Posted in burden, guilt, sin, weight

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.