Being unequally yoked with unbelievers…

This is from Bible Bulletin Board and is a question directed to Dr. John MacArthur.


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.

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One thought on “Being unequally yoked with unbelievers…

  1. Rev. Bryan Dabney

    The Rev. E. M. Bounds was a noted theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work, “Guide To Spiritual Warfare”, p. 118 states in part, “Since ‘Friendship of the world is enmity with God’ (James 4:4), the only way to heaven is to avoid all intimacy with worldly people. Whatever the cost, flee spiritual adultery! Have no friendship with the world… Your life is at stake…” II Corinthians is not just about marriage, it includes all other relationships in all aspects of our daily life wherein we are intimately associated. As long as we are in this world, we are permitted to have casual relations with the ungodly (see I Corinthians 5:9-11) but intimate ones particularly those within the body of Christ are clearly forbidden.


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