By Randy Dillon
Deuteronomy 22:10 “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”
2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers . . . “
Often have we heard that Christians should not be “yoked” with non-Christians usually when the matter of marriage is discussed. And it is good advice drawn directly from scripture as above. When contemplating marriage as a lifetime endeavor, compatibility in spiritual matters is a healthy beginning to a lasting and fulfilling relationship. However, we may find additional wisdom when examining the Old Testament directive more closely.
The example of not plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked in the service of plowing considers the animals in a mutual endeavor in which the two do not share compatible physical, emotional and instinctive traits. Rather, they are so much different as to make the work of plowing a straight furrow almost impossible. The ox being a stable, slow, flexible and often patient worker is juxstaposed with the donkey which is highly unstable, quick, stubborn and often indifferent to the assignment given. A proposed working relationship in the yoke will clearly lead to disastrous results.
This Old Testament directive does not relate solely to marriage as it is often used today, but rather to any working relationship. Now turn to the New Testament use of this phrase. As stated, it is properly a consideration in marriage. But it is also properly a consideration in other relationships as well. Many marriages have been unequally yoked, but so too have many business dealings, many work associations, even many family relations. Thus, Christians should use care when they “yoke” themselves too closely to others who may not be of equal temperament, instincts, attitudes and especially of spiritual nature. The more closely related these attributes are in a relationship the more probable will be the positive consequences.
Does this mean that Christians should never associate with non-believers? May God forbid such an attitude in any Christian. How are we to witness to an unbelieving world unless we engage with them? The prohibition against unequal yoking applies specifically to spiritual endeavors which might cause a Christian to compromise their faith, lead another Christian into questioning their faith in Christ or any such deviation from the truth that Jesus has shared. Yet, in a more general sense it is also a call for believers to employ discernment in all relationships, spiritual, work or family, in which another might be clothed in utter darkness or Satanic inspired lawlessness and unrighteousness. Avoid such endearments or be prepared for the consequences.
Finally, in the 2 Corinthians text Paul admonishes his readers to be “separate” from unbelievers and idolaters. Once again let it be emphasized that this does not mean a complete disassociation from all unbelievers. Such an action would be nearly impossible and would be counterproductive to Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to all the world. Having been redeemed, Christians are to be separated from the sinfulness of the world and their past sinful experiences. These past patterns of living are now dead and are not be continued. Any continuing association with such past sins is spiritually alike to yoking an ox and a donkey. Only by spiritual discernment guided by the Holy Spirit can this be accomplished.