I never understood the story of Samson and Delilah, even when I was a child. Don’t get me wrong – it was an intriguing enough story; a man who had such power coming from just his hair. And as I grew older, I couldn’t help but picture Samson a la Man Bun (don’t tell me you can’t see it), a sort of Sinbad-esque figure, slaying beasts. But despite my hyper imagination, the story was one that still left me with one burning question:
What the heck was wrong with this dude?
It’s one thing to have a deceptive wife, but it’s a whole other thing to be married to someone who is CLEARLY trying to get you killed.
If you’ve never heard the story, think Romeo and Juliet… except if Juliet was a conniving, backstabbing wife. It goes that Samson, this powerful man of God with the strength of an entire army, marries this woman Delilah. Now, the thing that should be noted here is that we really have no idea who this woman is – we just know she’s from the Valley of Sorek. But given Samson’s previous taste in women, and her close relations with the Philistine leaders, Biblical scholars think it’s safe to assume that Delilah was Philistine. Of course, you should already be raising a eyebrow at this point because the Israelites and the Philistines aren’t exactly the most chummy of neighbors, and in fact, the Philistines at this point in the Bible are out for Samson’s head because he’s had a track record of knocking them out like flies.
So after Samson makes this interesting choice for wife, the Philistines approach Delilah and ask that she finds out the secret of Samson’s power so they can finally defeat him. So time and time again, Delilah seduces Samson, asking that he reveal the secret of his strength, and time and time again, he lies (like any good husband would, of course. Already signs of a great relationship…)
But here’s where it gets weird: each time Samson lies about the strength of his power, he maybe-not-so-surprisingly gets attacked BY HIS WIFE DELILAH! When he tells her he has to be bound by seven fresh bowstrings, she BINDS HIM WITH SEVEN FRESH BOWSTRINGS then calls the Philistines on him. When he tells her being bound by new ropes will defeat him, SHE BINDS HIM IN NEW ROPES. And this weird seduction-deception game goes on for a while.
Now, if you’re anything like me, at this point you’re confused. Samson should know by now Delilah is no good for him and his man bun. But he is somehow weirdly attached to her. And if you continue to read the story in Judges 16, he finally gave into her, shared his secret, and in just the span of 20 verses, Samson, the mightiest warrior to ever live, is defeated… by his love for a woman.
I don’t think there’s a better story in the Bible (though I could name a few) that illustrates the perils of being unequally yoked.
Do me a favor and imagine for a second that you’re a cow.
(Yes, I promise this will all make sense in a minute, just work with me here.)
You, my dear cow, have the choice of which of your fellow cattle will help you pull the plough to get the work of tilling the farm land done. The land before you is HUGE and the task is seemingly daunting, so of course you’re looking for the biggest baddest bull out there to help you carry the load (or carry it all alone while you just trail behind, looking pretty).
But let’s say you don’t find the biggest, baddest bull, or even one that matches your own strength, but there’s this cute, scrawny one who, if you squint just right, could kind of pass for the Taye Diggs of cattle (don’t hate on my taste preferences y’all, just create your own imagery). He’s nice. He treats his mom right. Doesn’t have much experience with the plough, but seems willing enough to give it a try. So you’re like, what the heck! And you decide to settle down with Taye 0.2.
Only what you don’t take into account is the way the yoke functions. See, the yoke is the piece of wood that holds the two of you together and enables you to pull the plough efficiently. When one [ox] is weaker than the other, it moves slower, and the plough simply goes round and round in circles, leaving the work set before them incomplete.
So here you are, hitched to this perfectly nice, ok-looking bull who cares about you, but simply going round and round in circles.
And that’s what it can be like to live unequally yoked with someone. Of course, I won’t make rash generalizations. I’ve known many couples who started out unequally yoked and ended up growing together along the way, but I can tell you it’s more of the exception and less of the norm, and it is never an easy journey to get to ‘equal’.
There are a few important lessons we can take from these two illustrations:
- Being unequally yoked will cause you to get side tracked and possibly miss out on your purpose like Samson did. Every single time I’ve entertained even the possibility of being with someone who doesn’t take their faith as seriously as I do mine, I’ve started to falter in my own walk. You start compromising on things that are important to you and your spiritual growth in order to follow their lead. The time you spent serving at church on Sunday turns into a standing Brunch date. Wednesday night Bible Study turns into Netflix and Chill. You’ll find yourself replacing time spent seeking God with time spent seeking his/her attention. Like Samson, you will compromise your integrity and what you stand for just to have some semblance of peace and security that soon turns into chaos. An equally yoked relationship should propel you towards God, not draw you away from Him.
- It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to doing life with someone else. You could be the cow being led along by the charming bull… but you also might be the one doing the leading and causing yourself to go round and round in circles. Being unequally yoked isn’t just about not being with someone who doesn’t believe what you do – you can be unequally yoked with another Christian as well. The real question is are you walking together: helping each other grow, recognizing and complementing strengths and weaknesses in each other. You have to ask yourself: Is their lack of spiritual growth retarding yours? Or do you always feel inadequate spiritually when you’re with them, instead of feeling like they are inspiring and encouraging you to go deeper in your relationship with Christ? It takes a delicate sense of awareness and honesty with self to recognize when someone is not meet for you, but it’s a truth you have to face once it surfaces. At the end of the day, everything we do is for purpose, to reach the finish line of the race set before us; and if the person you’re trying to spend your life with can’t/doesn’t want to keep up, or is way ahead and doesn’t have the patience to jog until you can run, you’ll really just be running alone anyway.
- Don’t compromise. This is advice I have to give myself at least thrice annually, and a reminder that God gave me during my fast two weeks ago. God can give you exactly what you need. It’s not about having high standards, it’s about having God standards. And when God places a standard on your heart – like really etches it in there – you will only hurt yourself by caving in and compromising on it. And I’ve been in many situations where the Holy Spirit just wouldn’t allow me to.
If God gave you that desire, He can fulfill it… but you have to give it back to Him. You have to stick by it, no matter how hard it gets or how much you’re tempted to just do things on your own timeline and with whatever you can find. Don’t get side-tracked by the superficial either – money, success, a fashion sense – it’s God who gives these things (trust me, my fashion sense before I got saved for real was shot).