Pastor Garrett told the story yesterday. A certain native American tribe lived right by a dangerous rushing river. During a conflict with another tribe, they became trapped at the river's edge, and the only way out was to cross. So, the strong ones took the weak ones (children, elderly, injured) on their shoulders and started to walk across.
And what happened? They discovered that the weight of the weak members of the tribe on their shoulders gave them more traction and they were able to cross the river safely.
The strong were saved by carrying the weak.
You know there are significant life applications to be made here.
However, the American Spirit may not tolerate hearing those applications. We are an independent, self-made people -- or so we want to believe. Americans traditionally have been all about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and doing it all on our own.
Unfortunately, for many, this has turned into a contempt for those whose bootstraps can't support such rigorous pulling. A resentment of the idea that I'm expected to carry the weak on my shoulders.
Now, I want to clarify, because this is a criticism that American conservatives get a lot. The vast majority of us do NOT have contempt for the weaker of our society. The vast majority of us do NOT resent helping out those who need help. But we have recognized that this traditional American value has been eroded in recent generations, and many who are expecting to be carried have capable legs if they would use them. Not all, but many. And we also recognize that some of the weak will actually be made weaker through being carried -- that what they really need is someone holding their hand, walking beside them to encourage them and point out the safe path through the raging river. They need help strengthening their legs.
Nevertheless, I won't deny that there are some hard-nosed folks out there who are all about getting themselves across the river. Period. They're selfish. No denying it.
One of the reasons I see capitalism as the best choice for an economic system (although it has its faults and needs to be regulated) is because it is the only system, from what I see, that takes advantage of the natural sinful state of humanity. People are selfish by nature. Yes, we are BORN that way. Capitalism assumes that business owners will be selfish and look out for only their own best interest . . . but it also insures that in order to be successful, they have to meet the needs of their customers. If they don't, their customers can walk away and give their business to their competitors.
This carrying-the-weak business seems to operate on a similar principle. Meeting the needs of others can be in your own best interests.
Believe it or not, helping others helps you. Carrying someone else grounds you -- physically, emotionally, spiritually. Being intimately in touch with the "weakest" of our society puts us in touch with the humanity in ourselves, if we let it.
And we must let it. The strong are often saved by carrying the weak, and Lord knows, we all need salvation.