What Does It Mean to be Unequally Yolked?

What Does It Mean to be Unequally Yolked?

The city of Corinth was a large metropolitan city in what is now Greece. It was very worldly and cosmopolitan. Some of the believers there were hanging around with the wrong people. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to them, warning them not to be unequally yoked. He said: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)

A yoke is a piece of farm equipment. It was a wooden implement and it had two holes. Back in the day, animals of equal strength and equal kind would be harnessed to this yoke. They would plow and it would go straight and they could sow seed and reap a harvest, and everybody was happy if they were equally yoked. No one, no farmer worth his or her salt, would even think about having a mismatched yoke. No farmer would think about putting an ox in one part of the yoke and a donkey in the other.

One of God’s laws in the Old Testament says this in Deuteronomy 22:10 (NIV )“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” Why? Because a donkey was considered an unclean animal, whereas an ox was considered clean.

God says, “Don’t be mismatched.” Don’t be unequally yoked. When I receive Jesus, I’m a follower of Christ. I have a new nature. I have the nature of Christ. So I’m going to be yoked together with somebody who is a Christ follower. I’m yoked together with Jesus.

Separated, Not Isolated

The Bible never tells us to be isolated from others; we’re made for relationships. God created us to have fellowship with Him and with others. But He is very clear about choosing the right people to hang around with, what I call the right ‘they.’

Look at 2 Corinthians 6:15–16 (NIV). It says, “What harmony is there between Christ and [Satan]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”

It doesn’t mean we separate ourselves physically. It doesn’t mean we don’t have friendships with people who are far away from God. I’ve got a lot of friends who are far away from God.  We have friendship, but there’s no fellowship. Fellowship means to have in common. We’re friends, but I’m not yoked together with them. 

What does it mean to be unequally yoked?

What does it mean to be yoked? It means to be bound. It doesn’t mean isolating yourself. It doesn’t mean to never relate to anybody who is not a follower of Christ. Because we’re here to bring as many people as possible to Heaven with us. That’s why we’re here!

4 Reasons Not To Be Unequally Yoked with Nonbelievers

Just like trying to wear a flip-flop on one foot and a dress shoe on the other, being unequally yoked with an unbeliever causes problems. Here are four reasons:

#1. They have poor traction. 

When difficult times hit my life, I want others around me to help me have traction to work through those times. 

#2. They have no insulation. 

Wind, rain, and rocks will cause your friends to crumble when you need them to be strong.

#3. They hold you back. 

Once you’re unequally yoked in a relationship, that’s as high as you’ll go. The closest people to you next to your parents, the people who wield the most influence, are your friends. We’re basically the average of our best friends. What am I like? Well, you don’t have to know me. You can just look at my best friends, the fabulous four, and you can go, OK. He’s an average of those people.

#4. They hurt you. 

Just like wearing a flip-flop can cause you to stumble, so can being unequally yoked to an unbeliever.

Why Do We Stay Unequally Yoked?

There are an endless supply of reasons we stay in relationships linked together with nonbelievers. Here are a few of them:

They’ve been around a long time

Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I’m comfortable with this relationship. I don’t want to give it up.’

I’ll feel guilty

It’s difficult to let go of long-term relationships. ‘If I give them up, if I move away from them, I’ll feel guilty and afraid. They might start hating on me or they might post something negative on social media.’

It’s Easier To Remain Unequally Yoked

‘I’d rather deal with a little bit of drama and a little bit of craziness as opposed to having them go crazy on me.’

What God Says About Being Unequally Yoked

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’”

The Bible is clear that God is going to allow the consequences to be in effect in your life and mine when we hang out with the wrong ‘they.’

We need to separate. We’re moving toward the things of God. If I’m yoked up to Jesus, I’m going to be yoked up to people who have Jesus in their lives. They’re not dragging me down; they’re pulling me up. They’re not hating on me; they’re encouraging me. They’re not saying this or that; they’re challenging me. There’s a commonality. There’s a goal. We’re plowing in straight lines.

Choosing God’s Best for Your Relationships

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When we take that yoke, God will take us places we never dreamed possible.

God wants the best for your relationships, your marriage, your dating relationships, and for your friendships. It happens when we say, “OK, Jesus. You are the center of my life. I want to yoke up to you.”

I promise you, you’ll find yourself naturally, and really, supernaturally, leaving the wrong ‘they’ and moving to the right ‘they.’ I’m a walking, living, breathing testimony of this. I’ve not done it perfectly, but I’ve lived it out for decades. God’s way works.

Next Steps

If you’ve never put Jesus first in your life or your relationships, there’s no better time to change that than today. Ask God to forgive your sins and walk through this life with you. He’s waiting with open arms to hear from you.

At Fellowship Church, we come together with other believers to do life together. We welcome you to join us in person or online and connect with others who share your faith.

Related Sermon

This blog post is based on the sermon delivered by Ed Young on Jan 18, 2015. Want to learn more? Watch the related sermon.

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