Replace These Four Yokes with Jesus’ Yoke


His Yoke Is Easy and His Burden Is Light

After Jesus tells us to come to him, he further instructs us to put on his “yoke.” The word “yoke” is a metaphor for the duties, the obligations, and the responsibilities a person takes on and commits to fulfill. In the Old Testament and in Jesus’ day, good Jews took on the yoke of the Law.

We don’t live under the laws of the Old Testament anymore, but we do put on yokes of various types. All of them but one weigh us down, burden our souls, and make peace impossible. Here are some that are very common.

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The Yoke of the Prover

People who wear this yoke are always working to prove their own worth. They feel a need to prove something to themselves, to someone who said they’d never amount to anything, or to some voice in their head that says they must measure up and succeed. Provers feel they need to do more, achieve more, possess more, and/or be seen as more than others. Why? Because then, they are convinced, they will be worthy of respect and happiness. They are certain that once they achieve enough, they will be able to love themselves or that God and others will love them.

The problem is, no matter what the prover does, it is never enough. There is always someone who has more, does more, and is more. There is always another test to pass, another goal to attain, another weakness to overcome. There is always more to prove. So the prover is never able to rest and be at peace.

The Yoke of the Pleaser

The pleaser thinks, If I just do enough for others to make them happy, then I’ll be happy. He or she is convinced, If I just run myself ragged doing what others want me to do, fulfilling every request and never saying no; if I jump through enough hoops, people will love me and God will love me.

The problem is, we were never intended to jump through hoops. We are human beings, not trained seals. We were created to be in healthy relationships founded on mutual respect and caring. Eventually pleasers feel they are being used. They quit doing tricks for the treats of applause and praise. They find themselves not at peace, but worn-out, burdened, and resentful.

The Yoke of the Rescuer

It feels good to be told, “We can’t do it without you.” It makes us feel important when we hear, “We’ve thought about it and prayed about it, and you’re the only one who can do this.” It makes us feel special to spot a problem and think we’re the only one who can see it or who can make it right.

Whenever we put on our capes and sing, “Here I come to save the day,” we feel as though we matter—until we are no longer needed and then we don’t know who we are. Or until we face a problem we can’t fix and then feel like failures.

The Yoke of the Selfist

This is the yoke of the person who says, “I live for me. My pleasures, my plans, and my happiness come first.”

People who live for themselves usually end up by themselves, alone and miserable. When our primary goal is to be happy, we almost always discover just how wretched life can be. That’s because we were made for a world whose span is bigger than a self-embrace. And if the world of a self-embrace is large enough to make a person happy, he must be a very tiny person indeed.

The yokes that are placed on us by others or that we put on ourselves all promise life and happiness. But none of them bring peace or rest. In fact, all they bring is striving, insecurity, weariness, resentment, and emptiness.

Take a moment and think deeply. Which yoke are you wearing? How did you come to take it on? What has it given you? Is it the life and the peace you desire?

The Yoke of Jesus

Before I describe this yoke, I want you to see who decides which yoke you wear. Jesus said, “Come to me . . . Take my yoke upon you” (emphasis added).
The choice is yours. You decide to whom you will go for life. You decide which yoke you will take on. Your childhood or a dysfunctional relationship may have led you to take on the yoke of a prover, a pleaser, a rescuer, or a selfist. Doing life right is difficult even when we are nurtured by loving relationships. But often children are raised in families where the love is conditional and they are rewarded only when they put on an inauthentic yoke and play a twisted role that serves the needs of others.

But once we say our childhood, or our circumstances, or the pain we have suffered is responsible for the lives we are living and the yokes we are wearing, we are also saying that we are not responsible for our lives. We give ourselves permission to be irresponsible with our lives, to become passive and complacent about where we are, and to live defeated.

Jesus’ Yoke. Your Choice.

You are responsible for your life, not your circumstances, not your past, not your spouse—you. You are certainly not responsible for what has been done to you, but you are responsible for how you move forward in life. Believe that; claim that; be responsible for that. You are a human being. You are the most resourceful and creative being God has brought into existence. And you have the ability to make decisions that will overcome your past, change your present, and lead to a future that is good and full.

You can choose to wear a yoke different from the one life has placed upon you. With God’s help you can recognize that the yoke you have been wearing has only made life a labor and a burden. And you can choose to replace that yoke with the one that will bring you rest—the yoke of Jesus.

What is the yoke that Jesus offers us? Stated simply, the yoke of Jesus is a yoke of love, of relationship.

When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest, he replied that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole being, and the next is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Then he said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:36–40). The reason for the six hundred–plus laws that made up the yoke of the Old Testament and all the teaching of the prophets is love. That’s all that God has ever asked us to do—love him faithfully and love others sacrificially. Love is the yoke God calls us to take on.

When we understand that life is about love, everything changes. Life is transformed from a burden to bear, with endless boxes to check, into an adventure of opening our hearts to God and others. Serving becomes less of a burden and more of a joy. In the process, we are changed.


Need help transitioning away from your circumstances, feelings, and wisdom as indicators of your happiness? This is an excerpt from Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life by Rob Renfroe.

Through this book, you can:

  • Learn seven ways God will sustain you when life is hard
  • Be encouraged to stand strong in the face of adversity
  • Be challenged to understand your spiritual posture as one of victory

What will you build your life upon? In a world that Jesus promises will be full of trouble, where will you turn for the strength to overcome? The unfailing promises of a faithful God provide the strength we need to overcome the world and its trouble. Build your life upon these promises and though the rains come and the storms rage, you will never fall. Get Unfailing from our store here.


Rob Renfroe is the pastor of Adult Discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, north of Houston, Texas. He leads the church’s contemporary worshiping community The Loft and his men’s ministry Quest is attended by 500 men weekly. He is the author of several books, including Unfailing. Rob is the president of Good News, an orthodox renewal movement committed to the spiritual and doctrinal renewal of the United Methodist Church.