Read: Matthew 25:31-46 |
“Whatever gets your goat gets your attention.
Whatever gets your attention gets your time. Whatever gets your time gets you. Whatever gets you becomes your master. Take care, lest a little thing horn in and get your goat.” [Source Unknown]
The prophetic parable of the Sheep and Goats was shared by Jesus just before Passover and His final persecution. At the twilight of His ministry, He shared this parable to prepare us for what was to come. He explained the basis of the separation of the righteous and the wicked after the tribulation by using the metaphor of sheep and goats.
Today, we will explore the possibility of goat-like behavior in the lives of Believers.
Notable Goat characteristics
The parable does not offer any background about the characteristics of a goat. However, Old Testament passages describe goats as useful animals. Just like sheep, goats were allowed to be used as a sacrifice before God as long as they were without spot or blemish. Goats were also considered to be a clean food and could be eaten.
Other external references note that goats have many admirable qualities. They are intelligent, sensitive, quick to respond to individual attention/affection and playful. Interestingly, they also note that goats are independent, restless, impulsive, unpredictable and clever.
- Independent – They do not require as much supervision or care as sheep because they prefer to lead or to wander on their own. Meat packers use this instinct to their advantage. They will train an old goat, appropriately called a “Judas,” to lead sheep to the pens for slaughter.
- Restless – Goats do not graze as sheep prefer to do, instead they nibble here and there, sampling a variety of bushes and leaves. They are never content with what they already have.
- Impulsive – Goats love doing what they want more than they love pleasing the shepherd. They are motivated by their own desires.
- Unpredictable – Unlike sheep, goats will easily revert back to their wild conditions if given the chance.
- Clever / Devious – They are experts in opening gates and squeezing through small gaps because they hate to be confined. Fences that will handle sheep, cattle, and horses will not hold goats. They will work tirelessly to spring themselves from any situation they deem inhibiting.
Goat-like behavior in a Believer, is that even possible?
In the parable, goats represent non-believers although they act as if they believe. However, I wanted to take artistic license to explore how believers could temporarily possess some goat-like behavior. After all, God is still working on us. [Philippians 1:6; 2:13]
Clearly a goat’s characteristics are not evil, yet these same characteristics in a Believer can cause havoc. If a believer were to reflect a goat’s behavioral traits, I can imagine them passing up on the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to “the least of these”. At the moment of need, instead of serving, they may have felt confined or been pricked by an impulsive streak to do something different than meeting the need before them.
Instead, use your spiritual armor to reject goat-like behavior and let God’s light shine through your words and your deeds. [Ephesians 6:10-18]
I will close with an extended goat-like prayer from an unknown source:
“O thou pleasant, comfortable, kindly, good-natured God: How glad I am that I can look forward, with a reasonable degree of certainty, to another ordinary day. Keep me today from anything that taxes my faith from discomfort, from unnecessary strain, from unusual problems, especially those involving sickness or death, or the necessity of extending financial aid to relatives and friends.
Dear Lord, grant that nothing may occur which will disturb my satisfaction with the way I am, and the things I say, and the thoughts I think, the acts I do, or the many deeds I leave undone. Give me this day, in addition to my daily bread, the butter, meats, and sweetmeats that are my necessary diet, and let me not be troubled by qualms of conscience concerning the amount of time and money I spend on food and clothing, pastimes, good and bad, and those pursuits which, while not of spiritual value, are the accepted hall-mark of the normal citizen of this enlightened community in this enlightened age.
About the future and the darkening trend of things, keep me from thoughtfulness. Events rush on, the world travails. Can screaming headlines prove thy hand’s at work this very moment, bringing near that fateful cry, ‘Behold! He comes!’? O, Lord, such disconcerting thoughts! Keep me from worrying about such things, and guide me safely to and from my office, and my home. Amen.” [source unknown]
1. Discover –
A. Have you ever been around a sheep or a goat? The next chance you get, spend some time near one to vividly capture some of the context of this parable. Note the differences for yourself between sheep and goats.
B. Understanding that God is still working on us, are you more likely to identify your own goat-like behavior or does someone point it out to you?
2. Develop –
A. Without getting “too judgmental”, Do you have any friends who are not believers but always hang around the fringe of religion? If so, how often do you share with them the urgency of making a decision for Christ to avoid the scenario in this parable.
3. Demonstrate –
A. How often do you share your testimony with non-believers?
B. How often do you witness and share Christ with others?