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Question:
I miss you at Tulsa Bible Church. My question is around the passage in 2Cor 6 on being “unequally yoked”. Most of the things I am finding is concerning marriage, but I am wondering: how does it relate to a business relationship?

Answer:

Well I certainly miss my friends and brethren at Tulsa Bible Church. (I attended and served there for about 10 years, but moved about 2 hours away a couple of years ago. My brother who wrote this question has a beautiful sweet wife, and the MOST adorable children. How HE ended up with them, is beyond me. Luckily the kids look like his wife… 🙂

The passage in question is:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (NKJV)

We typically hear this associated with marriage but I think that gives a misleading impression that this verse is just “marriage instruction” from God. While it certainly has application to marriage, very important application, it tends to constrict the true application.

In fact, I find it interesting that we quickly and concretely apply this to marriage, but start wiggling, waffling and getting nervous when we consider business or personal relationships. I think this comes from two things, 1) a lack of understanding of what it really means, and 2) timidness about being called “judgmental” or “holier than thou”.

In 2Corinthians, Paul is writing to Believers in Corinth who lived in a society known worldwide for its decadence, immorality and pagan idolatry. Being “unequally yoked” was a daily issue, especially in a newly founded Church that was still finding its way in a thoroughly hedonistic society.

The literal picture of “unequally yoked” is the act of teaming up two different kinds of animals to a piece of farm machinery. Picture two oxen pulling a plow. If they are the same type animal, with the same instincts, size and power – the plow is pulled forward effectively with guidance by the master. (two Christians with the same power – Holy Spirit – being guided by the Master)

However, if you yoked an ox and a dog together, the work would be impossible. (Believer and unbeliever)

The principle of “equally yoked” is not to join together, or create an alliance between Believer and unbeliever for the purpose of doing God’s work, fulfilling God’s will in your life or upholding your Christian testimony. Whether marriage, business or personal… you cannot be yoked to an unbeliever in matters that pertain to furthering and fulfilling God’s will.

The marriage example is easy: a Believer cannot marry an unbeliever because they will at best have only one spouse serving God, and at worse, a constant struggle pulling the marriage family in two directions. This principle (“equally yoked”) applies across the board in marriage concerning a variety of topics: money, sex, family, work, etc. However, it becomes infinitely more important when you are talking about being equally yoked concerning matters of salvation and eternity. It is infinitely harder, if not almost impossible, to fufill God’s purpose in a marriage or family if you are married to an unbeliever (I say “almost” because we cannot discount the noble efforts of single parents or believers who ARE married to an unbeliever and carry this burden alone).

What about business, recreation, etc.? First, God does not call us to sever or avoid all relationships or dealings with unbelievers. We have to live in the world (while being separate from it in heart) because we simply MUST live in the world… we don’t really have a choice. As well, we must live as apart of this world in order to take the Gospel to it.

So how does “unequally yoked” apply to business? As Christians, we should not enter into business relationships where our Christian integrity or mission will have to be compromised because of the relationship.

For example, maybe your non-Christian potential-business-partner wants to buy products from overseas and claim they are American made. Or perhaps he wants to hire illegal workers because every one is doing it, and you can’t compete unless you do the same. The Christian cannot capitulate to deception or unethical behavior no matter what the business reason.

If you are already IN a business relationship like this, you need to start asking God what is your next move. If a non-believer is wanting you to START doing business with them (be a partner or associate), then you must really give some thought about the possibility of a situation like this, and how you would respond. It is also prudent for the Christian to make sure that BEFORE you enter into a business relationship with an unbeliever that they are fully aware that you will not, under any circumstances, violate your conscience or principles no matter what the profit, or financial loss.

Being unequally yoked in personal relationships, I believe deals more with the question, “can I maintain my Christian testimony when participating in this relationship?”

Some Christians isolate themselves totally from just about all unbelievers. We are not called to this. We are called to go out into the world and be the light in darkness.

I think being unequally yoked would be a type of situation where you have a friendship, for the sake of having a friend, that is not based on sharing your faith with them, AND causes you to do something that degrades your Christian life or hurts your testimony.

For example, let’s say you are a golf nut and all your friends just golf, golf, golf. If you are using those rounds of golf to demonstrate your faith, develop friendships that lead to spiritual conversations, and your true motive is to lead them to Christ, then golf buddies are your “field of harvest”.

However, if they are simply golf buddies, and golfing with them just fuels your desire to golf and drives a growing passion for more and more golf, and golfing is the objective, I would say that would be in danger of being an “unequally yoked” relationship.

It’s a fine line that each of us have to determine because there is no way to cover all the variables, or create a set of rules that apply to all situations.

For me, I think of this: are my relationships with unbelievers pulling me away from God? Is there an underlying agenda in those relationships to culminate them with sharing the Gospel? Does my relationship with any specific unbeliever hinder my own spiritual growth?

In the end, God will let us know if we are “unequally yoked” in anything or with anyone:

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (NKJV)

So whether business, personal or marriage, ask God for wisdom, and He will show you if you are “unequally yoked” in any way.

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