Growth and maturity requires necessary suffering. We must make many sacrifices and must put in our sweat equity to become all that God has for us. But while we’re willing to pay this cost, we should not burden ourselves with unnecessary or otherwise unbeneficial obligations that only have the appearance of goodness.
The Pharisees were prone to place heavy burdens of expectations on their followers. And while their original motivations likely began with good intent, in time, their man-made rules became more and more burdensome and crushed the souls of those who lived under them. In fact, their rules became so restrictive and suffocating that they robbed people of the very life and freedom God intended.
And, to be sure, this is a tendency we still have today, which might even be self-imposed burdens.
For instance, this might be excessive diet or exercise, or limiting certain thoughts and perspectives, activities and adventures, or even various pleasures and delights simply because it was suggested and it seems wise to do so.
And the original suggestion might very well have had our best interest in mind. But we must also consider the fruit produced in strictly following these rules of life.
Are we growing in love and joy and peace? Or are we suffocating under guilt and shame for not living up to expectations God never placed on us?
Of course, there’s a costly obedience required in our life of faith. But we should not accept unnecessary burdens that don’t actually allow us to grow deeper in our life with God.
This can be hard to discern when good things are taken to the extreme and made an idol. For example, self-control is a good thing. But we’ve gone too far when this becomes a pious self-denial that’s driven by our own pride and ego rather than the Spirit of God.
In the end, be willing to bear every burden necessary to become all God has for you. But don’t accept unnecessary burdens that simply weigh your soul down and don’t lead to more life and freedom in Christ.