What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14-18)?

To be or not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers? Actually, the answer to this question should be clear by now.  Thus, it is crucial to understand the deep meaning of what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote II Corinthians 6:14-18. In this blog, let us learn what it means to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

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You probably have heard about the expression, “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” For many people, the term unequally yoked evoked different images in their mind. Some think of an ox or farm while others think about Christians avoiding any relationship with non-Christians.

In II Corinthians 6:14-18, we read:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”


“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”

When you look at these verses, it is quite a handful of words to digest. So, it is not a surprise that some people misapply the principle of being unequally yoked.

What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14-18)?

What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14-18)?

Therefore, if we truly want to follow the instructions of God through the Apostle Paul’s writing, it is a must that we improve our understanding. We need to have a deeper understanding how to apply properly the instruction of God through the writings of Paul.

In this post, let us answer the following questions:

  • What is a yoke?
  • What does it mean to be unequally yoked?
  • How Christians misapply II Corinthians 6:14?
  • Why do we need to avoid being unequally together with unbelievers?
  • How do we apply the principle of not being unequally yoked in our lives?

So if you’re ready to know more about the instruction we read in II Corinthians 6:14-18, then let’s dive in!

What is a yoke?

Before going into details, we must first need to understand the term “yoke” and know what it means.

old type of yoke

A yoke used to bring two beasts of burden together.

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is used to connect a beast to the plow or a cart it is pulling. The yoke is usually fastened over the neck of an animal, usually an ox or other beasts of burden. In most cases, to make things even more efficient, two oxen are utilized and a single yoke joins them together.

The importance of being equally yoked together

There’s a reason why two oxen are used when doing agricultural work. They are more efficient compared to just using one.

When two oxen are put together by using a yoke, they become a team.

Physics reveals that the force they create isn’t just doubled but they can potentially increase it to threefold, fourfold, and even higher than that.

The point here is that the force one can produce can be multiplied a lot of times when given the right help. If the two oxen are well-coordinated, they move at the same time, they have the same weight and size, they exert balanced force, then a farmer can expect that his work will be a lot easier.

Two oxen can do so much more when they work together than doing a separate work. Being yoked together does not just permit two oxen to stand side by side, but they are JOINED together.

They have a work to be done. They have a mission, a goal, and a purpose. They are united to attain a common goal.

For this reason, if you are yoked together with a believer, then you can expect for God to bless that relationship and together, you can achieve a greater result.

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What happens when two oxen are unequally yoked together?

Having two oxen working together does not automatically translate to productivity or efficiency. Even if you use the biggest and strongest oxen and lined them up together, if they don’t properly coordinate with each other, the force is significantly lessened.

A problem may arise when one ox had lagged or pulled even a second earlier. If they don’t move at the same time, the yoke will twist and they will just jerk to one side.

They would hardly move.

If this is the case, how much more if one ox stubbornly refuses to move or exert effort? Thus, it will be a long day for the farmer.

When the Apostle Paul wrote II Corinthians 6:14, he could have also thought of the verse found in Deuteronomy 22:10.

It says:

“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”

As you can see, both the ox and donkey are beast of burden. They are commonly employed to do agricultural work. Though they may accomplish the same purpose, they are incompatible with each other.

Yoking the ox and donkey together isn’t just inefficient, but it is DANGEROUS. The ox will out power the donkey, injuring the animal in the process.

It is also worth noting the difference between an ox and donkey. An ox can easily be trained. It follows commands from the farmer. However, donkeys are stubborn and don’t easily trust their owner.

These qualities just make it difficult, impossible even, to have an ox and donkey work together.

In the same manner, if believers are yoked together with unbelievers, it is almost certain that the believer receives the spiritual damage.

The relationship won’t work.

Just like King Solomon who was led astray by his many pagan wives and concubines, so is a believer today who forms a close relationship with unbelievers.

What does it mean to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers?

When the Apostle Paul used the term “yoked together,” his audience knew very well what he was talking about. The Corinthian church was familiar with agriculture and they knew what it meant to be yoked together.

oxen yoked together

Two oxen yoked together portrays how a relationship may or may not work if you partner with the wrong person.

The Apostle Paul used this powerful word picture to impressed in the minds of the Corinthians how they should deal with people outside the church.

The city of Corinth was a powerhouse of immorality. It was riddled with different temples for gods and goddesses. Temple prostitution was pervasive and there was a considerable number of people in Corinthians who were sexually immoral.

For the citizens, sexual looseness wasn’t condemned, but rather tolerated and at times, even promoted.

Needless to say, a church will reflect in some degrees the type of city where it exists.

Thus, it is no wonder that the Corinthian church was among the most problematic churches that Paul constantly had to rebuke and correct.

Every single day, the Corinthian church members came in contact with unbelievers. With the strong influence of the evil society where they were located, combined with their human nature, it was so easy to get entangled with sin.

For this reason, the Apostle Paul wrote:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

Paul was saying, you shouldn’t be “yoked” together with unbelievers unequally. He meant that church members should not have a close relationship with unbelievers to the point that they were together standing side by side and locked up together. Just like the beasts of burden, if they were not the same, there’s a big chance that the relationship will not work!

Paul continued to explain why he wanted believers not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. He wrote:

For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.

Church members should recognize that light and darkness will never come together. Like oil and water, they won’t mix.

There’s NOTHING in common between righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, a believer and an unbeliever, and the temple of God and idols.

It should be plain by now for Christians that it’s dangerous to live your life sitting on the fence. The closer you get to lawlessness, the stronger is their influence.

If you’re not careful, you won’t notice that you are becoming more of the darkness and less of the light until it’s too late.

The Apostle Paul continued with more admonition:

As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”

God wants to develop a closer relationship with us. However, this is impossible if we are still flirting with sin, Satan, and the world.

We can’t dwell with God if we are still sleeping with our spiritual enemies.

We can’t be a people of God if we are still enjoying the pleasure that sin brings in our lives.

So, what’s the conclusion of the Apostle Paul?

He wrote:


Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul’s admonition boils down to one point: BE SEPARATE!

It is the same thing as saying we must be HOLY.

God has called us to live a holy life – a life set apart for a divine purpose.

Thus, we must COME OUT of this world and be separate. God won’t accept us if we keep on touching the unclean.

Now, what will happen if we don’t live as the world lives? What will happen if we separate ourselves from the evil ways of this world? What will happen if we live a holy life?

God will be a Father to us and we shall be His sons and daughters.

That will be the ultimate reward for those who choose not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

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How to apply the principle “do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers?”

The main point of the Apostle Paul when he wrote II Corinthians 6:14 is to admonish Christians to never get entangled with unbelievers. It is so dangerous to get involved deeply with unbelievers that it is better not to be associated with them.

Thus, for this reason, here are some of the practical ways on how you can apply II Corinthians 6:14:

In Business

Working with an unbeliever in a business partnership can lead to a disaster.

If one person isn’t morally astute, as a believer, you might be forced to make business decisions that are ungodly or contrary to godly principles.

Money can be a great motivator for some selfish people. If the main driver of your business partner is only money, there will come a time when you have to cheat customers just to get more profit.

Thus, it is better to avoid doing business with ungodly people as they may influence you to abandon Christian principle and be more like them.

In Friendship

The Bible tells us in James 4:4:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

I Corinthians 15:33 added:

Do not be misled: “Bad company CORRUPTS good character.”

As you can see, the Bible is consistent when it comes to being a friend of the world. If you keep company with unbelievers long enough, chances are, you’ll get yourself in trouble.

Surround yourself with foolish people and you will eventually become like them. But surround yourself with wise and godly people, and you will have a more positive and right influence.

In marriage

Aside from baptism, marriage is the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. Choosing a spouse can have a dramatic impact in your life. This decision is so serious that you shouldn’t rush into it but rather you should seek godly wisdom and prayerfully seek God’s will.

That’s why when finding a spouse, you should always remember, “Don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” If you do, you are like picking up a rock and hitting yourself with it.

It’s just foolish.

If you believe that marriage is difficult, how much more if you marry someone outside your faith? Worst of all, your relationship will not just suffer, but also your children.

Think of these scenarios. What if you decide to tithe and your spouse won’t let you? What if your spouse won’t let you attend church services? What if your spouse doesn’t teach your children godly principles?

There are just so many problems you will surely encounter marrying an ungodly woman or man. Thus, to save you from a lot of trouble, simply follow Paul’s advice and let God make the decision for you.

Make sure you also read my previous blog entitled, “The Problem with Finding Love Outside the Church.”

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The improper application of II Corinthians 6:14 principle

Some people go to the extreme end of applying the instruction of Paul. For them, they shun away any relationship with unbelievers and therefore should never even interact with these type of people.

It is worth noting how Paul wrote II Corinthians 6:14. He mentioned, “Do not be UNequally yoked with unbelievers.” What Paul doesn’t want is that we will be UNequally yoked. It means that we must not be yoked together with unbelievers in such a way that they are negatively influencing us.

Not all unbelievers are evil. Some still have something good in them. Some of them simply don’t believe the same things that we believe but they have a decent life.

I have a lot of friends outside the church. They are good people. Paul isn’t saying that we must avoid all types of interaction with them. In fact, it is virtually impossible to avoid these people unless you live as a hermit in the mountain.

Thus, Jesus Christ or Yahshua prayed to the Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

Please note that we live in the world but we must not be of the world. There’s a big difference between the two.

The important thing we must do is when we meet people who negatively influence us, who make us want to compromise our godly principle, we must avoid them as much as we can.

Jesus instructed all believers to be a light of the world. We must serve as a good example to unbelievers that when they see our light, they will glorify our Father in heaven.

To make sure you understand what it really means to be a light of the world, please read my blog explaining this concept here.

Final words

And that concludes our Bible study on II Corinthians 6:14-18. I hope, by reading this blog, you now have a deeper understanding of what it means of not being unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

We must remember that the Bible, God’s living word, should be the FINAL authority. If we truly believe in God and Jesus Christ, then we must follow their commandments and that include II Corinthians 6:14.

I hope we remain faithful to the instructions of God because at the end, through God’s grace and mercy, we will have the highest privilege of calling God our Father and becoming His sons and daughters in the Kingdom.

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3 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14-18)?

  1. Pingback: Life-Changing Lessons from the Story of Samson and Delilah | Becoming Christians

  2. Can you answer this question please it’s been bugging me. I instant not being yoked with an unbeliever but how come it says “if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” (1 corinthains 7:13)


    • Hi Keilah!

      Thanks for your question.

      That verse is written for the Christians in Corinth where there are a lot of Gentile converts. There are those who have been called to the Body of Christ when they were already married to an unbeliever. Paul was only saying that if your spouse choose to still live with you even if you are already a believer in Christ, then don’t divorce your spouse or don’t leave him.

      Does this answer your question, Keilah?

      Let me know.


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