Sunday, June 25, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 32, Wisdom Keeps Us From Being Unequally Yoked

We are going to look at a collection of miscellaneous proverbs today, but among them is a lesson about not being unequally yoked. We will look at that passage along with one from 2 Corinthians that has to do with not being closely linked in a partnership of any kind with unbelievers.

First Solomon presents us with a short series of unrelated proverbs. "The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool's heart blurts out folly." (Proverbs 12:23) I've told you before that I'm the chatty type. As a kid I would tell anybody anything. A person could simply ask me how my day was going and I'd start telling them every detail of it, including things that should be kept private, such as the fact that maybe my parents had an argument at breakfast or that we were worried about paying our bills. My dad would often say to me, "Don't tell everything you know." He wanted me to understand that it's okay to keep certain things back. We can be honest people without discussing private matters that should be kept within the family or within our circle of friends. Solomon says, "The prudent person doesn't talk constantly. The one who talks all the time will soon be giving away information, information that might embarrass someone. The wise person thinks about what he's going to say before he says it. Only a fool babbles everything he knows."

"Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor." (Proverbs 12:24) In Solomon's day a man who got behind on his bills could end up working for his creditors in order to pay off his debts. The one who is diligent won't have to worry about such a thing, because the diligent person is willing to work hard to keep a roof over the family's head and to keep the bills paid.

"Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." (Proverbs 12:25) There's a reason why anxiety and depression go hand in hand. Anxiety is hard on both mind and body, causing weariness and a sense of despair. I've been battling anxiety lately and have suffered several panic attacks over the past few weeks. The anxiety has led to a general feeling of being down and out, or as Solomon would say, it has weighed down my heart. But he also says that a kind word has the ability to cheer the heart up, and the kind word I've been clinging to this week is the word of God, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) I know I can't handle any of the things I'm worried about on my own. But God's holy word promises that I can handle all these things through Christ. 

"The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." (Proverbs 12:26) The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, "For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14) This verse is commonly used to teach us that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has a broader application. It also applies to business partnerships and intimate friendships. Earlier in our study of the book of Proverbs we talked about who we want in our inner circle. We used the example of Jesus whose inner circle consisted of Peter, James, and John. They were the most spiritual of the twelve disciples, so Jesus spent the most time with them. The Bible isn't telling us to avoid unbelievers altogether or to refuse to be friends with them; it's saying to choose carefully who is in our closest inner circle. Are they people who encourage us in the faith? Or are they people who encourage us to sin? The people who are closest to us should be the kind we can count on to help us follow Christ, not turn us away from Him.

In order to understand what it means to be yoked together with someone, we must think about what it means in agricultural terms. A farmer will choose two animals of almost identical size and strength to pull the plow and he will put them in the yoke together. If they are not evenly matched, the stronger animal will pull the plow to one side, making the furrows crooked. If they are not evenly matched, the stronger animal will end up doing most of the work, causing more strain on his body than if he were pulling the plow alone, because he will also be pulling the weight of the other animal. A farmer would never put a powerful and muscular ox in the yoke with a weak and flabby ox. The weaker animal will become even more out of shape because he won't be able to keep up with the stronger animal. He might even end up with a knee or shoulder pulled out of joint. Unequal yoking is a foolish idea in farming and a foolish idea in marriage, business partnerships, and very close friendships. Somebody is going to get hurt.

The Lord says, "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together." (Deuteronomy 22:10) The Lord had to continually provide visible examples of unequal yoking to the nation of Israel. They were going into the promised land where they would come in contact with the tribes of Canaan who worshiped false gods. The Lord forbade intermarriage with the people of Canaan because He knew the people of Israel would be led into sin. When two people are unequally yoked together, the one with the stronger and more forceful personality will drag the other along with them, just as the stronger ox in the yoke drags the weaker ox along with him. In the case of the Israelites intermarrying with the Canaanites, either the believer would be strong enough to persuade the spouse to convert, or else the pagan person would be strong enough to pull the spouse into idolatry. The Lord wanted His people to avoid such a situation altogether. The pairing of a believer and an unbeliever is a recipe for disaster. It won't be a harmonious situation any more than yoking an ox and a donkey together would be a harmonious situation. They are two entirely different animals who won't make a good team. They won't be able to pull together when the going gets tough. Each will always want to go their own way and eventually one of them will get hurt.

Solomon says to the young people he is teaching, "Be very careful who you choose for a best friend or for a business partner or for a marriage partner. Make certain that person is as strong in the faith as you are. If you are not equally matched you won't make a good team. You won't be able to pull together. You won't be happy together."

No comments:

Post a Comment