One of the aspects I love most about teaching my children at home is the opportunities it gives to relate biblical truths to everyday life. Just the other day one of those instances arose during our study of life in the Colonies before the American Revolution.
We were watching a slideshow of photographs from Colonial Williamsburg when a picture of two large brown oxen yoked together plowing a field appeared on the screen. It immediately reminded me of two verses in the Bible.
The first comes from Matthew 11:30 where Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” On its own, this verse can be difficult to understand. What is Jesus’ yoke and how can a burden be light? When read in context of the culture of the time, though, we can see that Jesus is drawing a contrast with the Pharisees’ burdensome requirements of the people.
Later on in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for laying heavy burdens on their followers. It is said by biblical scholars that they had added over 600 regulations regarding what was considered “working” on the Sabbath.
Jesus explained that law keeping is burdensome and oppressive because no amount of work or deeds can make up for the difference between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Instead, Jesus promises to give rest from the burden of trying to earn our way into heaven to all those who come to Him.
Jesus’ yoke is light and easy to carry because it is the yoke of repentance and faith followed by the commitment to follow Him.
The second verse that came to mind is Paul’s admonition to the Christians at Corinth to, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger and one weaker or one taller and one shorter ox. 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.
This verse is most often applied to marital relationships, but it applies to business relationships, as well. As Christians, we are called to live differently from the rest of the world. When we enter into a relationship with a nonbeliever, it is almost guaranteed to lead to heartache and strife. How can a team be successful when they are playing by a different set of rules?
I have seen this play out many times in my own life. First, in my own mother and father’s marriage. My mom married my dad thinking that she could change him. What she learned is that you cannot change anyone. They have to want to change for themselves. Unfortunately, my mother’s life was the one that was changed—for the worse.
I experienced the dangers of being unequally yoked firsthand when I dated someone who was not a follower of Jesus while in college. I thought that I loved him and couldn’t see how anything bad could come of the relationship. I thought that dating him would allow me to share Christ’s love with him. Instead, I ended up making decisions and doing things that I regret to this day.
God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult marriage relationship.
I took the opportunity to share both of those lessons with my children. I love how Jesus used tangible examples to share biblical principles and to show us why they are important. I had heard both of those verses many times in my life, but it made it so much easier to understand when I actually saw it. My children may have thought they were getting a lesson on Colonial life, but instead they received, and I was reminded of, much more important lessons from the Bible.
Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who lives in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, heather ablondi.com.