Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)
“I just couldn’t live without…”
I often overhear or even mutter that phrase myself, and it is usually completed not by something vital, but rather something that is a comfort, part of an established routine, or a means of relief from stress. I doubt that I am the first to admit that I tend to be so focused on my work, my personal life, and the American culture surrounding me that I do not nearly often enough pause and appreciate the essentials, like the house I live in or the food I eat. I take the basics for granted, and instead wonder if I could navigate today’s world without internet access, or get through a morning without drinking coffee, or unwind or socialize with certain people if I did not follow sports. (I have given each of the last two up in different seasons of Lent, and let me tell you, it was not easy.)
I found myself on a Disney kick earlier this year, and one of my favorite Disney tunes is Baloo’s from The Jungle Book. I have been humming, “The bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife…” quite frequently these days. While it is a catchy and good-natured refrain, I realized these words also carry some spiritual weight.
When we focus on worldly needs and luxuries, we can become fixated on them, losing sight of the One who provides for all our needs and offers rest and relief from the world around us if we choose to seek Him first. In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus invites us to Him, to cast our worries aside and ease the weight in our lives. All we have to do is submit to His direction.
His invitation can be tricky to accept if you take the words of these verses literally. Figuratively or not, how is it easy putting on a tough wooden harness that would make you totally submissive to the one holding it? Spiritual author Dutch Sheets offers key insight in his book Roll Away Your Stone: Living in the Power of the Risen Christ, which I highly recommend. The original Greek of Matthew 11:30 includes the word chrestos, which almost every version of the Bible translates as “easy.” While this is not incorrect, something important is lost in translation. The word chrestos is derived from the root xromai, which means “to furnish what is suitable or useful.” Think of it like an available piece of equipment that would make a daunting task easy—the needed tool for a job.
Now imagine Matthew 11:30 in this context: For my yoke is accessible, suitable and useful to you, and will make your burden light (my paraphrase). Makes much more sense, sounding more inviting and less intimidating!
I find that when I make the conscious effort to put Jesus first in my life and spend time with Him, I am naturally calmer and able to accomplish more that I set my mind to. He is the tool that allows me to work freely and with a brighter attitude, and will enable me to roll with the ongoing changes at my job, and the soon-to-be major adjustment of becoming a father. The challenge is to seek Him out as a regular habit, not just on an as-needed basis. That is the act of putting on His yoke.
It all starts with seeking Him. Our worries and strife drop out of focus. That’s why us human bears can rest in ease, in Him, the bare necessity of life.
Daniel can be reached by email here.