A Yoke That Is Kindly and a Load That Is Light
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples.”—Matt. 11:28, 29.
1. What is the state of the world today, and what questions can be asked?
EVERYWHERE you go these days you see people who are tired. They not only come home from work tired and go to bed tired, but they get up in the morning tired and go to work tired. Their faces are lined with circles of exhaustion and their bodies are often bent to the shape of the heavy burdens they bear. Even little children, boys, girls and teen-agers complain about being tired. Why are people so tired these days? What can they do to find refreshment for their souls?
2, 3. (a) Give a number of reasons why people are tired today. (b) How does the Bible describe “all creation,” and why?
2 The old and young are reacting to the intolerable pressures of our times. Just getting to work on time has become an exhausting feat in some locations. The early-morning traffic in cities is a hazard in itself. It is an hour when the courtesy of the road is all but a forgotten gesture. Usually the trains are packed and the buses and subways are jammed with unhappy faces. The production-conscious boss who is strong on efficiency and weak on empathy is hardly an inspiration to face. Then there is the whole unwholesome atmosphere of competition and rivalry on the job, or of speech habits that have become immoral and degrading, or the strain of association with those who lie, cheat and steal from one another without hesitation. Now couple this with the burdens of the high cost of living, increased taxes from year to year, the strains brought on one due to fear—the fear of being robbed, raped or harmed, the fear of losing one’s job, one’s property, or the fear of becoming sick with no one to care—and you begin to sense the tremendous pressures of our times, the load that is on mankind.
3 But this is not all. Add to this the weight brought on by the immoral, degraded and corrupt practices of the political systems, the military and commercial systems, their wars, revolutions and injustices. Couple this with the heavy burdens of world religion, the cost of perpetuating worn-out, worthless, traditional systems, empty cathedrals and faithless ministers. Throw in the burdens brought on by wayward youth, the crime, violence and riots of our era, and one can begin to understand why people are tired. The Bible speaks of “all creation” as “groaning together and being in pain together,” because “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (Rom. 8:22; 1 John 5:19) People are tired of the giant octopuslike system that has ensnared them and is slowly crushing them lifeless. (Rev. 13:16-18) But what can they do about it? How can they come out from under the system and find refreshment for their souls?
THE GRAND INVITATION
4. What solution did Jesus propose for those who are toiling and loaded down?
4 When the Son of God, Jesus Christ, walked the face of the earth over nineteen hundred years ago, there were oppressed people on earth then as there are now. Jesus recognized their plight and proposed a solution. The solution that Jesus gave constitutes the grand invitation to come to him for refreshment for their souls. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) In these beautifully phrased words lies the solution. But to whom was this grand invitation given? And what do these words mean to us living in this twentieth century?
5. (a) To whom was the invitation of Jesus extended in his day? (b) Was the Mosaic law in itself a burden?
5 The invitation is extended to all those who are toiling and loaded down. In Jesus’ day the reference was made specifically to those who were under obligation to the Mosaic law. At Acts 15:10 the Christian apostle Peter, speaking to the older men of Jerusalem, said: “Why are you making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing?” Peter was referring to the Mosaic law as a yoke that obligated them to an unbearable burden. Not because the law in itself was burdensome; it was not. The law was “holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12) But imperfect man found it burdensome because he could not meet its perfect standard. Christ freed all those yoked in this manner from this obligation.—Gal. 3:13.
6-8. To whom else was Jesus’ invitation extended?
6 The grand invitation to “come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down,” was also extended to those burdened down by the vain traditional systems of the day. Speaking of the scribes and Pharisees who fostered these traditions, Jesus said: “They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Matt. 23:4; Mark 7:2-5) By being so particular about the minor details, the Pharisees completely overlooked the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus freed people from such enslaving tradition, which was vain worship.—Matt. 15:1-9.
7 The invitation was also addressed to those who felt the crushing weight of Caesar’s domination and taxation; and to those who felt themselves “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36; 22:17-21) The application of Jesus’ solution would bring refreshment for these too.
8 Jesus also addressed himself to those who felt the weight of their sins through an afflicted conscience. The practice of sin leads to degradation and corruption of the lowest kind, and turns men into the greatest poverty. (Matt. 6:23) These could be freed of their burden by responding to Jesus’ invitation to “come to me.”
THE KINDLY YOKE AND REFRESHMENT
9. How did Jesus get people to respond to his invitation so that they could find refreshment for their souls?
9 How did Christ get people to respond to his invitation so that they could find refreshment for their souls? He did so by revealing to them that refreshment comes not by escaping life’s burdens or work, as many modern-day hippies want to do, but by becoming yoked to Christ and becoming his disciples. He said: “Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, . . . and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) In the footnote of the 1950 edition of the New World Translation, this text reads: “Get under my yoke with me.” People, therefore, are invited to divest themselves of their worldly yokes or ties and get under Christ’s yoke with him in order to find refreshment for their souls. The new yoke would be for them to assume the responsibility that would make them disciples of Jesus Christ.
10. (a) Why can we say that Jesus’ yoke is a kindly one, and in what way does it differ from an oxen’s yoke? (b) Jesus’ invitation is similar to what invitation in the Psalms? (c) How does being yoked to Jesus bring refreshment?
10 The ancient Israelites were an agricultural people familiar with yokes. They, therefore, knew what Jesus was talking about. We must remember, too, that as a carpenter Jesus no doubt made yokes for oxen and collars for people. Such collars were often tailor made to fit around people’s necks and shoulders, with which they carried water and other supplies. The oxen’s yoke, however, is involuntary, but the yoke that Jesus was proposing was voluntary. He invited people to take his yoke upon them and become his disciples. For the Jew this meant willingly coming out from under the Mosaic law to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be yoked with Christ in the service of God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and might, by reason of one’s faith. (Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 1:17) The advice is similar to that invitation in Psalm 55:22: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” As firmly as we can depend upon Jehovah for help, we can also trust the words of the One whom he sent to do his work on earth, namely, Jesus Christ. Jesus revealed that true refreshment comes by exercising faith in him as Jehovah’s provision for salvation. For, “there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Such knowledge nourishes hope. It refreshes one with thoughts of life everlasting in a righteous new system of things.—2 Pet. 3:13; 1 John 1:9; 2:17.
11. What is the refreshment received? And how do we know that the first-century Christians received it?
11 The refreshment is primarily an inward experience, one of joy and knowledge that the disciple of Christ is a child in the family of God by reason of faith and not by works of the Mosaic law. The refreshment is a sharing in Jesus’ own experience of perfect loving obedience to Jehovah by faith and receiving God’s approval from such association. With each turning toward Christ, with each drawing close to him, the weary find refreshment, a cause for rejoicing. The refreshment received is the peace of mind that one enjoys, the deep calming of the heart, a contentment in life that passes all understanding. First-century Christians did experience this refreshment and wrote about it in the Holy Scriptures.—John 14:27; Phil. 4:7.
THE KINDLY YOKE TODAY
12. What is Christ’s yoke today?
12 But what is Christ’s yoke today? It is not a yoke of idleness, nor is it an exemption from work or from any honorable demand, but a way of life with everlasting rewards in view. It is a life that calls for sacrifice and example. (Matt. 16:24-26; 19:16-29) Therefore, it is not an unrestrained life, a life of irresponsibility, a life of “uncharted freedoms,” which life soon chafes and tires, because of its lack of responsibility, accomplishment and attainment. The yoke today, therefore, is the same as it was in Jesus’ day; it is a yoke of complete dedication to God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a way of life, which one lives by faith as a true servant of Jehovah with everlasting life in view.—Heb. 10:7-10; Ps. 40:6-8.
13. How can a Christian today find refreshment for his soul, and what must those do who have not experienced this refreshment?
13 Such a yoke the Christian voluntarily takes on, because it refreshes. One experiences a godly freedom from it. For “if you remain in my word,” said Jesus, “you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.” (John 8:31, 32, 36) To be free and experience refreshment one must, therefore, become a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to gain this experience. (Rom. 7:4; Gal. 5:1) People today who claim to be Christian and who do not experience freedom or refreshment have need to examine their relationship with God, for he is a God who fulfills his promise.—1 Ki. 8:56.
14. In what way is Christ’s yoke kindly?
14 When Jesus invited the weary to become his disciples, he told them that ‘his yoke is kindly and his load is light.’ In what way is his yoke kindly? Some yokes today as in Jesus’ day are lined with soft cloth so that the yoke does not chafe the necks of the oxen. They might be called “kindly yokes” because they show consideration and love. The Christian yoke is kindly because the yoke of dedication is voluntary and because it is lined with the love of God and Christ. Since everyone without exception, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the one with ability and the one without, the old and the young, the one with strength and the one without, can avail himself of this privilege of dedication, this proves that it is a kindly yoke. “God is not partial,” said the apostle Peter, “but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
15. (a) How can we take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves, and why is it a pleasant experience? (b) Why do not worldly yokes satisfy, while Christ’s yoke does?
15 The yoke is Christ’s. “Take my yoke upon you,” he says. We, therefore, are called upon to follow Christ’s example. This is a pleasure, because he describes himself as “mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29; 1 Pet. 2:21) These qualities are set in contrast to the harsh, demanding spirit of worldly authorities. Because Christ is mild-tempered and lowly in heart we do enjoy working with him. His yoke is lined with true love. It does not gall or chafe us as worldly yokes do. Worldly yokes are harsh, cutting and demanding. They chafe and tire, not only because they are harsh, but because one feels no lasting benefit, no true attainment, no real satisfaction in working to satisfy the selfish cravings of wicked men on earth. But when yoked with Christ as one of his disciples, we each have the joy and contentment that comes with serving Jehovah, and this is what satisfies. This awareness of being God’s servant is what brings true refreshment to the soul.—Prov. 10:22.
THE LIGHT LOAD
16. What is the ‘light load’ mentioned by Christ?
16 Jesus assures today’s burdened souls: “My load is light.” (Matt. 11:30) What is this light load? It is the living up to God’s requirements for life. The apostle John wrote: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) “What is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” (Mic. 6:8) Is God asking too much of us when he requests that we be just, loving, kind and modest when walking with him? Are not these the qualities that we enjoy in others? Christians are commanded to preach the good news of God’s kingdom “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations”; to “make disciples of people of all the nations”; to teach them to live in harmony with Bible principles. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) Is this an exceptionally heavy load, too much to bear? Let us see.
17. Why can we say this load is a light one?
17 Bear in mind that this load means we must speak to people about God’s kingdom and teach people how to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Is this too much to ask of us? Almost everyone has the ability to speak in some language, and people generally enjoy speaking about the things that are close to them. In fact, such conversation is inspiring and energizing. Well, then, if the love of God is close to us, will we not want to speak about our God? If we appreciate what his Son Jesus Christ has done for us in supplying us with a perfect example and ransom, will we not want to talk about it? If we fully understand what the kingdom of God will do for all obedient mankind, transforming this earth into a paradise and uplifting humankind to perfection and life everlasting, will we not want others to hear about the good news of God’s kingdom? Of course we will! Things dear to our hearts do not represent a burden, but a refreshment to the soul! And this is especially true with things having to do with God, Christ and his kingdom. In fact, “with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:10.
THE WORK THAT REFRESHES
18. (a) What can those do who think the load of the Christian ministry is a heavy one? (b) What will they witness?
18 However, some may disagree. They may contend that the disciple’s load is not a light one, nor a refreshing one. How can it be proved to them that it is? The Christian can invite such skeptics or doubtful ones along with him into the service of God. Let these watch to see if he is truly refreshed in the ministry. These will see that, when a hearing ear is found and words about the Kingdom are shared, the minister of God is enlivened. His heart actually leaps for joy! How thrilled he is to find a listening ear at the door! How pleased he is when a single piece of literature that tells of God’s kingdom is placed with an interested person! The minister in truth is revitalized. He gains new strength. He walks up and down stairs with renewed vigor. Old and young ministers are affected in the same way. Why are they so energized? Because sharing God’s word of life brings refreshment, that is why.
19. Is attending a congregation Bible study a heavy load? Why do you so answer?
19 The Christian is encouraged to attend a congregation Bible study each week. Is this too heavy a load? People come to these Bible studies tired after working all day at their secular jobs, but when they spend an hour studying God’s Word at these meetings, their tired feeling generally leaves them. They feel refreshed, and they are not abashed to say so. How thrilled they are when they learn new truths! Their bodies become alive. Why do they feel this way? Because to share God’s Word in such association is to refresh the soul, that is why!
20. What do we witness about those who regularly attend congregation meetings at the Kingdom Hall, circuit assemblies, district and international assemblies?
20 God’s Word encourages Christians to meet together regularly at the congregation. (Heb. 10:24, 25) This they do several times a week. Is this an overly burdensome load? People with bodies beat, battered and bruised from having borne the load of this world come to the Kingdom Hall faithfully week after week after week. Why do they do this? So that they can find refreshment for their souls in the company of their brothers, that is why! It is not an easy task for mothers and fathers with families to bring their young ones with them to the congregation meetings regularly, and still they do. It is not easy for them to travel to circuit, district and international assemblies, often at great expense to themselves, and still they do. Why do they do it? Because they find refreshment at these meetings for their souls, that is why! “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! . . . For there Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.” (Ps. 133:1, 3) At these meetings they experience the blessings of Jehovah that make rich.
TIRED BUT SATISFIED
21. (a) Does this mean that Christians do not get tired? Why do you so reply? (b) What proves that modern-day Christians are receiving refreshment from God?
21 This does not mean that Christians do not get physically tired, because they do. Jesus told his apostles to “rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:31) The spirit is willing, but it is the body that often gives out on us. (Matt. 26:41) But under those circumstances such tiredness leaves one with a sweet feeling of contentment for having done Jehovah’s will. There is no willing giving up. (Gal. 6:9, 10) Ask the full-time ministers, those who work the longest and the hardest in the ministry, if this is not so. It is not possible to find a happier and more contented group of people on the face of the earth today than the pioneers, the missionaries, the Bethel servants—the full-time workers of God! Their happiness is evidence of the refreshment from God.
22. (a) How have various full-time ministers expressed themselves regarding the ministry of Christ? (b) What recommendation is this?
22 One congregation overseer in Brooklyn, New York, talked to the pioneer ministers in his congregation to see how they felt about the full-time ministry. Their answers went something like this: “After a full day’s work in service I have a feeling of joy and gladness for being able to direct attention to God’s Word.” “It is a wonderful experience and I have never felt sorry for taking up the pioneer service.” “I feel that I could not do anything more rewarding than pioneering. I wish everyone felt the same as I do.” And the message is the same from every part of the earth. It is obviously a rewarding and refreshing life. Have you given pioneering some thought?
MAKING WISE DECISIONS AND FIGHTING DISCOURAGEMENT
23. (a) What can those do who insist that the Christian ministry is burdensome? (b) What will they find?
23 Still we cannot ignore the fact that some do assert that the load of the Christian ministry is heavy, yes, even burdensome. Why do they think so? If this be your view, then we ask, “What is making you think this way? Is it the Christian ministry that is burdensome or the demands of your secular job? Could it be your attitude toward the ministry? Are your worldly obligations and ties tiring you out so that you cannot get the enjoyment out of the ministry that you should get?” Find the problem. Be honest in your search and then diligently set about to make the needed corrections. Invariably you will find that the problem rests somewhere in your way of life and not with the load of the Christian ministry. After all, Christ did say it was light.
24. What are some things we can do to make the personal load in life lighter so that the ministry can be a greater to for us?
24 There are some things we can do that will make our personal loads in life lighter so that we can get greater enjoyment from the ministry. Martha evidently enjoyed entertaining elaborately. This may be your problem. Jesus discouraged this, because it can be time-consuming and exhausting. (Luke 10:38-42) Some are burdened with many possessions and do not know what to do with them. Jesus’ advice was to sell these things, if you find them a burden. (Matt. 19:21) Others unwisely yield to the works of the flesh and are trapped into practicing sin. (Ps. 38:3-5) Such loads are unbearable on the mind. Stop! Repent and live a life in harmony with God’s will or else you will not only lead a miserable life but lose out on everlasting life.
25. (a) How can we fight discouragement? (b) Where will we find refreshment for our souls?
25 Quickly resolve whatever be your problem. Do not allow the burdens you bear to dampen your zeal or discourage you from serving Jehovah. Be aware that these are difficult times for everyone. (Rev. 12:12) Be also aware that the happiest position in life in this hour of crisis is to be yoked to Christ. By taking on Christ’s yoke and becoming his disciple, despite the many problems, we still can find refreshment for our souls. We will find refreshment in our association with Jehovah and Christ in prayer, by our association with clean brothers and sisters in the Christian congregation and by engaging in the Kingdom ministry. Outside the disciple-family of Christ, there is no rest and there can be no refreshment.
26. (a) What should we do now if we desire refreshment for our souls? (b) With what prospect in view?
26 Listen, therefore, to the King Jesus Christ, who beckons: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” Believe this! Answer the invitation. Take on the yoke by becoming a true disciple of Christ. Carry his light load of the Christian ministry with appreciation that you may enjoy living now during this time of intense pressure as we draw close to the end of this dying system of things. For ‘this tired old world is passing away and so is its desire, but they who do the will of God not only will enjoy refreshment now, but will remain to enjoy a refreshing life for all eternity.’ (1 John 2:17) If you answer Christ’s invitation to ‘come to him,’ that can be your happy lot!—Matt. 11:28-30.