I can remember hearing this verse as a child and wondering, “What’s The Meaning Of “My Yoke Is Easy?” I thought that it’s talking about egg yolk. Come to me you who are weary and eat my over-easy eggs. That’s what I heard the Pastor say. It wasn’t until much later that someone explained to me the significance of a yoke.
What Is A Yoke
A yoke is a wooden collar that is placed on an animal so that the owner can control it. Very similar to a bridle on a horse, a yoke is a means to allow the driver to direct the animal. Often the yoke is wide enough for two collars for two animals (like the image above). A farmer would say that two animals that are in wooden collars together are “yoked.” ‘
Animals that were yoked together could do more work than independent of each other. Often new animals would be yoked together with bigger ones so that the big animal could carry the burden while training the younger one to carry the load. In other words, the younger animal often had a lighter or easier “yoke” during it’s training years.
This brings me to another famous scripture, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” If the first verse wasn’t about over-easy eggs, then this one isn’t’ talking about unbelievers making bad scrambled eggs.
These scriptures have more than the word yoke in common. What we can see from the usage of a yoke is that it’s a burden that influences. To speak in leadership terms, a yoke is influence (and everyone repeated after John Maxwell, “and influence is leadership, nothing more, nothing less.”) In some cases, that influence is very powerful, like the influence a police officer has over a criminal.
More than just influence, the word yoke has a connotation that the one yoked is the one serving another and carrying their burden. You can see this all throughout scripture. In 60 scriptures in the Bible, the word yoke was used to connotate slavery, servitude or influence in familial relationships and religious ones. In other words, the meaning of “my yoke is easy” could be, “my service or burden is easy.”
An Influential Burden
We live in a fallen world and are born into slavery to sin. When I was younger and I heard those lines I used to cringe. “I’m no slave,” I’d think. Like the Israelites exclaimed, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? (John 8:33)” These are the same descendants that were slaves in Egypt and Babylon, right?
Jesus is saying that His yoke is a choice. With every decision you make you can choose your burden. You can take up your burden, the “fallen” burden, the one that will become too heavy to bear or you can choose His. You can choose to be the lead animal and carry all the weight or be the small animal and let Him carry it for you. His burden is light but more specific than that, His burden requires only a few things from us, Faith and Love. What we have to be careful of is who we get yoked with, and which driver are we going to listen to.
We don’t get to choose whether we will serve a master, but we get to choose the master.
Under The Influence
Let’s all agree that we’re influenced. Every day you are bombarded with marketing messages and if you were to take a personal inventory of what you’re wearing, what device you’re using to read this, and how you styled your hair, you’d likely find that you were influenced in some small way in those choices.
What both verses are telling you is that you can choose your influence. An interesting note about yokes is that they are not always equal. In fact, when a young ox is being trained for work, a farmer will often use an unequal yoke. He’ll take one of his strong ox and “yoke” it together with the young one so that the strong ox does most of the work, but that the young ox learns how to do the work.
You can see the application immediately. A strong influence will almost drag us along with it and before we know it we’ll be doing what it wants. When it comes to unbelievers and this scripture, this is what it’s talking about. It’s not that you can’t have unbelieving friends or business partners. However, be sure to know who is the influencer in that relationship.
It’s almost impossible to not be “yoked” in business with unbelievers. While this feels a bit like a side trip, I think it’s worth talking about. You should not feel guilty when working with someone that believes differently than you. I also don’t think you should feel any anticipation about you being the “one” to save them. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
What’s important to remember is who is the influencer. Ask yourself, “who is my provider?” Is it God or is the job or is the business partner? I think all of us feel like we’d be willing to be fired for our beliefs. In fact, I can’t be the only one to secretly want this badge of honor. However, if your business partner or boss is doing something that directly violates God’s word are you speaking up or are you being influenced to be silent.
Let’s make sure we’re clear, a yoke is meant to direct so that the animal can pull a burden. One ox alone can often pull somewhere close to its body weight. However, when yoked together with another ox, they can pull up to 3 times the total weight. Now get this! When they listen to the words of their master and they are trained they can pull up to 10 times their body weight in small bursts.
When I researched yokes I found something pretty interesting. That animals that are yoked together are often like “teams.” In fact, many farmers like to buy animals in pairs and train them for this purpose. In the training process, the young oxen learn to follow their owner’s commands. If both oxen are listening to their master then they will continue to progress and live out their lives as “working oxen.”
However, if they can’t follow the commands, they end up as dinner. Sometimes a pair doesn’t work well together. The unfortunate truth of the pair is that often one is listening to the master and the other isn’t. While this isn’t always true, often a farmer has to start over versus using one ox on another team.
Think about a marriage. A double collared yoke under the guidance of God is meant as a blessing. Now two people can assist with each other burdens and accomplish what one could not, it’s multiplicative. However, if both spouses aren’t listening to the Father then they are pulling in different directions.
What’s The Meaning Of My Yoke Is Easy?
Every day we get to choose which yoke we want. We can choose Jesus’ yoke or the one with our burdens. The only way for us to really experience the light and free yoke is by letting Jesus carry our heavy yoke. The burden that we have as Christians is not easy but it is simple. Love God, Love Others. When you catch yourself in worry ask yourself am I loving God right now? How about loving others?
Every day we wake up we choose to grab our burden or His burden. His burden is like grabbing helium balloons. Whereas our burden feels like a figurative plow. When we worry in particular we’re picking up the heavy yoke. I’m not saying it’s easy to always choose His way, I’m saying you have a choice. You can fight to always choose the lighter burden or accept the heavy one. The key to choosing Jesus’ yoke is really all about hearing God’s voice .