What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked?

You must not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

Deuteronomy 22:10

Why would God bother giving Israel this command? Does he care about their farming practices? Or does He want them to see it as a teaching metaphor? An object lesson? These are interesting questions.

A Metaphor and Object Lesson

“For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox while it treads out the grain.” Is God concerned about oxen? Or does He say it completely for our sake? For our sake, no doubt, this is written (1 Corinthians 9:9-10).” 

The Apostle Paul said the Corinthians were responsible for compensating their Christian leaders for the time and work they put into shepherding them. He also explained why, though they should be paying him, he refused their support: He didn’t want to hinder the gospel.

A Rural Metaphor

God used another agricultural metaphor when He commanded believers not to muzzle an ox while it threshes the grain. The animal put in the work while treading the grain, so it should share in the bounty. Since the animal worked better fed than hungry, the animal and the farmer benefit when the ox eats. Paul says God wrote this command for our sake. He expected us to apply the lesson to our situation.

Cooperation

The metaphor is true to life because yoking these two unequal animals together would cause problems. There’s a difference in strength, speed, and especially in attitude. The two animals yoked together should be the same animal. To accomplish the job, they need to cooperate and share the burden.

The Application

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).”

Paul Lists the Differences

That is the lesson Paul taught. Believers and unbelievers have different (M)masters, different life, and different goals. How can they work together to thresh the grain? Paul gives examples of why believers and unbelievers shouldn’t “be yoked together” in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16:

  • For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? 
  • What agreement has Christ with Belial (Satan)? Or 
  • What part has he who believes with an unbeliever? 
  • What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. 

Examples

  • If a believer joins an unbeliever in a business venture, their ethics will differ. 
  • If a believer marries an unbeliever, they will serve different masters. A marriage relationship is complicated without adding another level of adversity.

Many other applications can and should be made.

Believers are God’s Children

“As God has said: “I will live in them (believers) and walk in them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).” 

God’s Other Metaphors

  • You must not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seeds, or the fruit of your seed which you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard will be defiled (Deuteronomy 22:9).”
  • 11 You must not wear clothing made of a material of wool and linen together (Deuteronomy 22:11).” ( If they did this, the materials would shrink at different rates, so the fabric would bunch up and ruin the garment.) 

What Does it Mean?

God uses the metaphor of two unequal animals being yoked together to teach a spiritual lesson. Believers were washed clean when they believed in Jesus. They were transferred from Satan’s kingdom to God’s Kingdom, from darkness into light. Receiving Jesus was a sea change in their lives. Believers should relate to unbelievers but not in a binding way that compromises their relationship with their new Master.

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If this video connected with you in some way, and you’d like to find out more about having a relationship with God and how His forgiveness and grace applies to you, a great place to start is praying the prayer below. The words themselves aren’t magic, but if you earnestly pray them and mean them, God will hear you! He’ll help you in ways you don’t understand, and we’ll help you find support and next steps.

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Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray,

Amen.

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