Thursday, September 24, 2020
If you had a choice, would you be a sheep or a goat? If behavior was the only criteria, I would be a goat. I love activity and adventure, and goats seem to personify both. Independence, enthusiasm, exploring, and conquering heights with a proud pose – these are the things that motivate me.
Sheep, on the other hand, are mostly docile and easily spooked. They like the comfort of the crowd. They take their time doing anything, resist change, and have a strong stubborn streak.
According to Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus comes back to sit on the throne of His kingdom, He will separate all the people of the world into two groups – sheep and goats. The sheep will be on His right hand, and the goats on His left. The sheep will enter the Kingdom. The goats will be sent to eternal punishment.
Okay, now I want to be a sheep.
I do not want to be guilty of stretching any comparisons beyond what Jesus intended, so the simple truth is this – the people of God have always been called sheep, not goats. Jesus Himself is called the Lamb of God, not the Kid of God. Psalm 79 says, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever.” And Psalm 23 identifies the Lord as our Shepherd. Those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are members of the eternal flock of Jesus. We are His sheep.
Yet I do want to make one comparison to what Jesus says when He separates the sheep from the goats. Sheep and goats, as with any other creature or human being, consistently act according to our nature. Sometimes that nature can be trained or tamed, like lions in a circus, but given the opportunity for freedom, nature takes over.
It is the nature of a goat to be independent, which gets them in a lot of trouble. Meanwhile, the nature of a sheep is to be “sheepish.” They flock together. They respond to each other.
When Jesus judges the people of the earth who are still present when He arrives to rule His earthly kingdom, He separates people based on their nature. Those who are goats have an independent, selfish nature. Those who are sheep have a serving nature. Goats get for themselves. Sheep give for the greater good of others.
Jesus says to the goats, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” The goats are judged based on their nature, which was reflected in their actions.
Jesus says to the sheep, Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ The sheep are rewarded because their actions were the proof of the nature of Christ in them.
Which are you? A greedy goat getting everything you can for yourself, or a servant sheep, selflessly representing the life of Christ in you by helping others in their time of need?