Have you ever seen people travel with so much stuff that they need a car-top carrier? I can empathize with the amount of luggage required for a large family to take a vacation, but sometimes the minivan that you see on the highway is bursting at the seams. Some college students need to pull along an extra trailer with all of their belongings. I can appreciate that not everyone (including me) has a truck to help them move, but there’s only so much space in a dorm room to fill.
Still, I can’t judge families in this situation without condemning myself. While I have had to pack for international travel and other situations where luggage space is at a premium, I tend to over-pack on short trips when staying somewhere within driving distance (since we have plenty of room for luggage).
However, extra “baggage” can be a bad thing. Take a look at this Bible verse from the book of Isaiah:
What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them
with ropes made of lies,
who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!
Isaiah 5:18 NLT
This passage (read Isaiah 5 for more context) is talking about people who are under God’s judgment for various reasons. These people have a lot of self-inflicted issues, from distorting God’s definitions of right and wrong, to drinking too much. This verse, though, specifically talks about carrying around sins and wickedness.
I’ll take some literary license here (without suggesting that God – through Isaiah – necessarily meant this exact picture), but I think of these willfully rebellious people in a couple of different ways. In one case, I imagine a ball and chain, clamped to their leg, being dragged through life. This not only slows them down, but it wears them out as they remain attached to the weight.
Another picture of the defiant sinner in this verse, though, is someone pulling along a cart. I imagine a moderately big cart from the Old West, meant to be drawn by a horse, full of heavy – but unnecessary – baggage. Rather than a strong horse, though, the owner of this junk has big ropes from the cart draped over his or her shoulders, straining to drag the extra weight along the bumpy road.
Given that we all probably carry around some amount of extra weights due to sin that we hang on to, what are our options?
First, lets establish that some of the drag created by sin in our lives happens by choice. I don’t mean that we can somehow just will ourselves to be free from the pain or consequences of past sins, nor that we somehow become sin-free just by deciding that we will. (Yes, the latter should theoretically be possible, but we are weak). Instead, the unnecessary and severe weight of the burdens described in the passage above seems (to me) to be resulting from an intentional unwillingness to get rid of sin, not just the daily fight against sin. Those encumbered by sin here aren’t just experiencing the consequences of past choices, but they are continuing to revel in the same sins, willfully flaunting them in the face of what they know to be right. In those ways, they are just adding more weight to the burden that they carry around in life.
So, if we are in that situation, how do we free ourselves? The Bible speaks of repentance and forgiveness.
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away —all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
Acts of the Apostles 2:37-39 NLT
When we repent, we turn away from a life of sin. If we were dragging our ongoing sins in one direction (away from God), we unclamp the chain or drop the ropes, and turn to walk (much more freely now) in the other direction. That doesn’t mean we won’t still make bad choices, but it is a commitment to start doing better.
This brings us to another attribute of these “dragged-along” sins: They are propagated by lies. While we are carrying them around like this, we tell other people that we aren’t sinning, or maybe we try to argue that our sins are OK – that they aren’t so bad. We might lie to ourselves about our choices or our motivation for them. In reality, though, we know in our hearts that we are lying in these situations.
Worse than that, these lies just keep us in our bad state. If we can’t admit to others that we have a problem, we not only discourage them from telling us how to find freedom in Jesus, but we also miss out on their help in keeping us accountable to better behavior. If we can’t admit to ourselves that we have a problem, every participant in a recovery program knows that we can’t start to get better. If we can’t admit to God that we are sinners and deserve punishment, well…we’re not kidding anyone, since He knows the truth.
So, know that you can be free from dragging around a lot of extra weight from sin in your life. However, that can only start when you (and I) face the truth about sins. Only then can we start to do something about it.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.