#237: If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up with A Donkey!

The Danger of Yoked Relationships

The issue of yoked relationships in business is one of those Biblical principles that are easy to comprehend, but difficult to administer in real life.

Yoked Relationships Ox

This is especially true when a sure-fire opportunity to make an enormous amount of money comes via a partnership with a nonbeliever, and you must make a decision in the cold, hard dawn of reality: do you, or don’t you?

The verse that causes all this controversy is 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

So, what exactly does the phrase, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” mean? Let’s start back in Deuteronomy 22:10 where Moses instructed Israel, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”

The yoke was a heavy beam that was strapped across the upper shoulders and around the neck of the animals to tie them together. The yoke was then harnessed to a plow or wagon. As the animals walked, the weight of the wagon or plow pulled on the harness through the center of the yoke between the two animals.

The selection of animals to be yoked together was given a great deal of thought. For example, animals of the same type were paired together; oxen with oxen, donkeys with donkeys.

The animals also needed to be about the same size and strength. If one animal were taller than the other, the smaller animal would bear the greater load and soon become tired. If one animal were stronger than the other, it would pull ahead of the weaker animal.

And finally, the animals needed to have a similar temperament. You were asking for trouble if you tied two strong willed animals together. One needed to be a leader, the other needed to be willing to follow.

If all these conditions were not met, the animals would be “unequally” yoked, and would not be able to get as much work done as a better-matched pair of animals.

So, what do Moses’s instructions to farmers and Paul’s to the Corinthians have to do with us in today’s business? Plenty!

What Constitutes a Yoke?

Of the sixty-six times that the Bible refers to a yoke, it is only used eight times in conjunction with animals. The other 58 times the word “yoke” is used it is regarding a burden or relationship with people and God

A yoke then is any relationship that formally ties two people together where the actions of one can directly affect another.

We have three basic legal forms in today’s business; proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. In a proprietorship with employees, there is a relationship between employees and the employer. In the corporation, there are employee/employer relationships, as well as relationships with stockholders. In the partnership, there is a relationship between the partners and the employees.

Is Partnership a Yoke?

There are at least eight legal forms of partnership. Generally speaking, they can be divided into two classifications; general and limited.

In a general partnership, partners are active or have the right to be active in the partnership. In the limited form, a partner only has an investment interest, without any right or say in the operation of the business.

General partnerships, regardless of the legal form, constitute yoked relationships because there is a formal agreement between two or more parties regarding the operation of a business. Clearly then, general partnerships constitute a yoke. Believers should avoid general partnerships with nonbelievers.

Limited partnerships do not usually constitute a yoke because the limited partner has no say in the operation of the partnership.

Is Stock Ownership a Yoke?

For most of us the answer to the question, “Is stock ownership a yoke?” is “No.” A few shares of a company held as an investment do not constitute a yoke. You could, after all, dissolve the relationship with a simple call to your broker.

But what if you hold a majority stock interest in a company and are an employee? What about a closely held corporation where there are few owners who have equal shares?

The guiding principle is this; does the relationship bind you legally to the company or other shareholders? If you have a majority stock interest and are an employee, you probably have a legal fiduciary relationship.

If in a closely held corporation, the intent is to create a relationship between shareholders for the purpose of sharing responsibilities and profits, then you have a partnership whether the word partnership was used or not.

Is the Employee/Employer Relationship a Yoke?

The employee/employer relationship does not constitute a yoke. The employer has authority over the subordinate employee.

As an employee, you need to maintain your integrity in all business relationships. As Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Your work should be your witness to the world.

The possible exception to the employer/employee relationship as being a yoke might exist when an employee is under a contract to the employer. For example, an actor, model, consultant, etc. If an employment contract is involved, you might find yourself in a yoked relationship. Be very careful with employment contracts, and remember the guiding principle; is the purpose of the relationship a partnership?

What About Existing Relationships?

The advice to not enter into a relationship in the future is easy to take, but what about relationships you’re in already? Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us some insight as he discusses what to do in a marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:12-13), “…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”

The principle is if you are in a relationship with a nonbeliever you should stay in it unless the relationship threatens your spiritual values. Paul goes on to say, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances…” (1 Cor. 7:15). If a nonbelieving partner wants to leave the partnership, you should let him.

What do you do if the nonbelieving partner is a family member, perhaps a parent, or a child? The same principles apply. If you are in a relationship that does not compromise your spiritual values, you should try to make the relationship work, “…each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:18). Perhaps the relationship you’re in is just where the Lord wants you to be to accomplish His work!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of yoked relationships and five tips for creating a successful partnership.

You can download the whitepaper here: Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you been unequally yoked in a business relationship? If so, what made the relationship successful or what made it difficult for you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills |Structure/Organization

#185: What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

First of all, let’s understand that people are promoted from the ranks to the first level of management for one of several reasons; they demonstrate the ability to lead others, they do their current jobs very well, they demonstrate an ability to carry out the responsibilities of the supervisor’s job, they are the most senior person in the office, or they are the CEO’s nephew.


Regardless of how they got there, the issue is, “What supervision skills do you need to be successful?” The answers to this question are as varied as people themselves. Yet develop them you must if you expect to succeed.

The role of a supervisor is generally broken down into five areas: planning, staffing, organizing, directing, and controlling. Developing skills in each of these areas will provide well-balanced supervisors who add value to your organization.

Nehemiah, the Supervisor with Super-Vision

Nehemiah provides a Biblical model of an excellent supervisor. He had risen from the ranks of the captives to the king’s cup-bearer. As such, Nehemiah was frequently in the king’s presence and was a very influential man in the Persian empire.

In November 446 B.C., Nehemiah’s brother came to him to describe the situation in Jerusalem; the city walls and gates were broken down, and marauding tribes were plundering the city and assaulting the people. During all this, the leaders of the city did nothing.

Ezra had led a remnant back to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. They had begun the work of rebuilding the city but were stopped by King Artaxerxes. Under Nehemiah’s supervision, the same people were able to accomplish the work that had not been accomplished in the prior 12-years and they did it in only 52 days.

Why was Nehemiah successful when others had failed? The answer, his skills as a supervisor.


More work can be accomplished by accident by a group with a plan, than a group without a plan can accomplish on purpose.

When Nehemiah approached the king he had a complete plan prepared for what he needed from the king and the length of time it would take to complete the work. He knew that he would need timber from the king’s forest, letters for safe conduct, and soldiers from the king’s army.

After Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he did not go immediately to the city leaders and call them on the carpet. Instead, he quietly spent three days surveying the city and laying out specific plans.

When he had completed his planning he got all the leaders together to explain the situation and the need for the work that he had planned, “You see the trouble we are in; Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Neh. 2:17).

Note, Nehemiah did not say, “You go build this wall.” He said, “Come let us.” The people’s response to him was, “Let us start rebuilding” (Neh. 2:18).

In today’s parlance, he had a vision for what he wanted to do and he got “buy-in” to the vision from the leaders of the city.


Once plans for the work have been outlined the supervisor must staff the organization. In many cases, the workers are already employed but they need to be assigned their responsibilities.

Nehemiah wisely involved all of the people of Jerusalem in the rebuilding project. He had goldsmiths, priests, perfume-makers, guards, and merchants among the people working on the walls and gates. Women worked next to men. Community leaders worked next to servants.

Perhaps the most interesting strategic decision he made was to have each individual repair the area in front of their own home. These people were not experts at wall-building or gate-hanging but when faced with the work to be done in front of their own homes and businesses they took extra care and pride in completing the work quickly and with precision.


The job of directing involves much more than simply giving directions to employees. But even if this is all there was to it the plain fact is most performance related problems stem from the poor direction of the supervisor to the employee.

When Sanballat and Tobiah saw that the work on the wall was proceeding quickly they developed a plan to disrupt the work by attacking the workers.

Nehemiah heard about the plan and immediately took action; he had half of the workers standing guard and the other half working, he had each man armed, he had the man who sounded the trumpet with him at all times, he had all the people of the city stay inside the city at night, and he had guards posted day and night.


Part of a supervisor’s job is the need to administer discipline. Nehemiah had no tolerance for those who did not share the work of rebuilding the city. Nehemiah wasted no time in taking disciplinary action. He did not wait until the wall was half-done to kick Sanballat, Geshem, and Tobiah out of the city.

You do not read about Nehemiah assigning jobs and then retreating to the palace. On the contrary, Nehemiah had the man who sounded the trumpet with him at all times so he must have been outside on the wall, watching the workers. He was a very early example of MBWA, “Management by Walking Around.”

One Final Thought

Nehemiah was a man of God. From the moment he heard about the problem in Jerusalem he began praying and seeking God’s direction. When he was faced with difficult situations, he prayed. When faced with trouble from those who wanted to stop his work, he prayed. When the work was finished, he prayed. Importantly, he also led the city back to a commitment to God.

Could it be that the failure of previous leaders to rebuild the city was due to their lack of faith in God to enable them to do the work? Perhaps. But one thing is very clear. Nehemiah accomplished what he accomplished because he kept his focus on God. A man who trusted and relied on God all the time.

When we are in the crush of a deadline it is our natural inclination to exercise our might to accomplish our work, rather than taking a moment to seek God’s counsel. A really good supervisor understands that taking the time to seek God’s will is the most important supervisory skill of all.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of the skills you need to be a successful supervisor:

  • Planning.
  • Staffing
  • Organizing.
  • Directing.
  • Controlling.

You can download the free 6-page whitepaper here: What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Is there a supervision skill you think is most important? Why?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?



Category: Skills | Structure/Organization