David and Goliath became my fight against the challenges of life. Daniel in the lions’ den showed me that God’s way is always the best, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who were thrown into the fiery furnace taught me that God is always with me even in misfortune. The sorrowful stories like David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah taught me that wickedness is not happiness, and it never will be.
As I grew older, the doctrines of Christ became important pieces to the puzzle of God’s nature. I wanted to know Him and wanted to have the blessings He offers. I wanted to be like Him. For “this is life eternal” to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3 KJV). I want life eternal. Not the never dying part, but the ever after death part.
The Bible became a script in the drama of life. Phrases like: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” became my pattern for living. “Love your enemies ... do good to them that ... despitefully use you, and persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 KJV) gave me a better choice when someone teased and ridiculed me during my teen years. “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” and “thy neighbor as thyself,” (Matthew 22:37, 39 KJV) instilled in me a mindset of love toward all humanity.
Now I look back and see the beautiful patterns of obedience as they unfolded in my life. On the other hand, I see the misery-filled patterns of disobedience as they unfolded in the lives of those who chose not to take the scriptures as their guide. As the drama of my life draws toward the final curtain, the plot has been danced upon the stage, and the characters are being set in stone; there are no questions about the outcome. The scriptures are true, and the advice is worth following.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
—Matthew 11:29-30 KJV)
When I think of a yoke, an image comes to mind of someone carrying buckets of water on either end of a wooden device that fits on their shoulders, or I visualize oxen bound together with a heavy wooden collar that rests on their necks. In both cases, most of the burden rests on the yoke, leaving the person or oxen free to move under the heavy weight. With oxen, the cart follows steadily behind.
The yoke and the oxcart become the perfect image for the habits we form in life. We are bound by habits whether we like it or not. Habits are good things. They save us time and energy in decision-making over trivial matters, but they can also be bad. Habits of laziness and procrastination keep us from accomplishing all we could in our lives. Habits of drunkenness, gluttony and unleashed anger cause problems not only for us but also for our families.
If the yoke is a metaphor for our habits, then certainly the burden and oxcart are a perfect metaphor for the consequences we receive for the choices we make and the habits we form. If we look at our habits as a yoke, it is easy to see why Christ’s yoke is easy and His consequences light.
Christ’s teachings are simple and straightforward. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are not likely to steal from your neighbor, have an affair with your neighbor’s spouse or influence their children to take drugs. If you truly love your neighbor, you won’t find reasons to gossip or defame his/her character, no matter how juicy the tidbit of information.
What are the consequences for loving your neighbor as yourself? I’ve never seen a family breakup because a neighbor loved them too much. I’ve never seen a child who was addicted who was never persuaded to try them, and I’ve never seen a person feel sorrow at having heard a rumor that never got started or was never passed along in idle gossip. The consequences, or burdens, of Christ’s yoke are truly easy.
If we think of the Ten Commandments as a yoke given to us to help carry our burdens, it is easy to see that the burden or the consequences for following them is light compared to ignoring them. The first four commandments are designed to teach us how to respect God. If our society shouldered these commandments alone, our world would be a different place.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image ... 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
—Exodus 20:3-4 KJV
Our modern world is full of other gods, and graven images abound so much so that many have forgotten God altogether. As the gods of greed, pornography, money, toys and gaming have risen in prominence, innate humanity has declined. When I was growing up, we seldom heard of heinous crimes being committed. There was a murder now and then, but never on the scale we have today. There were no school shootings or bombings of parades, airports, church, theaters or other public places.
Back then, churches were full of people waiting to hear the word of God. Most people put God first. Parents taught their children to love and respect God and His laws. Now it is a different story.
As respect for God has declined, respect for the sanctity of human life has become an afterthought and a heated debate over when life begins. Suicide has risen in epic proportions and mental illness is on the rise. Children are faced with questions about their own identity, which in the past was well defined. The yoke that many in our society have abandoned would be the same yoke that would solve many of the social ills of our day.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
—Exodus 20:8 KJV
Our society is on a treadmill that seems to increase in speed every day. Many are exhausted, depressed and overwhelmed. We work seven days a week and still don’t get ahead. The frustration mounts, and when we are forced to take time off, it’s usually because of illness. At the end of life there is a cry, “What have I accomplished?” The yoke of the Sabbath day is given to us as time to reflect, set bearings on where life is taking us and is a sacred time to seek God’s wisdom on how to make life worthwhile.
The remaining commandments tell us how to treat each other. Shouldering the yoke of these commandments would stop crime altogether:
5. Honour thy father and thy mother ... 6. Thou shalt not kill. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8. Thou shalt not steal. 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 10. Thou shalt not covet.
—Exodus 20: 12-17 KJV
If we abandon God’s laws, as the cart follows the team of oxen, so will the consequences of the yoke we choose. The yokes of the world seem light at first, but as the burdens/consequences start to come, life becomes a tangled jungle of despair and sorrow. We run to and fro looking for peace, and it eludes our every turn. We are looking for peace in all the wrong places.
We can’t find peace of mind in the bed of our neighbor’s spouse. Peace is not hanging on the money tree. It isn’t riding down a curvy road in a new sports car. It isn’t in the divorce or the civil courts. We won’t find it dealing or taking drugs. We won’t even find it on the internet, no matter how it touts all wisdom and knowledge.
The only place we will find peace is with the Prince of Peace. He has written the user’s manual, and as we read it, peace will descend upon us as rains from heaven.
For [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light.
—Matthew 11:30 KJV
Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.