The Yoke of Life

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Many of us have heard these Bible verses. The statement summarizes why people come to believe in Jesus Christ. He directly messaged those who were tired, even devastated in their lives. Like all of us feel often, life seems so hard. Why do we have to struggle with the constant challenges and tortures?

While we were children, life seemed to be full of possibilities. As long as we dream and aim high, we can achieve anything. Nothing is impossible in our dreams. That is what we used to think during our childhood, and our parents protected us with their best efforts and sacrifices to keep our mindset and attitude intact.

As we grow older, however, facing various trials and limitations of life, even failures, we stop aiming and dreaming high. We are no longer optimistic children but realistic, even pessimistic grown-ups. We pity ourselves, sighing that life is hard and nothing is good.

Unlike the Little Prince, we can no longer see a picture of a boa digesting an elephant but a mere shape of a hat. We can’t imagine sheep inside the box anymore but a mere drawing of a box.

My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint

This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.” I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge [the Little Prince]:”That is exactly the way I wanted it!”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint

As grown-ups, we can recall the pessimistic words of King Soloman. As the author of Ecclesiastes, he started the first chapter as follows:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4

Despite his enormous success and wealth, at the latter part of his life, his words were negative and not different from the expressions we use in complaining about life.

Young Solomon used to aim and dream high. And God gave him unprecedented wisdom and knowledge. With them, he accomplished tremendous success in the world. Was his life perfect? According to Solomon himself, however, all was vanity. Everything is meaningless, and nothing is good. “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

We aim and dream high and work hard, believing the results of our labor should promise the fruits of worldly success and wealth. And some can make it like King Solomon and other successful achievers, and others can’t make it like the majority of the people who complain about their lives.

Either way, all is vanity. Whether we are rich or poor, despite success or failure, we curse our lives and their hush realities. Nobody is free from the yoke of life. Yes, the yoke of life controls and harasses our lives in one way or another until the moment of death, unless we terminate our lives.

According to WHO, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year. And, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15 to 19-year-olds. Why do they kill themselves? For them, life is too hard, and it looks like a place for torture. Why don’t we free ourselves by terminating our lives? For them, suicide is their last choice and rational way to free themselves from the yoke of life for rich and poor regardless of their success and failure.

What is the yoke of life?

Indeed, we feel that some yoke is binding us tightly. Because of this yoke, we think we are not free and suffer a lot to the extent that we terminate our lives.

Historically, the words of Jesus were for those who can’t keep religious legalism, intending to criticize those “wise and prudent” who are proud of maintaining the set of rules to “win” God’s love in their efforts.

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Matthew 11:25

Universally, his message should be for everyone from Solomon to Pharisees to ordinary peasants, and to all people in our contemporary era, from the billionaires to the homeless and more. We are all in the yoke of life.

The yoke of life sometimes looks falsely sweet, giving us fascinating dreams of worldly success, and we aim high and work hard. It sometimes seems falsely bitter, binding us in the place of torture. Whichever it should be, because of this yoke, we feel we are not entirely free yet.

In the days of Jesus Christ, religious teachers suffered from the yoke called legalism, making them obsessive to keep them for salvation. King Solomon and all achievers suffer from the yoke as the sense of vanity, experiencing world success and wealth are meaningless. All of us suffer from the yoke that all our desires and disappointments control us in various ways. Because of all these things, we can no longer appreciate the drawings of the elephant and sheep in the way the Little Prince does. We are all grown-ups because of the yoke of life.

We bind ourselves with our yoke, cursing our lives because of that yoke. What is the yoke of life? Our selfishness is the yoke that controls us with various sufferings. Let me repeat the words of Christ:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Put your selfish yoke down,” Jesus tells us. Can we put it down by ourselves? No, we can’t. The effort of putting it down would be part of our selfish act, and Jesus knows that. What we should and can do is to take someone’s yoke, especially his yoke.

Unlike ours, his yoke is entirely selfless, saying, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” And it is the yoke of the person who humbled himself to take away the sins of the world.

It is the yoke that makes us free from every selfish thing in this world. His yoke is in heaven, and we shall find rest in our souls.

Image by PublicDomainPictures

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