Analogies People Don’t Understand
I was in church, singing along with the worship songs, when I almost choked on my words. The song was based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:
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. (NIV)
But the lyrics on the screen at church said, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light.”
As I tried not to laugh, I looked around to see if anyone else was as distracted by these words as I was. Nope, everyone else was focused on worship, while I was thinking about breakfast and an “over-easy” egg yolk.
Yoke or Yolk.
When Jesus was talking to the people in his cultural context, the analogy of a yoke made sense to everyone listening. Undoubtably, they could look at animals plowing a field on the edge of town and see two animals yoked together, pulling a plow.
But in our modern setting the word “yoke” is not in common usage, especially in the U.S. where city dwellers have little appreciation for farm life, and farm tasks are mechanized with tractors rather than animals. The concept of a “yoke” that distributes the burden of plowing is foreign to most people. When the word was incorrectly used in the song lyrics, no one seemed to notice the mistake.
However, modern people do know what a “yolk” is – the rich yellow center of an egg. What did people think Jesus meant in this verse, if they were reading it as My yolk is easy and my burden is light? Most likely, people were just singing along, not thinking about the specific words.
This error of intermingling yokes and yolks points out the importance of going beyond spell check in proofreading material. The word wasn’t misspelled in the lyrics, the wrong word was used.
Also, the yoke/yolk error suggests that we choose analogies carefully for our audience. Jesus knew that people saw yokes in their regular lives. I’m not suggesting we re-write Scripture, but when we write fresh content, it’s important to use analogies that are meaningful to our audience rather than recycling analogies that are no longer relevant.
–Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial