Thursday, August 29, 2013

The burden of sin and its heaviness upon the earth

Psalm 38:3-4 speaks of the burden of sin. Sin is heavy. It weighs on a person. David certainly felt the weight of his sin, he wrote about it in Psalm 38. Here are verses 3-4

"There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me."

In verse 8 David says the guilt associated with his sins have crushed him. Sin is heavy.

Some women feel the weight. As 2 Timothy 3:6 reminds us, "For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,"

"Weighed down" indeed.

In another verse we see the weight of sin upon a nation, not just an individual, as Ezra desribes.

Ezra felt the weight of sin. He prayed to God in Ezra 9:7, saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens."

Again, we read the allusion of sin piling up to over our heads. As MacArthur explains of the verse, "Even though Ezra did not participate in Israel's sins, he understood that the sins of the few contaminate the many."

The sins of the few contaminate the many... hold that thought.

Individuals feel the burden of sin, nations feel the burden of sin, and the world feels the burden of sin. See this next verse:

"The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again." (Isaiah 24:20)

Sin is heavy!

EPrata photo
Now, I am not saying that sin is literally heavy, though it feels that way sometimes. It's like when we say "He has a heart of stone". His heart is not actually stone.

We see snow-laden branches struggling to remain attached to the tree. Each snowflake is light but an accumulation of them will bend and break even the strongest of branches.The weight of sin is a weight of guilt, of conscience, of a burden carried within, metaphorically. Or IS it only metaphoric?

Martin V. Day of the Department of Psychology, Princeton University, and D. Ramona Bobocel of the Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada conducted an experiment. Their findings were released in July 2013. The thrust of the experiment was along the following lines:

"In everyday language, guilt is treated as a tangible substance—people bring guilt upon themselves, carry it, or are weighed down by it. Similarly, feelings of guilt can be expressed as a “weight on one's conscience.” Such metaphoric language suggests that guilt has properties similar to an object with real weight. On the one hand, weight-related adjectives may merely represent traditional descriptions of guilt. On the other hand, guilt is a real emotion, and the heaviness of guilt may be embodied as a feeling of weight. In this paper, we tested whether the experience of guilt is grounded in sensations of increased weight."

The researchers screened out variables regarding weight and perception, and masked the purpose of the study. They found some interesting conclusions. Guilt was the only negative emotion which significantly raised the subject's perception of heaviness. For example, those subjects feeling emotions of disgust, sadness, pride did not report any attendant feelings of weight. Their conclusions were that...

Encased even 1/4 inch of ice,
branches snap like matchsticks.
"...participants who recalled an unethical act reported significantly more weight compared to those who recalled an ethical memory or an unethical memory of a distant other person ... the present research revealed that personal experiences of immorality can be partly understood by sensations of weight, and that guilt appears to have some responsibility for this effect. Although guilt is literally weightless, we demonstrate that the embodiment of guilt can have consequences as if it does indeed have weight."

You can read their study here. It isn't long and they use plain language for the most part.

So I got to thinking...individuals feel the weight of guilt, and nations feel the weight of guilt, the world feels the weight of guilt....and the world will stagger under the weight of the guilt at the end of the last days... is THAT the feeling I've been feeling lately?

I am serious. Recently I've been feeling the weight of...something. I always feel the weight of my own guilt, and that weight gets heavier the more I am grown by the Spirit in Christ-likeness. As my sanctification increases, so does a super-sensitivity to my own sin.

But it's more than that. It feels lately as if the very air has grown thicker. As if the very world has grown heavier. It feels like I'm in an antique diving suit, trying to walk through mud and molasses.

I got to thinking about the weight of sin, and David's anguish over his guilt...and the women loaded down with sins...and Ezra's burden of the nation's sin... and Isaiah's expression of the world tottering under the transgressions that have piled up. Some days it seems like a lead blanket has been shaken out and is settling slowly on the world, weighing down all peoples. Like Ezra, who understood that the sins of the few contaminate the many, we also feel the weight of the world's guilt and are contaminated by it. If Ezra felt it when 'few' were sinning, how much more weighed down do we feel now, when so much of the entire world is rebelling against the LORD and weighed down with guilt for their sins? It's like that lead apron they put on you when you go for an X-Ray.

O Lord, please release us from having to move in this ponderous world laden with an atmosphere of a murky soup of sinful souls.


  1. That's what I've been feeling. The air is thick with it and conviction is around every corner. There is almost no where I can look without seeing the ugliness of it and feeling the pressure weighing me down-but I praise God that with my repentant heart and genuine desire to be more Christ-like, He forgives. And He forgives and forgives and forgives...

    Thank you. <3

  2. Elizabeth, As I read your post I was thinking about Isaiah 6 -- woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips! His response to the heaviness of sin around him was to fall in humble worship before the Lord's glorious throne.

    Today I wrote about biblical encouragement on my blog and I came here this morning to be an encouragement to you and say thank you for the wonderful example you've set for me with your blog. Because of what I've seen here over the past 2 years, I have been aware that I needed to step up my game in regards to my blogging. You have set a high bar here!

    Thanks so much :-) Blessings to you.

    1. Awww, Barbara, thank you for your encouragement! The Isaiah verse sure is a great one to go along with this essay! Thanks for sharing it

  3. The heavy burden of sin is one you do not need to feel or carry because Jesus already dealt with that on the cross. How you get out of this trap is by "reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ" as Paul teaches. Just as you believe that Jesus died on the cross and that His shed blood cleanses you from your sins, you must also look to the cross and see how you were crucified with Christ and how the old man.. that old body of sin and death has been done away with completely. Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life is an excellent book that expounds on the teaching(s) from Romans and covers this topic quite well.

    1. Hi John S.

      Thank you so much for your kindness in writing some comfort to me. I appreciate it deeply.

      I am of the biblical stance that we DO feel the burden of sin, we SHOULD feel the burden of sin, and that being saved does not remove that feeling from us. It is the Holy Spirit's ministry to comfort us in our affliction, but not to take away the knowledge of, feeling about and burden of sin upon our conscience. If, as you say W. Nee wrote, we should not feel the weight of sin at all, then why does the Spirit have a ministry of comfort to us, and prays for us?

      John MacArthur said,

      "Sin is so endemic to us, it's so much into the fabric of our beings that we bear two heavy burdens. We bear the burden of sin and the burden of suffering. And under both of those, we're supported by the Holy Spirit. Under the burden of suffering, he's our comforter. Under the burden of sin, he is our intercessor."

      If we aren't 'supposed' to feel sin's heavy burden, then all of the OT books of the prophets would have to be torn out. They felt their own sin, the People of Israel's sin and the pagans' sin acutely. So did the Apostles. Paul staggered under weight of care for the Corinthians and their wayward ways.

      I rejoice in Christ's substitution on the cross, taking God's punishment for my sin! It is a great wonder and I am grateful I'll feel an eternal gratitude. But the fact of the 'normal christian life' is that we DO feel the sin, and even more so as we grow in Him.

      The weight of sin grows heavy as we grow in Him but the delight is that as we grow in knowledge of His holiness (and alternately our depravity) we cast our burden onto Him. The world is sinful and I mourn for those who are trapped in it with no hope in Jesus. Nothing Watchman Nee could ever say will ever remove from my heart the weight of care for sinning pagans. It provides flavor and fervor to my witness.

      Jesus said in Matthew 5, "“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

      As for Watchman Nee, I am not a fan. I advise a high degree of caution in reading his works and adhering to them. He is dangerously close to a cult and his protege Witness Nee took the Local Church even further into what can be said is definitely aberrant doctrinal territory. Here is one caution regarding Nee:

      and another:


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