“The Unevenly Yoked”

Have you ever heard someone talk about a relationship and mentioned that one of the individuals has been “unequally yoked” to the other? The phrase “unequally yoked” comes from scripture, 2 Corinthians 6:14 to be exact. “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 puts it like this… “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk slower 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.

A yoke is a wooden beam, normally 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. A pair of oxen may be called a yoke of oxen, and yoke is also a verb, as in "to yoke a pair of oxen". Other animals that may be yoked include horses, mules, donkeys and water buffalo.

To help you get a better picture of what it means to be unequally yoked and why it’s best to avoid this arrangement, let’s look at Deuteronomy 22:10 which says, “Thou shall not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”
Let’s look at the differences between an ox and a donkey.

  • The donkey is much faster than the ox.
  • The ox is much stronger than the donkey.
  • The donkey is more laid back with a self preserving nature.
  • The ox is more sure-footed and less prone to injury during plowing.
  • The donkey and the ox enjoy two different diets.
  • The ox can pull longer and harder.
  • The ox is territorial and doesn’t like it’s space invaded.

If you think about it, accomplishing any task with these two animals yoked together will not be a fun day in the park. Why? Because they are two different species with two different fathers.

The same is true when you are not equally yoked in marriage or a relationship. You and your spouse have two different spiritual fathers. Therefore, you have two different footings, two different ways of handling the same task, two different spiritual appetites, two different mind sets, two different natures, etc.

For this reason, marriage between a non-believer and a believer is full of challenges and difficulties.

The “unequal yoke” can also be applied to business relationships and even friendships. For a Christian to enter into a partnership with an unbeliever it can often lead to issues and large disagreements later. This comes from having opposite worldviews and morals. 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 themselves pressured to leave their Christian principles behind for the sake of profit and the growth of the business or for the sake of maintaining the friendship.

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 relationship.


  • Stay: If your spouse is unsaved, the Bible instructs you not to divorce your spouse if their desire is to remain married. This is what it says, “And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer, and he is happy to live with her, she must not divorce him. The husband who is not a believer is made holy through his believing wife. And the wife who is not a believer is made holy through her believing husband. If this were not true; your children would not be clean, but now your children are holy. But if those who are not believers deicide to leave, let them. When this happens, the Christian man or woman is free. But God called us to live in peace. ” 1 Corinthians 7:13-15
  • Submit: The Word of God instructs married couples to submit one to the other.  God sees you as one and is holding you accountable to His standards regarding marriage. If this is difficult for you, pray daily for God’s grace. Your humble attitude will witness more to your spouse than an attitude of rebellion.
  • Surrender: Don’t try to manipulate and plan how “you” can get your spouse saved. Don’t nag or push them. The Bible says that only God can draw people to himself. Surrender your frustration to the Lord and trust that He has heard your prayer and will answer it in His time.
  • Love: Continue to show your spouse the love of Christ. That means unconditional love. The only way you can achieve this is by dying to your flesh, and walking in the Spirit.
  • Pray: Pray daily for your spouses’ salvation. And try not to get discouraged when your prayers seem to go unanswered. Just keep praying and watching. God is listening and will respond in His time.

Being equally yoked is as essential to marriage as much as yeast and eggs are to baking a birthday cake. Sure, you can proceed without those ingredients if you wish but you’ll be deeply disappointed in the results. Be blessed today and know that God is always looking out for you no matter the situation you are in.

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