You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. (Deuteronomy 22:10)
In a laundry list of sundry commandments, the Lord instructs the children of Israel to be mindful of their plowing habits to be good to animals. God has a covenant with the animals and expects man to respect the obvious differences in forcing a donkey to plow in a harness with an ox. Oxen have been used for centuries as draft animals to plow, pull, haul, thresh, and power machines for other purposes. They can weigh from 1500 to 3000 pounds. This is in stark contrast to the size of a donkey, which can top out at 500 pounds. The body mass of a donkey compared to an ox is a huge disadvantage for the donkey; the pulling muscle of an ox will overpower a donkey with ease. Harnessing both animals in a single yoke is cruel and useless.
God did not suggest the law of ox and donkey. He commanded this as guidance for plowing. Oxen serve their purposes, and donkeys carry out their labors, but the two should never be yoked together for a common task. God created the oxen as a large animal to carry out the task of plowing and hauling heavy loads. Donkeys serve their purpose but at a different level. He did not want the two animals mixed together trying to do the same task. The larger one will injure the weaker animal. Whatever the job is, the work will be hampered by the constant inequality between the two animals. There is no benefit to yoking an ox with a donkey.
The apostle Paul appeals to the obvious difference between an ox and a donkey as the principal lesson for the Christian’s interaction with the world. There is an admitted difference between the two animals, and there is a difference in the life of the Christian and the world. If Paul had used the metaphor of the ox and the donkey to illustrate his point, he would have used the sheep instead of the donkey. Imagine a man yoking an ox with a sheep. That is the principle of a man who tries to serve Christ and fellowship unbelievers. The Holy Spirit never suggested that the child of God must go out of this world to live but rather learn how to live among the worldly. Yoking the spirit of Christ to the spirit of the world is eternal incompatibility. It should not be done.
Paul is warning against believers being in union with unbelievers. He asked if righteousness could be a partner with wickedness. If the Christian is the light of Christ, how can a man live with darkness unless his light has gone out? There can be no harmony between Christ and the wiles of the devil. When a Christian lives like the world, dresses like the world, acts like the world, and talks like the world; they are yoking themselves with all that is against God. A partnership with the world is enmity with God. No man can be a partner with the world and please God. That would be like the evil kings of Israel did when they put Baal in the House of God. There is no union between God’s temple and idols.
The donkey and the ox should not be yoked together. Paul addresses the worldliness so prevalent in the church then and now when members put one leg in the church and keep the other leg in the world. In truth, both legs are in the world. The Christian and the world should not be yoked together. Pity the donkey because he will be destroyed. The only partner in our yoke is Jesus Christ. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Sharing the yoke with Christ will make you a friend of God.