Are We Sheep Or Goats?

Hannah, Wilma and Dani

Hannah, Wilma and Dani

I used to own three goats. When I got them, Wilma was a couple years old and had had kids of her own. Hannah was about a year old, and Dani was perhaps six months old. These three goats had three distinct personalities, but one thing they had in common was their complete inability to share. They would knock each other out of the way, fight, and quite literally “horn in” to get what they want.

Especially Wilma was one of the most selfish beasts I’d ever seen. Not only did she want all the feed for herself, but she couldn’t stand for Hannah to have a speck of it. She’d share a trough with Dani (the little one), but never with Hannah. Not only did she not share a trough with Hannah, but also she didn’t want Hannah to have a trough of her own. She’d leave her own feed to ram her horns into Hannah’s side and drive her away from her food. She’d also frequently cast Hannah out of the big dog house they lived in and force her out into the rain — even though all three of them could fit in it.

Wilma made me think of people who aren’t satisfied to have their own success, but can’t tolerate anyone else having some too. This competitive, jealous, scarcity mentality is what gives goats a bad name, and I’m certain it’s why Jesus used goats to illustrate the nature of the selfish individuals who do not give their hearts to Him.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus related the parable of the sheep and the goats to describe his coming and the Day of Judgment:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

The dividing line — the sure indicator of our conversion to Jesus Christ is how we treat each other. This analogy of the sheep and the goats took on greater meaning for me after owning goats.

While goats do have fun personalities and are easier to maintain, sheep are completely dependant upon their shepherd for cleaning and sheering. Sheep are generally docile creatures who follow their shepherd in all things. Goats, with their individualistic me-first mentalities, mark a stark contrast to the easy-going, follow-the-leader temperament of sheep.

Perhaps the Lord is trying to tell us that He would rather have us lean on Him to cleanse our sins yet follow Him in all things than to require less maintenance but be self-centered and competitive. Just try getting a goat to go where you want it to! Bribery is about all that works.

Following Jesus Christ and attempting to live our lives as He lives leads us to reach out and serve others, to lift their burdens, make room for them in our lives, share what we have with them, and in essence live a more Christ-like life. As we follow Him, we become like the obedient sheep who follow their shepherd and will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [us] from the foundation of the world.”

I am grateful for the people in my life who have offered me and my family Christ-like service. I hope and pray that when the Lord comes, I’ll be found on his right-hand as one of those who followed Him by serving others.