Unequally Yoked In The Bible

It’s one of the most common phrases you hear both on and offline: “I’m not unequally yoked.” Let’s face it, we’ve all said it — if we’re Christians — at some point in our lives.

Unequally yoked basically means inappropriate match. It is talking about a mismatch between two people. For example, “unequally yoked” marriages, such as when one person is a Christian and the other isn’t, or when one person is Jewish and the other is not, or when one person has just been converted and the other hasn’t, or one who has the Bible and believes with all their heart in God’s Truth, and the other does not.

Unequally yoked; the phrase represents a way of describing couples who have different religious beliefs. To be unequally yoked means to pair up with someone or something which will be problematic in the long run. The Bible uses this phrase in many ways throughout the Scriptures, and it’s a subject that all believers should take time to study, especially if they are single and dating.

The phrase “unequally yoked” (also known as “mismate”) is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The Apostle Paul was writing this letter to the church at Corinth. He used this example of a mated ox and cart to show the danger for Christians of being tied down to an unbeliever.

Unequally Yoked In The Bible

You’re probably right to suggest that Paul wasn’t thinking primarily of marriage when he wrote, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14, ESV). But that doesn’t mean the principle can’t have broader application.

It’s always important to ask ourselves — in every area of life —  how a believer can have any kind of partnership with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:15). This is particularly true in marriage. An unbeliever doesn’t follow the Lord — doesn’t worship the one true God — so everything else in their life is an idol. Including their spouse.

Remember: The call of Christ is to deny yourself and follow Him (Mark 8:34). How can you follow a Master who demands absolute allegiance if you choose to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) with a person who ignores His truth?

Set aside for a moment the question of whether it would be a sin to marry a non-Christian. Common sense alone says it would be unwise. Why? Because the success of the marriage and the spiritual health of the believing partner would be at serious risk.

Who you choose to marry will have a profound impact on your future. It’s a choice you can’t take lightly — second only to your decision to follow Jesus. So we urge you to be cautious and prayerful. Be humble, and listen carefully to the advice of those who know and love you best. You won’t regret it.

Unequally Yoked In The Bible

The phrase “unequally yoked” comes from 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the King James Version: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” The New American Standard Version says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another.

Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is part of a larger discourse to the church at Corinth on the Christian life. He discouraged them from being in an unequal partnership with unbelievers because believers and unbelievers are opposites, just as light and darkness are opposites. They simply have nothing in common, just as Christ has nothing in common with “Belial,” a Hebrew word meaning “worthlessness” (verse 15). Here Paul uses it to refer to Satan. The idea is that the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world is governed by the principles of Satan and that Christians should be separate from that wicked world, just as Christ was separate from all the methods, purposes, and plans of Satan. He had no participation in them; He formed no union with them, and so it should be with the followers of the one in relation to the followers of the other. Attempting to live a Christian life with a non-Christian for our close friend and ally will only cause us to go around in circles.

The “unequal yoke” is often applied to business relationships. For a Christian to enter into a partnership with an unbeliever is to court disaster. Unbelievers have opposite worldviews and morals, and business decisions made daily will reflect the worldview of one partner or the other. For the relationship to work, one or the other must abandon his moral center and move toward that of the other. More often than not, it is the believer who finds himself pressured to leave his Christian principles behind for the sake of profit and the growth of the business.

Of course, the closest alliance one person can have with another is found in marriage, and this is how the passage is usually interpreted. God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a relationship so intimate that one literally and figuratively becomes part of the other. Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult marriage relationship.

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