After reading the scripture with the analogy of goats and sheep, I wondered why did the parable use goats and sheep, why weren’t other animals picked.
So I did some research on why these animals were chosen to be a part of the parable. Goats are very independent animals, left on their own they could probably survive. Goats are motivated by their own desires. If a goat likes the way his shepherd’s hair tastes, he will sneak up behind the shepherd to have a bite of hair. The shepherd will punish the goat but the thought of having more hair to eat motivates the goat to keep trying to eat a little hair and hoping it won’t be punished. Goats love doing what they want more than they love pleasing the shepherd.
The sheep on the other hand seem to look like they have got it all together when they are out in the pasture. They are community animals. Truth is though they need a lot of help to stay alive. If a sheep falls on its back, it can’t figure out how to get up without help and can eventually die. Sheep also have a strong tendency to panic and run around wildly if they get stressed out by something. However, sheep feel calm when their shepherd is around; they will follow him anywhere because they have learned to trust him. They know that the shepherd is the one who cares for all their needs.
So this does help make the parable make sense. Goats and sheep were important animals in the time of Jesus. They provided meat, milk, and their wool. The sheep are the people who trust in their shepherd, Jesus, and will follow him wherever he leads them. The goats are the people who don’t want to trust in their shepherd, Jesus, they would rather do their own thing.
Because they are so different it would make sense that they weren’t kept in the same pasture hence the putting the sheep by the right hand and goats by the left hand.
The parable goes on to say that the sheep are blessed by the Father for they provided all the needs of Jesus by taking care of those who were the least of those who are members of God’s family. They will be blessed and will go to heaven. However, the goats are not blessed and they are sent to hell because they did not provide for the needs of the least of those who are members of God’s family.
So what does this mean for us? I think it means that we need to be like the sheep and trust in our shepherd and listen to what He has taught us. This means we know that we need to take care of our fellow man just as Jesus does. If we are like the goats, we would be thinking of ourselves more than anyone else so we aren’t taking care of our fellow man just as Jesus does and would have us do as well.
The parable says that “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell, you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Everyone is a member of God’s family and we should take care of them as we would if we saw Jesus in need. I have heard it said that when you see someone that is in need, it could be Jesus, you just don’t know. I believe that it is our task in life to take care of others so that they have what they need.
However, taking care of someone else can put you between a rock and a hard place. Someone you come across can really be someone in need but they could also be someone who is posing as a person in need so they have the ability to take advantage of you, harm you. How do we know what we should do? We can be like the Good Samaritan and take that chance. I think in most cases that is what we should do. But there are times when taking a chance is not the right thing to do. You just have to follow your heart, say a quick prayer, do whatever you need to do to be able to know what you need to do.
We should all strive to be like the sheep in this parable. However, I think we all have a little goat in us. So, we need to make that effort to do the best that we can do. If we are sincerely trying to follow God’s guidelines on how to get to heaven then I think we are doing the best that we can. God knows us all down to the hairs on our heads. He knows if we are really trying to do the best that we can. So, do the best that you can to take care of your fellow person. It is what God would have us do. On another note:
With Thanksgiving being on Thursday, I thought I would wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. Now I know that most likely Thanksgiving won’t be like it is most years. Usually we gather with family and friends who come from near and far so that we can be together, have a wonderful meal, and talk about memories and the things we are grateful for. We are being told to not have gatherings of people who are not part of our immediate household. It is hard to have your son and his family not come to the house because they feel safer staying close to home. It is hard not to have your siblings all gather in one place. It is hard not to have friends over. This has been a very challenging year for all of us. We have been affected in so many ways and this is just the latest. But we need to do what is best for everyone not just what we think is best for us. We need to remember that there are still so many things to be grateful for and that if we are all careful and safe, we can have a Thanksgiving meal with our family and friends next year. I would much rather have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner this year than take a chance on someone who comes to my home to have a big Thanksgiving gathering get sick from COVID and then die. Now I know that not all of us agree on how serious COVID is and we don’t all agree about the mandates that are being given for us to follow but I ask you to think about the families that have lost family members, the people that have lost friends, not just about yourself. Have a safe Thanksgiving so that all of us are safe in the days to follow. Amen.