What does this mean to the individual? As Christians, we know that it does not mean that God will protect us from hard work, for in Genesis God ordained that man should live by the “sweat of his brow.” Another translation of this verse could read, “Come to me, all you who are exhausted and weighed down beneath your burden.” To truly understand what this verse means, we must first understand what, in the human condition, causes a man to become exhausted spiritually, physically and emotionally.
Spiritually: A person becomes exhausted when they spend a lifetime searching for God and trying to earn His love by following a long line of meaningless religious laws and vain rituals. They become spiritually weary when all their efforts have been exhausted. Still they find no peace in their soul, no joy in their life, and God is still a faraway and unattainable Being.
Physically: A person becomes exhausted when they, through his their neglect, pushes themselves far beyond their physical endurance or when internal stress depletes their energy reserves.
Emotionally: A person becomes exhausted because exhaustion is the by-product of a person doing all the right things and abiding by all the rules, and yet internal stress leaves them without any means to withstand the stress of their environment.
Christ promised that we would receive rest from this exhaustion, and how we receive this rest is found in Matthew 11: 29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” The yoke that Christ speaks of in this verse is symbolic. In the life and times of Christ, His occupation was that of a carpenter. In those days the chief product of these craftsmen was not building homes but rather fitting and making yokes for the oxen.
Yokes were made so the owner could steer the beast, but this yoke was also made so the animal could work longer and more efficiently by tiring less under his heavy burdens. This mechanism was made of heavy wood, not padded as they are today. Therefore, they had to be measured and fitted perfectly. When two oxen were pulling a load, the yoke was designed for each animal to carry his share equally. When one animal was forced to do this very heavy work, the yoke equalized the load, allowing the animal to pull more with less effort. Christ fitted these yokes perfectly for the animals, but in Matthew 11:30 He tells us that He also fits the yoke perfectly for man.
Christ knew that if the most empty-headed and stubborn of God’s creations could benefit from a perfectly fitted yoke, then man, who is the most intelligent and gifted of God’s creations, could benefit according to the gifts God has given him. The perfectly fitted yoke that Christ speaks about in these verses is the place that God has provided for each and every human that lives. “For my yoke is easy…” is very important for us to understand. In this verse, the word “easy” does not mean requiring little or no sacrifice. According to interpretation, the word Christ used was “Chrestos” which means well-fitting. Therefore, the proper translation is “For my yoke is well-fitting.”
Christ calls the person into the right position as ordained by God and takes into account physical capabilities, spiritual maturity and emotional makeup.
We have learned that for the Christian to reach and learn of Christ, they must have balance in their life. That can only be achieved if the person is in the position where God intends them to be. For example, if a person spends all their time on emotional pursuits, they have no energy left for the spiritual side. If they develop physically, they are denying the other parts and will suffer imbalance in those areas. If a person spends all their time in spiritual pursuits, the physical and emotional sides suffer. The stress caused by this imbalance will prevent them from practicing what they learned in their spiritual pursuits. This balance must go one step further
There must be complete balance in the inner man. The soul and spirit must be in balance or the Christian cannot grow. If the heart is the binding and balancing agent between the soul and the spirit, then there must be complete balance among Inclusion, Control and Affection to keep the soul and spirit in balance. Since the soul is the intermediary between body and spirit, if the soul is out of balance, the body and spirit will also be out of balance.
When we accept the perfectly fitting yoke that Christ has provided for us, rest, peace and joy are the results. Then we are able to learn of Christ. His words and His ways free us from the stress and pressures that plague all of us. The external man can work more efficiently and do more, both for himself and for the Kingdom of God. When we accept the perfectly fitting yoke that Christ has provided for us, the inner man finds balance and is provided with love, joy and peace.