Missionaries who do Bible translation work have an interesting job. In many cases, they have to create a written alphabet for a language that is only spoken. Then they have to work with the native speakers of that language to choose the right words so that their particular culture will understand the true meaning of the scriptures.
In the Konni language, spoken by a people group in Ghana, there were 5 different words for the verb, “to carry.” Each word had a different meaning and was used in a different circumstance. To choose the wrong one would confuse the Konni language speakers about the real meaning of this verse.
One word meant “to carry on one’s back” and was always used when speaking about carrying a baby. Another similar word meant to “carry on the hip,” which referred to a small child. Since babies and young children aren’t considered to be a burden in that culture, that word would have been a poor choice.
Two other words referred to carrying something light in front of you or carrying something on your shoulder like firewood or a tool. Those words would not have conveyed the true meaning of the verse either, because carrying firewood and tools were important activities – definitely not burdens as we understand them. And when we think of carrying something light in front of us, it certainly doesn’t produce the mental image of struggling with a burden.
The final word meant to carry a heavy load on the head. From the time the people were children, they strengthened their necks and backs by gradually increasing the weight of the loads they carried. By the time they reached adulthood, they could carry heavy loads without problems. This was the most appropriate word to translate the verse.
Wow! What a rich picture that gives to this verse. “Carry each other’s heaviest burdens on your head and so fulfill Christ’s command!”