Yokes for Folks

You have to love kid entrepreneurs. My friend's kids recently started their own egg business with their chickens. They plan to donate $1 from every dozen sold to an Alzheimer's foundation as their family was personally touched by this disease. Their proud mama posted the picture of the very professional business cards they designed but quickly pointed out she didn't have the chance to proof them before they went to print. Instead of the catchy business name, "Yolks for Folks" they wrote out, "Yokes for Folks". A mistake any one of us might make, I'm sure that sounded right to the kiddos.

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Their little business card snafu has been rolling around in my head since she posted this. Everyone knows I love puns and word play. I think it's no coincidence that I just finished reading Matthew 11:28-30 in my Community Bible Study. The verses read:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

These verses would be on my personal favorite top ten list. I love the promise from Jesus that He did not come to weigh us down and burden us but to lift the burden of the world off of our shoulders. What kind of king promises that? And as I learned in my recent Bible study, the people consistently did not receive this offer; in fact, they rejected Jesus over and over and accused Him of being demonic and even working with Satan.

What was going on with the people of Jesus' day and why weren't they receptive to Jesus' message? The Book of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience. Matthew was a Jew and a tax collector who left his job of gouging his own people to follow the Messiah. He sought to convince the religious, rule followers that Jesus didn't come to increase their religiosity, He came to free them from it. This was not an easy task as the religious leaders of the day continued to put more and more rules and burdens on the everyday average Joes, thus, making them feel like it was harder and harder to reach God. Jesus basically turned the religious community's ideology upside down.

In my own head and in Bible study circles we love to smirk and dismiss the Pharisees for their rules. We talk about them putting so many fences around the law and God they make it impossible for anyone to experience the love of God. And then I remember the sweet little business cards fashioned by small children that speak so much truth. Yokes for folks. Yep, that's what the Pharisees were doling out and if we are really honest with ourselves, we also offer up yokes for folks...or for ourselves.

Jesus' message of taking the burden from us was this: We were never meant to adopt a way of living, a set of rules or someone else's standards for our life and fashion a yoke of legalism under which we would live. Furthermore, we were never meant to make someone else bear the weight of our legalistic expectations, either. Often in our attempts to live the holy, righteous life we enslave ourselves and others.

I recently overheard someone casting judgement on someone for not living up to their own standards for Christian living. There was mention that this person was possibly "falling away" and "setting a bad example" for others because their religious activities appeared to be waning. As I balled up my fists in anger and bit my tongue so as not to blurt out defenses, I realized the accuser was sadly living under a yoke; possibly one fashioned for them by someone else. I began to pray that this person would be set free - if they were able to judge someone else so easily, how much more harder do they judge themselves?

This condemnation and self hatred is the very thing that keeps us from knowing God intimately or leading anyone else to sit at His feet. Jesus made it clear that He came to lift the yoke so we could be set free for a life of freedom - see John 10:10. Freedom isn't just for personal enjoyment; when we are free we have the ability to take the burdens from everyone around us by way of speech and action - just like the sweet little kids who want to honor their grandma by donating to their egg money to the Alzheimer's foundation. Their little $1 bills will lift the burden or yokes for another family weighed down. Let us learn from their hearts and take the yokes from folks rather than fashion new ones.