Here’s a warning that’s not fun to hear, but I promise, I’m saying it to help. There’s a landmine sitting in many relationships that can’t be ignored. It won’t go away unless you talk about it—. Even if it’s painful, even if the conversations seem to drive a bigger wedge between you.
It’s what the Bible calls being “unequally yoked,” and it can wreck your marriage. I know, because it almost ruined mine.
The first time I heard the term unequally yoked in the context of marriage at church, I thought it meant I had to like the same type of eggs as my husband. Did I have to give up my eggs over easy for his ham and cheese omelet? Then I soon realized there is a big difference between egg yolk and the word yoke. One, they are spelled differently. That should have been my first clue, but sometimes English is hard. Two, the yolk is the yellow part of a bird’s egg, and a yoke is a wooden cross piece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. Three, well, I don’t have a three other than I’m still laughing at myself for getting the words confused.
But the real question is, what does a wooden cross piece have to do with marriage? The Bible says it this way:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. - 2 Corinthians 6:14
When the animals are not equally yoked, they are not working together to get the task done but working at odds with each other. If you don’t have the same beliefs, values, or even morals, you will be working against each other in your marriage.
You are probably wondering, does this mean I shouldn’t get married to my fiance if we believe in two different theologies? That’s a great question with a hard answer that you might not want to hear. God makes it pretty clear. If you want to have a great marriage, you need to be equally yoked.
I understand this might sound dramatic, or you might even not believe it to be true. You might think not being equally yoked will be a nonissue in your marriage. You might have had a fairy tale wedding and even a good marriage, but eventually, it will come up and can destroy your marriage.
When Doug and I got married, he was an atheist, meaning he didn’t believe in God. I believed God existed, but I just didn’t think God was for me, so I wasn’t active in my faith at the time. It was there but just buried for a while. The funny thing is we had a huge church wedding. We stood up in front of everyone with the minister telling us marriage was created by God while Doug didn’t believe in God, and my faith had dwindled down to barely a mustard seed. Pretty ironic, right?
In fact, we had a reading from the book of Ruth 1:16-17, “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
What I didn’t know when we randomly chose this verse for our wedding is Ruth is not talking to her husband, but her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth’s husband died, and Naomi told her to go back to her people so she can marry again because there is no point in staying with her since she will never have another son for Ruth to marry. Instead of leaving and going back to her home, Ruth made the bold decision to yoke herself to Naomi when she made the declaration your God is my God. The amazing outcome of this story is God did eventually bless Ruth with a new husband, Boaz, who was part of Naomi’s family.
While Ruth and Naomi is not a marriage relationship, it does show what it means to be equally yoked spiritually. Unlike Ruth and Naomi, Doug and I were on different pages, and our marriage struggled. We were not working together as a team, but working against each other, causing stress and anger in our marriage.
We had different thoughts on how to raise our children—from if and when they should go to preschool to how to discipline them. We didn’t talk about money or how to combine our accounts. He kept his account, and I kept mine. When I started exploring the idea of going to church, I knew he would flip out, so I just didn’t tell him.
When I finally got the nerve to go to a church, it was out of desperation of wanting something to change in my life because I was so miserable. The reason I knew he would flip out is that he was a very vocal atheist, so if I didn’t tell him, I wouldn’t have to hear all the reasons why I shouldn’t be going to church. More importantly, I didn’t want Doug to tell me why God didn’t exist because I was starting to realize God was for me and not against me. So I kept it a secret, and I was able to keep it a secret for six months while he worked 3rd shift and was sleeping when the kids and I went to church.
But one morning, we were getting ready to walk out the door, and he asked us where we were going. Instead of lying, I finally told him the truth, and that day Doug came to church with us. That day is when Doug stopped being an atheist and started believing in God. That day is when our marriage went from being unequally yoked to being equally yoked. It wasn’t the day we said “A-ha! We completely understand God,” but it was the day we decided to start our journey of seeking God together.
We were no longer working against each other but working together as a united team—Team Bryant. Yes, we still get in fights, and yes, we still have to work hard at our marriage. But when you have the same goal, when you are equally yoked, it makes fighting a whole lot easier.
I have to say, I know what a miracle it is that our relationship changed. And I realize that many of you may know this warning in the Bible, but you’re the only one in your marriage who cares. Maybe you’ve tried to reconcile it before. Maybe you’ve prayed for years or even decades about it. Maybe you haven’t tied the knot yet, and you’re terrified to bring it up because you’re afraid of what could happen.
Wherever you are, I want you to know that God is for you too.
Anything He ever tells us to do is because it’s for our good. He wants a great marriage for you. Whether you’re decades in or just got engaged, I believe God wants to do a miracle in your relationship too. It’s worth your prayers. It’s worth the difficult conversations.
If you lean in, I believe He will show up with mercy and miracles for you too.
Why is it important to be equally yoked? ›
When the animals are not equally yoked, they are not working together to get the task done but working at odds with each other. If you don't have the same beliefs, values, or even morals, you will be working against each other in your marriage.What does God mean by being equally yoked? ›
"This means these individuals should be compatible, they're able to agree on most things, and their values are aligned. This is also true in secular relationships, but biblical speaking in 2 Corinthians 6:14 'that we must not be unevenly yoked together with those who do not believe.What is considered being equally yoked and where would I find this in the Bible? ›
Actually, the phrase equally yoked is not even in the bible. The bible speaks about being unequally yoked. II Corinthians 6:14 says “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. . .” It doesn't say relationships, it doesn't say marriage but its implication is that of a relationship with another person.Can 2 people become equally yoked? ›
Can you be equally yoked to two people at the same time? Yes. I will explain later. . . on second thought I better explain that one right now. Being equally yoked initially doesn't have anything to do with your love for another person or your relationship or marriage to another person.What does the Bible say about Do not be unequally yoked? ›
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?What is the purpose of yoke? ›
A yoke is a wooden beam sometimes used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several types of yoke, used in different cultures, and for different types of oxen.Do not be yoked together with unbelievers 2 Corinthians 6 14? ›
KJV Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?Is it OK to be unequally yoked? ›
2 Corinthians 6:14 instructs, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” If the situation of being unequally yoked can be avoided it should.What does Jesus say about yoke? ›
I didn't see any oxen on the farms as the miles unfolded, but I started pondering a fitting word from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).What does the Bible say about marrying an unbeliever? ›
And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.
What happens in an unequally yoked marriage? ›
To be unequally yoked means two will be living life in opposite directions, so the plow cannot go in a straight line. There can be no peace, no rest. The work is hard as a result, and the yoke is heavy.Can a pastor marry two people? ›
Can an ordained minister perform a marriage ceremony for multiple couples at the same time? Yes. There is nothing that prohibits multiple couples from being married at the same time.What are the types of spiritual yoke? ›
Other types of yokes include yoke of the youth, the yoke of bondage, the yoke of unbelief, and the yoke of the wood. These yokes as Jesus describes them are heavy and burdensome. No one under any evil yoke can prosper or live a victorious Christian life on earth.What does the Bible say about double marriage? ›
Jesus gives permission for someone to remarry when adultery has taken place. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”9 Here, the phrase “and marries another” raises the issue of remarriage.What is the biblical definition of yoke? ›
In addition to its literal meaning, the concept of a yoke also appears in many scriptures as a metaphor for bondage or servitude; see Jeremiah 28:2; Alma 44:2.) What does it mean to take Christ's yoke upon us? (To humbly do his will and allow him to guide and direct our lives.)What does yoke mean in Matthew 11 29? ›
A yoke is a wooden device used to harness the working power of an animal, especially oxen. These could be made for a single animal, or to combine the power of several. Jewish people described living under obedience to the Law as having a yoke upon them.What is an example of yoke? ›
A yoke is a long piece of wood which is tied across the necks of two animals such as oxen, in order to make them walk close together when they are pulling a plough.What does it mean that the unbelieving husband is sanctified? ›
The Greek term "is sanctified" referring to the unbelieving spouse is simply the verb form of the adjective "holy" that refers to the children.Where in the Bible does it say to be yoked with unbelievers? ›
One of the chief culprits is 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul states, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” He followed this imperative with a series of five questions used to draw a contrast, saying, “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?What does breaking the yoke mean? ›
Isaiah 10:27 defines the anointing as the burden-removing, yoke-destroying power of God. The anointing is what delivers God's people and sets the captives free. The anointing is literally God on flesh doing what flesh can't do. It is God's super added to our natural.
How important is it to marry someone with the same religion? ›
For a successful marriage, shared religious beliefs prized about as much as adequate income, less than sex and shared interests. Overall, 44% of U.S. adults say shared religious beliefs are “very important” for a successful marriage.What is the problem with being unequally yoked? ›
Being unequally yoked means that the two oxen are not equal in strength - one being weaker. When oxen are not equally yoked, they can not complete a task together well. Using this imagery, Christians cannot be partnered with unbelievers or they will not be able to live out the Christian life that God wants for them.What does yoke mean in Matthew 11 28? ›
It means to put ourselves under His rule, to join together with Him. He is inviting people to put their shoulders into a new yoke, one in which He is the yoke mate. And He promises that, as they submit to His authority and are yoked with Him, they will find rest for their souls.What does it mean to be yoked with Jesus? ›
To be yoked to Christ means that the Son of God pulls your load with you. If you are weary with your burdens, what could be greater than to be yoked to Jesus Christ and have Him pull your load with you? share.What is the lesson of Matthew 11 28? ›
If you're tired and struggling, He can give you rest. This also describes the path to God the Father, but it is not one of labor and hard work. Following Jesus frees us from carrying the burden of our own sin because He has already done that work. All we need to do is put our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus.Is it a sin for a man and woman to live together and not be married? ›
The Church's teaching on cohabitation is not an “arbitrary” rule. Living together before marriage is a sin because it violates God's commandments and the law of the Church.Is it against the Bible to live with someone before marriage? ›
God did not intend for unmarried couples to live together before marriage. This includes sleeping in or sharing the same bed together, living together while engaged, or living together but not sleeping together.Can believers and unbelievers be in a relationship? ›
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Believers can and should relate to unbelievers' situations, but we must never emulate their lifestyles of separation from God.How do you honor God in a difficult marriage? ›
Here are six ways you can let God heal your marriage.
- Pray. The best way to fight any battle is on your knees. ...
- Be still. ...
- Trust God. ...
- Face the battle. ...
- Let God do the talking. ...
- Give thanks.
If only one person is fighting for a marriage then the marriage cannot be saved because you two have become one (Gen. 2:24). It will be as fruitless as trying to walk with only half of your body.
Why is it bad to be unequally yoked? ›
Being unequally yoked means that the two oxen are not equal in strength - one being weaker. When oxen are not equally yoked, they can not complete a task together well. Using this imagery, Christians cannot be partnered with unbelievers or they will not be able to live out the Christian life that God wants for them.Can an unequally yoked marriage work? ›
Unequally yoked marriages cannot always be prevented. Sometimes the mismatched faith dynamic happens outside of the ability to plan for it. One partner falls away from faith or comes to faith after marriage vows have long since been spoken and commitments made.What is the significance of yoke in the Bible? ›
The yoke balances the burden and makes it easier to manage. In addition to its literal meaning, the concept of a yoke also appears in many scriptures as a metaphor for bondage or servitude; see Jeremiah 28:2; Alma 44:2.)What are examples of spiritual yokes? ›
Ranging from the yoke of transgression to yoke of the Jaw, the devil is busy, killing, stealing, and destroying. Other types of yokes include yoke of the youth, the yoke of bondage, the yoke of unbelief, and the yoke of the wood. These yokes as Jesus describes them are heavy and burdensome.What is the meaning of yoke in Matthew 11 29? ›
A yoke is a wooden device used to harness the working power of an animal, especially oxen. These could be made for a single animal, or to combine the power of several. Jewish people described living under obedience to the Law as having a yoke upon them.