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17 December, 2010 / theexpositor

Should Christians yoke themselves with unbelievers?


My question is about being unequally yoked. Some people have told me that this is talking exclusively about marriage. Others have said that it applies also to business partnerships and other situations. Could you please expand on this? What does it mean to be unequally yoked and what type of a guideline should I have if it is OK for me to have a business partnership with a non-believer?


Well, this is a very, very important question. II Corinthians, chapter 6, is what you’re asking about. The concept of "yoke" gives you the key, I think. You have to apply it yourself. I mean, there’s no hard and fast rule. But a yoke was something that was put over two animals in a common enterprise, OK? Now, what Paul says in II Corinthians 6:14 is “Do not be bound together with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? and what fellowship has light with darkness? And what harmony has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Now, what it’s saying is if you are in the same yoke, pulling the same plow down the same furrow; that is, you’re working side by side in the same enterprise, and you’re yoked together with an unbeliever, you’ve got problems.

Truly, that would refer to marriage because there’s no firmer, stronger, more binding yoke than marriage, right? If you go beyond that and you say, “What about a business partnership?” it would depend upon the nature of that partnership. I mean, if, for example, there’s a limited partnership in buying a motel and there’s ten guys buying into this deal and I’m one of ten, that’s one thing. Why, I’m investing. I might put my money in a bank; that’s a form of partnership too, with other people. I don’t think that’s the issue here. What is the issue here is linking up, side by side, under the same yoke, pulling the same furrow, in the same direction. Now, that might mean a partnership in a common business where you’re working side by side because you’re going to have problems.

The obvious meaning here, the most obvious meaning would be in some spiritual enterprise. I think that that’s the primary thing. The primary thing is don’t ever link up with an unbeliever in a spiritual enterprise. Does that make sense? People do it all the time, by the way, strange enough by taking money and involvement with unbelievers. So the obvious thing, first of all, the obvious thing: "no" in marriage, because that’s a believer and an unbeliever yoked. "No" in any common spiritual enterprise. And then secondarily, be very careful if you’re pulling the same yoke, down the same furrow, in front of the same plow, with an unbeliever because it’s inherent that there will be conflict because the standard by which you operate is different. You have to make that judgment as to what the partnership involves. The Spirit of God will lead you in that.


The preceeding "Question" was asked by a member of the congregation at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, and "Answered" by their pastor, John MacArthur Jr from the website Bible Bulletin Board. It was transcribed from the tape, GC 70-12, titled "Questions and Answers–Part 40."  A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Grace to You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE. Copyright 2001 by John MacArthur Jr., All Rights Reserved.