Sometimes, older concepts teach some of the most fresh and helpful lessons. For me, a great example of this is Christ Jesus’ teaching: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, New International Version).
Made for pulling plows and carts, a literal yoke is a carved wooden beam that is fastened over the necks of animals such as oxen. But Jesus’ description suggests that taking on the figurative yoke of laboring in service to Christ, divine Truth, is restful instead of draining – even strengthening.
In contrast with this virtuous sort of yoke, the Bible also takes the metaphor in the opposite direction, referring to the “yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). We can think of the yoke of bondage as one of submission, not to God, but to things such as fear, desire for revenge, gluttony, and idle distractions.
So we have a choice. At any point in life, we can exchange yokes of bondage for yokes of joyful service to God.
For instance, we can let God’s yoke of simply basking in the always-present love of the Divine lift the yoke of fear. We can drop the yoke of revenge through getting to know God as merciful and just. We can replace idleness with a genuine desire to more actively express Christlike qualities, such as love and compassion. We can replace a tendency to be judgmental with selfless, heartfelt encouragement for others.
Love for God and for one another is actually natural to us as the spiritual offspring of God, whom the Bible names Love itself. The Christian Science Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” “With all the homage beneath the skies, yet were our burdens heavy but for the Christ-love that makes them light and renders the yoke easy” (p. 262).
The Christ, Christian Science teaches, is the divine nature that animated Jesus. It is the definitive model of God’s flawless, spiritual creation presented continually in human consciousness. The loving, Christly influence that so fully animated Jesus is still present now, here to empower every one of us to love spirituality and unselfish goodness, while opening our eyes to the fraudulent promises of materialism and egotism. Day to day, as we cherish the Christ-love working in us, we experience greater freedom, grace, and joy.
When I started my very first real job, I took to heart something I’d heard from some more experienced adults: that, surprisingly, it is possible to dislike any type of job and to love any type of job. Wearing the yoke of selfishness or resentment can make even the most wonderful type of job seem like hell. But even the most tedious work, if done while letting God’s love and strength animate us, can feel like a taste of heaven.
Gradually I came to the conclusion that the wisest and most empowering thing for me to do was, each day, to take a stand for my ability to choose God’s yoke and strive to keep it in place, hour after hour. With this approach, my work quickly became a platform for feeling God’s presence and actively bearing witness to God’s love everywhere, including within myself. My life truly was never the same after that.
A fresh lesson here is that loving to serve God by way of our Godlike thoughts and actions helps ourselves, certainly, but it also helps those around us break free from yokes of bondage and feel the freedom of the yoke of Christ, which we can wear with joy!
Looking for more timely inspiration like this? Explore other recent content from the Monitor's daily Christian Science Perspective column.