A while back I had a person come to me considering a relationship with a person that was obviously not a good match for them. They said to me, “well they are a believer so we are not unequally yoked“. Every time I hear a believer bring up this scripture I inwardly cringe. It never fails, when they are using this scripture they are using it in a way that is trying to justify a relationship, not discern a relationship. Too many times Christians view the scriptures as prohibitive rather than proactive. What I mean by that is that they look at the Bible as a book of don’ts. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Instead the Bible is a book that helps us avoid huge mistakes in our lives by giving us principles and guidelines to miss the pitfalls in life. This unequally yoked scripture is one of those bible verses that if we will understand the principle of it, it will save us a lot of heartache and in all honesty, unsatisfactory marriages.
What is the definition of the unequally yoked bible verse?
Unequally yoked is a term many modern people may not even understand. It is taken from a culture that was agrarian and not industrialized. When you yoke something together, it means to tie them together like two oxen in a harness pulling a wagon or a team of horses pulling a stage coach. It means you are fitting them together to work as a team. So with that definition of unequally yoked lets look at the Bible verse that uses this metaphor in regards to marriage.
The unequally yoked Bible verse.
2 Corinthians 6:14
New King James Version (NKJV)
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14
New Living Translation (NLT)
The Temple of the Living God
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
I gave you this scripture in 2 different translations. I want you to fully understand what it is saying. Most people just repeat the first part of the verse. Like it was a commandment and only if you break it are you sinning. Paul was not trying to lay a commandment, he was trying to get people to understand how important it is to be equally yoked. He was trying to show them that we have to look at marriage from a totally different light than just whether or not we are attracted to them and emotional reactions to them. He wants us to step back and think about whether or not they fit!
The principle is to be equally yoked, not to avoid being unequally yoked.
Paul is making a case here in this Bible verse to make sure you are equally yoked and he uses the extreme example of a believer marrying an unbeliever. However this principle goes deeper than whether or not someone has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior or not. It goes into 2 key ingredients of a healthy relationship. Fellowship (being a partner) and Communion (living intimately).
This means that a person who wants God’s best in their marriage relationship will look for somebody that they can be a true partner to and who they are able to live with in an intimate relationship. This takes a very special person indeed! It has nothing to do with physical attraction (although I don’t think God wants you to be with somebody you are not attracted to.) and it has nothing to do with your heart fluttering on the wind when you see or think about them. It has to do with whether or not they are a good fit. So here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are deciding if you are equally yoked to somebody.
- Are you equally yoked spiritually? Now this is more than just whether or not you both are Christians. It means are you equally yoked in maturity and understanding of spiritual things. If one person is a cessationist and believes that spiritual gifts passed away with the Apostles and modern day expressions of such gifts are of the devil, and you believe that there was no age of the Apostles and that this is the church age and the gifts of the spirit are for today, then you are not on the same page spiritually. Let me put it another way. If one person thinks that eating meat is a sin, and the other person thinks all food is from God and gives thanks for all food, then you are unequally yoked spiritually. God wants the best for us, so He wants us to have a person that we can be a partner with and be intimate with spiritually and if there is wide gulfs between the two spiritually, then this is a problem.
- Are you equally yoked emotionally and mentally? God has made each and every one of us unique and different. That means that there is a wide variety of people who emotionally and mentally are on different levels. If you are going to be partnered with somebody and live with them on an intimate level, then you need to be equally yoked in these areas as well. If you are the type of person that is very low key emotionally and high strung people get on your nerves, then you probably should not consider somebody that exudes emotions all the time. The same goes for mentally. Again I stress that you are looking for a partner. That means you need somebody on your own intellectual level. Once the infatuation wears off, and you have to talk to your partner day after day, you are going to want somebody that challenges you and can hold their own intellectually with you. You don’t want somebody who talks above you, nor down to you. You want them on your level.
- Are you equally yoked in calling and purpose in life. Remember we are talking about fellowship and communion. You need to discern if you both are going the same direction. In my own life, I am called to be a pastor. That means I have a certain heart for people and ministry. It also means that where I go, is up to the Lord. I follow the beat of a different drummer. So my partner has to be the same in her desires and lifestyle otherwise I will end up being unequally yoked. We may be the same spiritually, and emotionally and intellectually, but if she does not feel called to people, to have a lifestyle that could include moving more than the normal family, then I would still be unequally yoked. The same goes for you. If you feel you want to live in one place, raise kids, and just have the american dream and the person you are considering feels led to the mission field, well then you may be unequally yoked.
The whole principle in this Bible verse about being unequally yoked is this. A team of oxen or horses have to fit together, they have to work together and they have to both be going the same direction. If one is sickly and one healthy, it won’t work. If both are headstrong and want to go different directions it won’t work. If one is mature and one is not grown yet, it won’t work. You have to be able to fit together.
This principle can be applied to just more than marriage. You can apply this principle to see if your relationships are unequally yoked, or if your business partnerships are unequally yoked, and especially if you are practicing unequally yoked dating. God wants the best for you so have faith in that and believe that God loves you enough to give you His best by giving you a true partner and person you can live with intimately.
This article was originally published on my website Taber's Truths