4 Ways to Flee Sexual Temptation

Written By James Bunyan 

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life: he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except Frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a Christian Union staff worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

 

I read about a recent pastors’ conference in the United States where, during the Q&A session, the inevitable question came to the old preacher sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage: “What is the one thing you want younger pastors to know?” The preacher put his head in his hands for several minutes to think. He then lifted his head and simply said, “Never touch another man’s wife.”

Now that shouldn’t surprise us. Adultery wrecks lives. And it’s actually a familiar scene. In fact, Proverbs opens with an old father sitting with a son, sharing some hard-earned wisdom. And, similarly, out of everything he could share, he warns his son to avoid adultery. It’s honest, it’s caring, it’s brilliantly written, and it gives us a few helpful pointers for avoiding sexual immorality* ourselves.

 

1. Don’t go anywhere near!

“At the window of my house
I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.”
Proverbs 7:6-9

This poor sap’s first mistake is obvious. He knows the adulteress is there and he is walking along “the street near her corner . . . in the direction of her house.” In other words, he is bound to bump into her and a story that ends with his destruction wouldn’t have begun if he had just walked another way.

Unlike the “youth with no sense”, make sure you don’t go near situations that you know are going to tempt you to do something wrong. Don’t follow the first slightly-less-innocent link you see late at night. Don’t watch movies with your girlfriend on a laptop in bed. Don’t go for a drink with your married colleague. It’s far easier to simply avoid certain situations than it is to get out of them later.

I heard of one new university student who promised a friend back home that he would phone him if ever he was tempted to do something he would regret. Well, a few weeks into term, he realised that one of the girls in his halls was pretty keen on him and kept trying to get alone with him. One night, she decided to do something drastic: she walked into his room, late at night, in just a towel—and dropped the towel.

The student, at first, wasn’t precisely sure of what he should do. So he got up, trying hard not to look at the naked girl in his room, walked across the room and picked up his phone and rung his friend. His friend told him not to panic but if he just went for a 30-minute walk, he would find her gone when he returned.

So that’s what he did. And she was gone when he returned.

I love that simplicity. I’m sure that’s not how she expected the evening to go and, funnily enough, she never brought it up again.

 

2. Don’t be flattered!

“Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
(She is unruly and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
‘Today I have fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
I have covered my bed
with coloured linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deeply of our love until morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home until full moon.’ ”
Proverbs 7:10-20

The adulteress makes such an effort to make him feel special! She kisses him in the street, she says she’s been looking for him, she has decorated her bed, she promises him a long night of love and, bizarrely, she claims she’s even done her religious duties and sacrifices.

But she’s a liar. She’s “crafty”. No matter how special she promises to make him feel, it won’t be as good as she promises and he is not the only one for her. Don’t forget, she probably made her husband, who has gone away on business, feel just as special one day, possibly even a few hours previously. As her feet “never stay at home”, who knows who else she has made to feel special?

And what’s true of this adulteress is true of other sexual temptations. The lie of pornography, for instance, is that you can enjoy a special few hours with a beautiful person you probably wouldn’t have been able to pull normally. But the reality is that the same video arousing you has aroused thousands of different people alongside you. And what the video doesn’t show you is the sexual abuse involved in the porn industry. It doesn’t show you the crowd of production staff watching every moment. It doesn’t show you the girls vomiting off camera. It doesn’t show you the medication necessary for all those takes. It’s a lie.

And when put like that, your special night does become a very grubby few minutes.

 

3. Don’t be short-sighted!

“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.”
Proverbs 7:21-23

Well, the simple bloke is sold; he follows her inside, happily swapping lasting happiness for an evening of passion. But, like all sin, it’s short-sighted and short-lived. This will lead to his destruction.

The reality is that sexual immorality promises life but delivers death. It leads to broken relationships, broken trusts, broken lives. Sleeping with someone else’s wife might be electric for a time but it will leave both of you broken, not to mention what it does to your standing before God. And in practice, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t regret cheating once they’ve done it.

So before you do what you’re tempted to do, just take a second to think ahead. Is this going to leave you feeling sick in the morning? Will this mean you won’t be able to look your future spouse in the eye one day? Do you want to be that kind of person? As my old vicar used to say, “the problem with living for the moment is that you very often screw up the next one”.

 

4. Don’t get complacent!

“Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.”
Proverbs 7:24-27

And so the father turns back to his son, urging him to pay attention to the warning. After all, the old man in his wisdom knows that, although all this may seem pretty obvious, people still fall for it. Sexual immorality is far too common, even among Christians—“many are the victims she has brought down.” The son would do well not to be so complacent as to assume he’ll be stronger than everyone else.

And this doesn’t just go away in marriage. Some might assume that once you’re hitched, sexual immorality is a thing of the past. But, after being married for two years now, I am convinced that all your problems don’t simply melt away! Discipline still matters and, not only could it be far too easy to take your spouse for granted, but it becomes more important than ever to not take a second look at someone and to stay far away from certain websites and situations. It’s not just myself that I’d be hurting now.

The reality is that the stakes could not be higher. The God of the Bible promises life in all its fullness to those who love Him. He promises that His people will one day sit by His side, having inherited all that belongs to His Son. He promises that they will see Jesus face to face in a place where perfect relationships are totally normal. And He gives us marriage in this life as a temporary, imperfect picture of His great love for His people. Loving commitment in marriage is good because it echoes God’s loving commitment to people that will stretch into eternity.

You don’t want to endanger that.

 

*I know that adultery and all other kinds of sexual immorality aren’t exactly the same. But the Bible, or Jesus himself, would often lump adultery together with all other kinds of “sexual immorality” as simply wrong. Sex is for binding husband and wife together as one and the Bible doesn’t recognise any other kind of sexual activity as good. So, Proverbs isn’t just for avoiding adultery; it’s for fleeing any kind of sexual immorality.

Starting Work? Here’s 3 Must-have Attitudes

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India, went for higher studies to Melbourne, Australia and then stayed on for 12 years and worked in the Banking and Finance Industry there. At the same time, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer and Bible teacher in his local church. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s call and is currently involved in training Christian workers for effective ministry within the Indian context. He loves reading, listening to music and long country drives.

I’ve been down this road many times before. I did my postgraduate studies full-time and worked part-time as a lecturer in my university. Then the roles reversed and I worked full-time in banking and studied theology part-time. After that, I went from full-time work to full-time theological study and then back to full-time work.

Each time I made those transitions, the experiences were different and always beset with new and varied challenges. What I’ve observed in my own life and with others is that when we transition from study to work, we take certain attitudes, habits and behaviors with us into the workplace. Soon we find to our utter disappointment that those things don’t fit there. We realize that working life comes with a new and different set of challenges.

Some cope well—and hats off to them—but some others get disillusioned, discouraged and often give up. Others go to the other extreme and become ambitious and strive hard to be over-achievers. This leads to its own set of pitfalls such as neglect of family, poor health, undue stress, addictions, and a constant fear of failure.

So how do we handle this transition from studying to working? How can we develop that which is essential to handle these new challenges that come our way and how can we continue to remain a follower of Christ in the workplace or business world? I’ve listed three attitudes that are non-negotiables when handling such a transition.

 

1. Be Authentic

Proverbs 14:23 warns us against empty words: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. Pretense, in whatever shape or form, shows up eventually. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” So, regardless of how you’ve aced that job interview by parroting responses to routine questions, or put up a masquerade at work pretending you’re someone you’re not, there comes a point where you will be found out for who you really are. Being authentic is important because that will keep us in good stead along life’s journey.

What does it mean to be authentic? Simply put, it means you don’t pretend to be someone else on the outside. Rather, you are truthful, honest and straightforward. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are insensitive to others around you; instead you exercise wisdom in all your dealings—and who better to teach you wisdom than God Himself?

In my own corporate experience as a senior project manager who regularly handled post-sales situations, I sometimes found myself in a tight spot. I knew that what had been sold to the customers by my predecessor was not the ideal product for them. So I had a choice to make: Do I just do my job and leave it as a problem for someone else to handle, or do I rectify the mistake and go the extra mile (often with lots of extra work involved) to provide something that will benefit the end customer?

To me, that decision came easily and naturally because I wanted to honor Christ, who had blessed me with that job, in the workplace. I also knew that by my actions, I was upholding the reputation of my employer. Whether those noble actions get you into the good books of your boss or not, always remember that we serve an “Audience of One” and your job is to please Him above everyone else. The Apostle Paul encourages us to do exactly that in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”.

 

2. Be Accountable

As a student, you are often accountable to no one but yourself. You can stay up late, wake up any time you like, turn up for classes if you feel like it or turn in your assignments late. In a student’s life, the constant temptation is to slack off in areas of accountability and responsibility.

But in the corporate or business world, accountability is pivotal. Workers are accountable to management, who in turn must answer to senior management, who are accountable to the Board and the Board to the investors. Even independent traders need to be accountable to their customers, the law, the government etc.

As we all know, being accountable doesn’t come easy. We often like to take things into our own hands. In fact, we may dislike or even detest anyone to whom we may have to give an account for what we do or how we do it.

Consider this: right from creation, when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and sinned, they were held accountable for their actions. Bad decisions or actions have negative consequences, but we must find the courage to own up and set things right. We must strive to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we take responsibility for what we do. If we are accountable to someone, then we ought to respect them and their authority over us.

Much of the conflict that happens around us is down to our fallen human nature and our stubborn refusal to be accountable. Always remember that we are also accountable for our feelings, thoughts and actions to God, and so we conduct ourselves in a way that brings Him honor and glory.

 

3. Be Excellent

Going to work each day can be a drudgery for many. We struggle through it since there are bills to pay, loans to clear, family members to feed, elderly parents to care for and a myriad of other basic needs to be met. Regardless of what factors compel us to work, the attitudes that we take to work is what matters most. I find from personal experience that when I take a bad attitude to work, it affects me and everyone around me negatively. I tend to be harsh, negligent, arrogant or half-hearted at work.

But if I take a spirit of excellence into my work, with an intention to do my work to the best of my abilities for my employer and for the Kingdom of God, it just turns my day around. I am able to greet people with a genuine smile, talk to them from the heart, care for them and show my concern in practical ways. It brings a joy deep within me that positively affects everyone around me.

My personal motto has been that I want to do my very best at work, not because I get paid for it, but because by doing it, I am being faithful to God and also my employer. Such an attitude brings many blessings along my path but more than that, it gives me a chance to reflect the nature of God at my workplace. This then gives me unsolicited opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus in meaningful and practical ways.

It is often said, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people read”. In many workplaces where matters of faith are often not talked about or are seen as being intrusive, having an excellent spirit will speak for itself and give you favor among your peers and employers. Excellence begins deep down in our hearts with intentionality and purpose and works itself out through our thoughts, behaviors and actions.

We can be encouraged by God’s word in Titus 2:7-8 to do what is good, and show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech in our teaching so that those who oppose us will have nothing bad to say about us. Won’t that be a powerful and impactful testimony in the workplace?

 

Transitions are not easy, but with God at the center of your life and armed with the right attitudes, you can manage those transitions well and help others along the way too.

So You Think You Have the Best Bucket List?

Written By Karen Kwek

A lifelong scribbler, Karen enjoys the company of friends, a great cup of tea and seeing the gospel transform hearts and lives. She worked as a book editor until she and her husband traded peace and quiet for parenthood. It seemed a good idea at the time.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Recently my sons’ school principal addressed his students with this line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”, recognizing that with their best years lying ahead of them, life is full of wonder and possibility.

And not just for the young. In the 2007 film that coined the “bucket list” phrase, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson played two terminally ill men setting out to fulfil a list of things they each want to see or do before dying.

Since then, helped by social media, the bucket list has become an enduring thing. The sharing of all kinds of personal experiences, from travel and adventure to the artistic and culinary, not to mention photographs enhanced by every filter known to Instagram, makes for no lack of bucket list ideas and recommendations.

Today there are even specialized bucket lists, so that each of your must-do categories can have its own Top 10—10 Places To See; 10 Bestsellers To Read; 10 Extreme Sports To Try . . . In fact, why stop at 10? Sample the best that this world offers, and you can then die happy!

As Christians, should our bucket lists look the same as everyone else’s? At first, we might ask why not. After all, this world in its present form is passing away, and compared to eternity, our earthly lifetimes will be gone in a flash. Since Jesus has saved us for eternal life with God, what harm can it do to enjoy everything that He’s given us in the here and now? Surely these awesome experiences are all reminders of a powerful and loving God.

On my own list have long been a few special places—the lands where Jesus lived, as well as Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and Petra the Nabatean city in rock. I’d also like to watch an illusionist perform live, navigate a river in a houseboat, and hunt for truffles in Italy with friends and a trained dog!

But as I look again at these things, I realize that although enjoying creation and our God-given life is a valid expression of our relationship with God, the world’s obsession with the bucket list is based on some assumptions that may not hold up on closer examination:

 

1. Those who are not working through a bucket list are missing out.

Now, I know it’s very likely that Galilee, Dorset, Petra and Italy will not last forever. Certainly the apostle Peter writes of the destruction by fire of the earth and heavens and everything in them (2 Peter 3:10-12) when Jesus returns. We are told, however, that “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). The earth will not stay destroyed.

Although the Bible doesn’t go into many details about what the renewed world will be like, we have every reason to believe that it, too, will be a physical, embodied world with, well, impressive topography! Dare I hope that some of earth’s amazing places will be recreated, only even better?

If this is so, no one who is saved by Christ will be missing out on any of these life’s experiences at all. Even if the new earth is nothing like the old, there will surely be even better things to do or see there! To borrow an idea from the world of software development, who goes back to the beta-version once the live release is out?

 

2. Bucket list experiences can be enjoyed only during this lifetime.

The assumption here is that life is fleeting and best spent living to the fullest before we’re six feet under and it’s all too late. Indeed, life is short, but just as the world will not stay destroyed when Jesus returns, Christians will not stay dead! The apostle Paul describes our immortal resurrection bodies as spiritual, that is, not immaterial but instead animated by the Holy Spirit, perfectly suited to the new heaven and new earth that will last forever.

This means that any mountaintop on the new earth could still be fair game for those of us who would like to climb it with imperishable legs! My husband and children also like to imagine the kind of beyond-Michelin-stars foods there might be at the great wedding dinner mentioned in Revelation 19:9!

 

3. Bucket list experiences make us into better people.

As the torchbearers of a carpe diem spirit, bucket list champions usually come across as people who are keen to try new things, challenge stereotypes, confront their fears or step outside their comfort zones. We’d probably like to think that they’re people who know what they want and can muster the determination to pursue it. We’re tempted to buy into the assumption that these not-to-be-missed experiences will be somehow life-changing and character-transforming, helping us become the kind of people we long to be.

But as Christians, it’s worth asking: What kind of people should we long to be, and how do we suppose this change happens? By grace, through faith, Jesus has already enacted a crucial change in our status before God. We who were once dead in our sin are now alive in Christ, through no merit or effort of our own (Ephesians 2:8). Consequently, the apostles urge us to live “a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (4:1), making every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with God (2 Peter 3:11, 14). Peter reminds us that we already have in the gospel everything we need to live a godly life, because we know Jesus!

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Although bucket list experiences may provide us with some unique insights, it turns out that growing into the kind of people God is pleased to use won’t necessarily involve swimming with orcas or hiking to the Iguazú Falls. I’m not saying that God never chooses to test our mettle Jonah-style, but most of us will find that training in the virtues of godly living and Christian character comes from practicing God’s Word in our day-to-day relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. It is in these contexts that qualities such as goodness, self-control, brotherly affection and love are really tested and strengthened.

 

So, is there a better bucket list?

But before you yell, “Killjoy!” and stop reading, does this mean we should delete our bucket lists and never do or see anything out of the ordinary? I don’t think so, and I am not about to prescribe a one-size-fits-all “Christian bucket list” for you.

Instead, I have been asking myself how my relationship with God redefines my bucket list and my ultimate goals in this life. What does it mean, in practical terms, to learn to “number our days” (Psalm 90:12), wisely “making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16)? The New King James Version translates this as “redeeming the time”, and the apostle Paul goes on in later verses and Ephesians 6 to explain that this concerns understanding what God’s will is and acting rightly in relationships.

Besides His will that we work at personal godliness, God’s will for humanity is also revealed in His  holding back the end of time for us. As Christians we are reminded to live with the day of Jesus’ return in mind. This is the single event towards which all of human history is hurtling! And lest we forget just why God is not bringing it on sooner, Peter writes that God has a very different perspective of time compared to ours: He is not slow to keep His promise to return; rather, He is patient, wanting people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Human historical time is not random; it is purposed for the unfolding of His salvation plan! God is not simply killing time but filling it with redemptive purpose, calling His people to Him, one sinner at a time. And so, in these times where sin is present, there is redemptive work to be done in the sense that people urgently need to know Jesus.

It seems to me, then, that since God’s will in human historical time is to see as many turn to Him as possible, I can re-evaluate my bucket list in at least these two ways:

 

Time

Is my view of time aligned with God’s? How long would it take for me to achieve every single item on my bucket list, and could that time be more wisely spent on relationships that bring others to Jesus or encourage them in their Christian journey? Writer David Andrew puts it this way in Christian publication The Briefing #273: “Christians should be arguing for seeing life as a set of relationships to be brought under the authority of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the prime relationship. Sadly, however, many Christians act no differently to anyone else in their management of time—they maximize the economic rather than the relational.”

 

Other limited resources, such as energy and money

How much of my energy and income would be spent achieving every single item on my bucket list? Realistically, some of the trips and activities that people seek are terribly expensive. Am I willing to invest some (if not most) of that energy and money (or even suffer a loss in income) for the sake of relationships that bring others to Jesus or encourage them in their Christian journey? These considerations have a direct bearing on the kind of job I might choose, how I spend my leisure time, or even whether I see my time raising my children as an opportunity to make disciples for Jesus. Would I be willing to maximize the relational rather than the economic?

After all this reflecting, I’ve pared down my list, and I won’t be upset if I never get to do everything on it in this life. Those things can wait. I’ve also come to realize that on a few occasions when I tried to seek God’s Kingdom first, He graciously gave me experiences which might even be on other people’s bucket lists! (It’s true—one modest example is how my husband’s Bible college studies took us to another country for several years, somewhere we’d otherwise never have experienced as residents. Ask me more another time!) I don’t say this to boast, merely to challenge myself. I’m certainly not there yet, but wouldn’t it be amazing if redeeming the time meant improving my bucket list so drastically that my life’s passions could be Jesus’? Then, if Jesus were to return tomorrow, I wouldn’t have to change a thing about my “one wild and precious life”!

What’s on your bucket list? How could you make it better?

What is God Calling Me To Do?

Written By Daniel Ryan Day, USA

Daniel is the author of two books: Ten Days Without and Intentional Christian. He is also the operations manager of a company that operates a family entertainment center, hotel and restaurant, as well as a blogger at intentionalchristianity.com. Daniel attempts to live out intentional Christianity in North Carolina, as a husband, father, and businessman.

 

There have been so many times in my life when I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, those moments were silly, and getting the answer wrong didn’t have significant consequences. Like this past Christmas, when I got way too stressed out trying to figure out the perfect Christmas present for every person on my gift list. I mean, really. What’s the worst that could happen?

But there have been other moments when I felt like the decision I faced was life-changing, and if I chose the wrong road, it could mean missing out on what I was supposed to do with my life.

I think my culture places a lot of pressure on young adults to figure out the rest of their lives when they are between the ages of 18 and 24—especially when it relates to choosing an occupation. As a result, we are left with over-stressed teenagers, degree-less college students, and young adults (some in their 30s and 40s even) who bounce from job to job trying to figure out the answer to the question: What am I supposed to do with my life?

For Christians, there’s a deeper longing within us than just the desire for a purposeful and fulfilling occupation: Christians are also searching for God’s will for their lives, because we believe that God should have something to say about our future. We think the choice of a job is not fully up to us.

But what if God never tells us what He wants us to do? What are we supposed to do if God seems eerily silent whenever we ask Him to tell us what He wants for our lives?

That’s how it was for me. I begged God to tell me His will for my life. I was willing to do whatever He wanted me to do; I was willing to move wherever He wanted me to move. But He was quiet—too quiet. Just like the foreboding scene in a thriller movie that comes right before someone dies. Maybe I’m going to die. I hope not.

 

This is God’s Will For Your Life

Because I couldn’t find the answers to these questions, I became frustrated with God. Have you ever been frustrated with God before? Well, I was. In fact, I got so frustrated that I Googled it—yes, I actually Googled, “What is God’s will for my life?”

I landed on a webpage with a list of Scripture passages. After reading the first verse on the list, I nearly threw my computer out of the window. It was Jeremiah 29:11, which said that God had a plan for my life.

“I know God has a plan!” I yelled out loud. “The problem is that He won’t tell me what it is!”

I read the next verse listed, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” What?! I had been searching for the will of God for I-don’t-know-how-long, and it was right here in the Bible the entire time! It made me wonder what else I’d missed, and what other callings might exist. I started searching.

Later in that same book, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I found this verse: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And then I noticed 1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

The more I searched, the more I found, and I soon discovered that the description of God’s will for our lives was quite long—super long. So long, in fact, that I started to feel overwhelmed by the call of God. How could I remember, much less do all of these things?

But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a promise that Jesus made to all who would follow Him: “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).

During Jesus’ time, a yoke was a wooden bar that was placed on the neck of an ox, allowing it to pull a heavy load. Often, two oxen were yoked together so they could pull twice as much.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who still uses a yoke and oxen to pull heavy loads. So I like to think of this verse in light of the baggage tractors I see at airports. Have you ever looked out of a plane window—or watched a movie that takes place at an airport—and noticed the baggage trains? Usually there’s a tractor followed by four or five baggage cars full of suitcases. Think of a yoke as one of those tractors. It’s got to be a pretty heavy load, right?

As I was reading through Scripture and taking note of the many commandments, expectations, and callings that God had for me, it was like adding a new suitcase to the baggage train. By the time I was finished, I had a lot of baggage cars on my train, and they were all full of the specifics of God’s will for my life. It was a heavy load.

But Jesus said that His yoke—all the responsibilities and expectations of what it means to follow Him—was supposed to be easy and light. So if I am burdened by what it means to follow God, something’s wrong.

 

The Greatest Calling and the One Like It

The truth is that Jesus simplified our calling for us. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

I think that Jesus not only gave us the greatest commandment, but in this passage, He also outlined what I call the greatest calling. First and foremost, you and I are called to walk in relationship with God. Instead of having to remember a long list of do’s and don’ts—like a long train of baggage cars—Jesus removed the heavy burden of the law of Moses from our shoulders and gave us a simple summary of the purpose of our lives.

What is this purpose? It is simply this: Love God and love others. That is the greatest calling, and if you remember nothing else, I hope you remember this truth: God has called you—and that’s His will for your life—to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.