I was reading this morning in Deuteronomy 22 about several odd prohibitions against mixing things.
God explicitly expresses his displeasure with men dressing like women or women dressing like men. He created men and women differently, and he wants their appearance to reflect this distinction. Not a politically correct idea, I know, but there it is in the Book, so I must work to understand how these Scriptures come to life.
God speaks about crops in the passage. The Israelites were forbidden to plant two crops in the same field; for example, planting beans in the rows between grapevines. If they did plant two crops, they could only use the produce from one of them, so what would be the point? He speaks about livestock. They were not to yoke together an ox with a different animal like a donkey. He speaks about fabric. They were not to wear wool and linen in the same outfit.
One commentary suggested that these laws point back to Genesis, where God created everything “after its kind.” God didn’t perform a science experiment in which he mashed together different parts of one organism to create another. He made the elephant, the fox, the hummingbird, the tortoise, the ladybug–all unique and complete, coherent in their form, function, and purpose. He seems to prefer the unmistakable uniqueness and variety of a million creatures created after their distinct kind.
Even so, isn’t this a curious set of regulations? Could it be that there is meaning here for us?
I obviously believe the answer is yes. Everything in God’s book is relevant, as Paul reminds us, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4, NIV). Teach on, Holy Spirit.
The mixing of livestock has the simplest application. We know from New Testament Scripture that believers are not to become “unequally yoked” to unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). This applies to choosing a mate. There are many tales about Christian men and women who marry unbelievers, thinking that they will lead their spouse to the Lord after they are married. Sometimes this works out, praise God. But often it results in deep sorrow, frustration, and loneliness, for either or both partners.
The life of Christian discipleship is difficult enough with a like-minded partner. It is inadvisable, according to Scripture—and common sense—to add the complication of pairing a believer with an unbeliever. How can they pull together in the same direction when they are not united in their view of God, the world, ultimate reality, even the purposes of marriage itself?
I also apply this principle to business or financial partnerships. To illustrate, for many years as a counselor I was an in-network provider for many insurance and employee assistance plans. I did this as a service to my clients, despite lost income resulting from “capitation” (accepting a drastically reduced reimbursement rate in exchange for an anticipated volume of referrals) and the added administrative hassles. A few years ago, I terminated those contracts. I developed a strong conviction over time that I was serving two kingdoms, with a foot in each. The Lord told me to choose which one I would serve, and I chose to plant both feet firmly in the kingdom of God. This has radically changed my practice. I have fewer clients and make less money overall. But my heart is clean, undivided, free. *
At an even deeper level, we could apply this to Jesus’ often quoted invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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” (Matt. 11:28-30). We can’t wear two yokes. So, if we are wearing a yoke of world-weariness, we must shed that yoke in order to take on the gentle, peaceable yoke of the rabbi Jesus. When we do, we begin pulling in rhythm with him, conforming to his wonderful teaching, not mixing it with the doctrines and philosophies of the world. The double-minded person is unstable (James 1:8), having a confused, mixed-up mind and prayer life. We don’t want that, right?
As to the mixing of crops and fabrics, I am less clear. Perhaps God wants us to understand as individuals what type of fruit he has called us to produce. When we exert effort in too many directions at once, we may not be as fruitful as we would be if we devoted those efforts to only one. I don’t want to go as far as to say that this is what this Scripture means, but it speaks truth to me, and validates my experience. When my ministry efforts are too scattered, the fruit is limited. He is teaching me at this stage of life to “stay in my lane,” to be diligent and focused on the small number of activities I am certain he has called me to do.
Don’t you wonder why God cares about the fabrics his people wear? All this attention to how we dress and present ourselves speaks to me of holiness, being set apart for the Lord, and looking like we are his. This can be tricky.
I’m sitting here at Starbucks (because everyone knows all good writing happens in coffee shops) on this chilly, rainy morning, asking Jesus if he’s pleased with my ensemble and appearance and attitude. My jeans and my wool-and-cotton-blend blazer. My gold ring next to my silver ring. My countenance and behavior and speech. What do people see or feel when they encounter me?
My intention and hope is that all would experience, friendliness, respectfulness, openness, warmth, and the assumption of good will.
With no paranoia, partiality, or prejudice mixed in.
Do you have any thoughts to add to my exploration of God’s view on mixture? If so, please say on…..
* If you are a clinician who bills insurance companies, I want to be clear. I’m not judging this as doing anything wrong. I did business with insurance companies for years and was at peace that God permitted it. Over time, I became aware that this was a part of God’s unique personal discipline for me as a minister, and I was compelled to respond in obedience. You may have no such conviction about the issue, and I bless your work and business, however God leads you to practice it!