headed on a path to nowhere. I wasn’t worried about Grandma. But more than anything, I can’t say I was really worried about anything that mattered.
When Paul regained his sight, he woke up. He became a faithful follower of Christ, carrying out missions to share the truth with the world and committed his life sharing His word with the church.
In the same way, becoming responsible for another person really opened my eyes to the realities of life. My priorities were way out of whack. My spending was out of control, my personal choices weren’t necessarily positive, and I had a lot of free time on my hands that ultimately ended up getting me in trouble.
Now, I am trying to keep on the straight and narrow path and handle my business so I can focus on what’s important. More importantly, I have been baptized in compassion and empathy.
Our culture tells us these days that when a person gets older, they lose their value. We have deceived ourselves into believing that when we ship them off to nursing homes, where we can’t see or hear about their suffering, it will be best for them. (See also: Rachel Clears the Air on Nursing Homes)
I never questioned whether I should step in and help my grandma. Even when it seemed impossible, I had faith that everything would work out in our favor. But there were still those who saw the burden to great to bear and encouraged me to wash my hands clean of it and find her a place to live where she could have round-the-clock support.
In this part of Galatians, Paul is sharing one of Jesus’ basic commandments: to care for others unabashedly and diligently.
New International Version (NIV)
Doing Good to All
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6: 2 says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” If you are truly a follower of Jesus, you are compelled to care for others.
The Bible explicitly states here that we are mandated by God to care for others. It is not okay to wash your hands clean of your family when they need you. We have a moral responsibility to take care of others, the least of which our family members.
Galatians 6:3-5: “3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.”
I think Paul means that you can’t be so proud and stuck on yourself that you fail to do what you have been compelled by love to do. At the same time, you have to focus solely on your own path. Everyone has to do what is best for them in their own situations. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your life and your actions. You can’t let others dictate what you should do, and you can’t compare your situation to those of others. When you do what you are supposed to do, then you are allowed to feel proud of your accomplishments.
Galatians 6:6 says, “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”
Matthew Henry, a nonconformist theologian from the 17th century had this to say about this verse: “Many excuse themselves from the work of religion, though they may make a show, and profess it. They may impose upon others, yet they deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who knows their hearts as well as actions; and as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked.”
Along your path, you will meet many people who profess their faith and claim to be a follower of Jesus. As we all know, words speak much louder than action. If I had listened to the people who speak loudly about the following God, but their behaviors and communication with me showed me something different, my grandma and I could be in a completely different trajectory by now.
7b: A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I am a firm believer that you get what is coming to you. If you wipe your hands clean and turn your back on an elderly loved one in their time of need, what will happen to you when you are old? When you do good, good comes back to you.
Matthew Henry had this to say about reaping what you sew:
“Our present time is seed time; in the other world we shall reap as we sow now. As there are two sorts of sowing, one to the flesh, and the other to the Spirit, so will the reckoning be hereafter. Those who live a carnal, sensual life, must expect no other fruit from such a course than misery and ruin. But those who, under the guidance and influences of the Holy Spirit, live a life of faith in Christ, and abound in Christian graces, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. We are all very apt to tire in duty, particularly in doing good. This we should carefully watch and guard against. Only to perseverance in well-doing is the reward promised. Here is an exhortation to all to do good in their places. We should take care to do good in our life-time, and make this the business of our lives. Especially when fresh occasions offer, and as far as our power reaches.”
These words were written more than 300 years ago, but they still ring true today. Even though the road sometimes gets weary, we have to remember in our hearts that we are doing what is right by God and our loved ones, and let that fuel us when we start running out of steam.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/galatians/6.htm