What Does “Equally Yoked” Look Like?

by Brad Harmon on September 27, 2010 in Entrepreneurs

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In the previous couple of posts, we looked at Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church about being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” from II Corinthians 6:14, and what to do if you’re already in a partnership with an unbeliever.  These posts started me thinking about whether there was also a lesson to be learned from inverted his warning and following the converse.  Is Paul writing here that we should be equally yoked together with believers?

If so, what does that mean?  We’ve talked about the yoke that requires both members to move in the same direction, but is that simply alleviated by harnessing two Christians to the same yoke?  Aren’t there stronger and weaker Christians?  Wouldn’t this cause friction too from the tugging and pulling of the two maturity levels trying to go in two directions?  Are we supposed to look for our spiritual twin?

What Does Equally Yoked Together Look Like?

Just what does it look like to be equally yoked together with another believer?  Here are some of the characteristics that I’d look for in this shared yoke, but you may have some better ones.

Equally yoked partners share the same faith. This one is pretty obvious after the last few posts, and from Paul’s warning, but I thought I’d be safe and include it.  If at the core of your being you are not heading in the same ultimate direction as your partner on the other end of the yoke, then the burden you share cannot be equally distributed.

Equally yoked partners share synergistic visions. Each of us have been uniquely equipped and called to fulfill a vision God has given us.  If your vision and your partner’s vision are not similar, or at least work very well together, then you will find it difficult to share the yoke and move it in one direction.  Simply yoking two Christians together does not make it equal.

Equally yoked partners share a similar spiritual maturity level. In I Corinthians 3:2, Paul tells the church at Corinth that he has fed them with spiritual milk instead of meat because they could not handle the meat.  We’re all like that when we start out as new Christians.  Like new-born puppies, we have to be weened off of milk and onto solid food.  One would never hook up a puppy with mature dogs to a sled.  It’s unfair to expect it to pull its own weight.

Equally yoked partners share in the “sweat equity” together. Most business partnerships I’ve seen have failed because of this one.  You have one person who knows the business inside and out partnering with someone who generally is bringing the money into the partnership.  These type of partnerships are very difficult to pull off successfully.  Resentment, or simply misunderstanding the other person, builds to a point that it tears the partnership apart.

Equally yoked partners share a complimentary set of skills. Partners don’t have to both know the ins and outs of everything in the business.  One can be great at managing the back office or sales, while the other one is great at producing whatever product or service they provide.  These tend to be the strongest partnerships, as long as, each has a healthy respect for the contribution to the business by the other.

What Does Equally Yoked Together Look Like to You?

There are certainly many more characteristics that an equally yoked partnership must possess.  These are just the ones that came to my mind while writing this series.  What does it look like to you?  What characteristics did I miss?

Have you been in a partnership where you felt equally yoked together?  What made it successful?  What qualities are essential to you?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Tatum September 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

All good points. We covered this topic in a marriage class not long ago, and a lot of what two people bring to a relationship has to do with how they were reared. Having a good understanding of your mates upbringing can truly bridge a gap on issues you may not agree on. In Gary Thomas’s book Scared Marriage he asked a profound question. What if marriage is suppose to make us holy and not happy? If we please God in our marriage first then you can’t help but become evenly yoke with your spouse.

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Brad Harmon September 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

The marriage relationship has so many corollaries to business partnerships, doesn’t it? Your point about what two people bring into a relationship based on their upbringing is a great one. You see this play out in finances where how our parents handled money impacts how we view and use our own finances. Money issues is still one of the top reasons for marital strife and break ups. These same views are carried into our business life as well.

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A. Tatum September 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Yes it does. Money is proably the number one reason why people have problems and get divorced. Both people need to realize it’s not their money to begin with and your only a steward of it.

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Rita Cartwright September 30, 2010 at 2:17 am

Thanks, Brad for broadening my perspective of equally/unequally yoked. I never thought about the different levels of Christian maturity. What an excellent analogy of a puppy and a mature dog being yoked to the same sled.

Whenever I heard the term equally or unequally yoked, I always thought of a non-Christian and a Christian. Sharing the same faith would make life easier, too.

Thanks, Brad for another thought-provoking post.

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Brad Harmon October 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm

My pleasure Rita. Sometimes, I think those relationships between two different maturity levels of Christians are harder and more unequal than those of a believer and an unbeliever. There’s a set of expectations that each of us have about being in a Christian relationship that are hard enough to meet when on equal footing, but when this maturity gap is wide lead to a greater since of frustration and sense of failure.

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Chad Galbreath October 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Brad great thoughts!

I am a leader at a local church in Los Angeles, and we reach a group of young and diverse people. This is both a blessing and a challenge. Many people feel like they can just start dating someone because they met them at church and assume they are “equally yoked”. Unfortunately the reality is many people who attend church are very casual Christians and so if some one is more mature in their faith they need to have a higher standard for the person they yoke themselves with otherwise frustration lies ahead.
Chad Galbreath recently posted..1 Billion people do not have water

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Brad Harmon October 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for validating my thoughts Chad. There is a whole set of expectations that come when we are yoked together with another believer that I think are too often naive. Just because two people are Christians does not mean that they should be yoked together or that it’s an automatic harmony. Hopefully, our shared faith aids in making the transition time to this harmony much faster; however, expecting from the outset that it will be this way is a mistake I see too many Christians make. Great insights.

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Laurie@Christian Home Based Business November 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Good post, Brad. Being equally yoked, I feel, means much the same as you have already stated. Having the same faith is first and foremost. I don’t think we need to agree on every issue, but in general, we should be at the same place.

We have very good friends with whom we disagree on some doctrinal issues, but we all agree on the way of salvation and that we need to live our lives to honor and please God.

I think sometimes God can use us to open someone’s mind up to a different perspective. It should be shared in love and with the leading of the Holy Spirit at the right time.

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Brad Harmon November 19, 2010 at 8:45 am

You make a great point Laurie. Spiritual maturity level does not mean that there are not disagreements on minor spiritual issues. God reveals Himself to each of us in a unique way so it’s not surprising that on minor issues we may not see eye-to-eye. Equally yoked definitely does not mean carbon copy of the person sharing the other side.

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dean February 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Hi Brad, Chad, and others,
I enjoyed reading your posts, and you seem to be spiritual and lovers of Jesus.

Question: I think that when Eve got married to Adam, she was a believer, but a new one.
1. Do you think that they were equally yoked, or was Eve less mature than Adam, and how does God making Eve especially for Adam play into this?

2. How does this impact our choice in considering yoking with a believer who is less mature?

3. The wife is the “weaker vessel”: 1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

If this is talking about being “spiritually weaker,” is this an example of people of 2 believers yoking together EQUALLY, and yet are UNEQUALLY yoked because of one being weaker than the other? (of course this interpretation problem goes away if we are talking about the physical and not the spiritual).

Thanks in advance and God bless you . . .
-dean

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Brad Harmon February 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hey, Dean. Great questions. They are leading a little away from the focus of the blog, but I wanted to answer them for you.

I’m not sure that Adam and Eve would qualify as “believers” at this point. The promise of the coming Messiah was not given to them until after the fall.

#1 If Eve was created on the same literal 24 hour day as Adam, then their time spent with God would be the same minus a few hours. If you don’t interpret the days this way, then we could guess that there would have been some amount of time before God made Eve. Either way, I don’t know that time is a good indicator of spiritual maturity.

Eve was deceived by the serpent, but Adam wasn’t and still ate the fruit. Which was more spiritually mature? I honestly don’t know. Based on their actions up to this point, and even throughout the rest of their lives, I couldn’t tell you which was the most spiritually mature.

#2 Let’s assume for a moment that Eve was less mature spiritually than Adam. Their disobedience shows that the actions of one in the yoke can influence the actions of the other – even if they are more spiritually mature. My own experience with unequally yoked couples has been that the more spiritually mature of the two seldom succeeds in raising the other up.

#3 I think the key to understanding this passage is the word “likewise.” Peter is writing about a husband and wife’s role when it came to the authority God gave them. He writes that the husband is the leader of the pair and that the wife should willingly submit to this leadership, but he reminds the husband what leadership should look like to the wife who voluntarily gives up authority and becomes the weaker vessel.

God chose Eve as the perfect fit for Adam. I think it’s symbolic that he chose the rib from which to create her. Not above Adam, not below him, but side by side. Jesus gave up his authority and submitted willingly to the Father. He became the weaker vessel. Likewise, the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son.

Peter warns about a husband’s prayers not being hindered. Who makes intercession for us? The Spirit. Who did Paul tell husbands to be like in how they treat their wives? Jesus Christ. How many people are in a marriage? Three. God is the true head of every marriage. Let US make man in OUR image … Hmm … is that a resemblance I see in marriage?

Am I right, Dean? I don’t know. I’m as certain as I can be that women are not inferior to men when it comes to spiritual matters. Because they willingly submit to us we should make sure we do nothing to harm them. Maybe this is what Peter meant when he called them weaker vessels? Treat them as if they will crack at the lightest offense. In other words, use your authority lightly.
Brad Harmon recently posted..90 Day Crazy Insane Blog Promotion Challenge – Week 02

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Will July 8, 2011 at 1:29 am

Hello Brad, I am a sixteen year old boy and a non-christian. I have my own faith, but was never raised to a christian household and never found God. I love a girl who is a christian and she loves me, but she believes that we cannot be together because we are not equally yoked. I disagree for obvious reasons. I believe that spiritual maturity can come in many forms, and equality of purpose can cross the boundaries of religion. Any chance im right?

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sherry November 24, 2013 at 8:32 am

Back to the moot point of marriage. Too late you’re married and ‘stuck’. how do you correct the unequal yoke? Before we were married my husband said he wanted to live debt-free. Little did I understand that meant once he had everything in the world at his disposal. He is likely certifiably compulsive with spending and I refuse to go further i to debt. We have been debt-free a few times, thanks to me, but its as if he cycles. We have owed over $60K in unsecured debt in the past, but now we are just under $20K. He has a learning disability with math, refuses to budget (likely is not able to stay on task) and acts like a child if I hold the financial reigns.

I finally quit working to support his spending habits. It is only a miracle we haven’t bankrupted yet. I shop thrift stores and yard sales to make ends meet and lots of times we go without.

He does better on meds, but refuses to take them and insists there is nothing wrong.

I have run out of options and feel as though I’m just having to sit back and watch my children’s inheritance dwindle to nothing.

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Sean Reilly April 1, 2014 at 3:31 am

How, really, can we be yoked with perfection unless he lowers Himself to wash our feet? He steadies, holds, comforts and carries us in His great strength and glory. The only way we can be truly yoked is to surrender all our strength and will to Him and be carried in our ineptitude. Clumsily we plod on and skillfully he guides us and bends to us.

The Christian life is one of change. Both partners in a Christian relationship of marriage WILL CHANGE. To go from equally and ideally yoked in all the facets you mention to something similar in quality 10 or 20 or more years later.. now that is the challenge of marriage!

Just as Christ bends to his bride.. so we must bend to each other. We must sometimes carry the other as Christ does. Jesus bids us through trials that come, asks us to spy out possibilities and take risks of faith. Sometimes, both or one fails the tests of life.

Surely, the only thing we can be truly yoked together in and that matters through all the change that will happen in the long term is this: Christ loves his bride and we are imperfect- so should we love each other in our imperfections, even through times of inequality and burden where we must help carry the vision and desires of the other.

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