This page/post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, as well as an affiliate of other programs, this means if you purchase something using these links, I will receive a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you! For more detailed information, please visit our Affiliate Disclaimer page
Unequally yoked. We hear of it in church and we’ve probably read about it online or in Bible Studies, but what does it actually mean? Before we take a look at the verse that this phrase comes from, let’s first look at the phrase itself.
I loved this simple explanation from Got Questions.org: A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly 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.
So what does that have to do with biblically being unequally yoked? There are many unequally yoked Bible verses, but let’s examine just a couple of them.
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Or from the KJV:
2 Corinthians 6:14
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Unbelievers tend to have different worldviews than those of believers. Those views include things on sin (premarital sex, morals, values, etc.) While, I don’t believe that it is a sin to marry an unbeliever, it would, however, be unhealthy to the marriage in the long run and the faith of the believer.
Let’s look at few issues that may come up when a believer marries an unbeliever:
Children – how would they be raised? To believe that Jesus was the son of God? Would that result in confusion that one parent believes that and the other doesn’t?
Tithing – how would the unbeliever react to the believer giving the first 10% of his or her earnings to God? Would they resent it? Find it silly? What problems could arise?
Church attendance and ministry involvement – would the unbeliever resent the amount of time that the other is spending at church or in ministry? What issues could this situation present?
Social Life – while this may not be true for all, the unbelieving spouse may want to do things, socially, that are out of alignment with the values of the believer. Things that may involve immorality, excessive drinking or even drugs or other activities. Not necessarily illegal, but uncomfortable for the believer.
Those are just a few. But wait, doesn’t the Bible say that unbelieving spouses are made holy through the believing spouse?
1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
Well, not exactly. The Gospel Coalition explains it this way: That the unbelieving husband “is made holy” does not say that he enjoys salvation vicariously through the believing wife, but rather that proximity to his wife’s Christ-centered living creates opportunities for godly influence. Each time a wife models godliness (1 Peter 3:1-6) to her husband, that’s another moment he’s not being influenced by the godlessness that desires to lay claim on his soul. In this way he “is made holy” because he is set apart from the world and more likely to receive the gospel. Similarly, because of the decision to remain intact as a family, children of the marriage have a greater opportunity for exposure to the influence of biblical truth.
So what do you do if you are married to an unbeliever? The most important two things are 1) Pray for their salvation 2) Model Christian behavior. God is working on turning your spouse’s heart and will use you and your actions to do so. This is not to say that you have failed God if your spouse doesn’t believe. You cannot force someone to love Jesus, but you can show them what God’s love looks like through your own words and actions.
Are you or were you married to an unequally yoked spouse? What struggles did you or do you face?
For deeper reading on this subject, here are some great resources:
I’m praying for you, my friend.
For a look at the Proverbs 31 wife, see this prior post HERE.