Like any great piece of literature, as you read, it raises questions and makes you want to learn about the information that is not written to understand why it was written, that’s why we take classes, have book clubs, and participate in Bible studies. We are drawn to what is not there, not so much of secret or subliminal messages, but understanding what was said and why in its respective contexts, adding to the beauty and color, as well as deeper significance and meaning. On the other hand it opens up mysteries that the author wanted to hide, demanding the reader or listener to seek out, which is often what we see in the parables Jesus told. Now there are many, but there is one in Matthew that has always baffled me.
Apart from the parable itself, I’ve heard it referenced in other settings and wondered what the difference is between goats and sheep. So I got the bright idea to look it up after reading it fairly recently in my devotion. If you aren’t familiar, long story short sheep go to Heaven and goats burn in Hell, but why? From the outside looking in, they are very similar in how they look and operate, make similar sounds, and even move well together, but as you move past the surface you begin to see that they are quite opposite animals indeed. As I learned, it comes down to this one thing, sheep are dependent and goats are independent.
If you notice Christians are likened to sheep, just as much as Jesus to a lamb. Why? Because we follow. Every move a sheep makes is based on that of the shepherd, on whom it depends for everything. For example, the sheep rely on the shepherd fully for food and protection, and even if the destination is the slaughterhouse, the sheep will still follow to the end, just as Christ did for us. Thus, because sheep, Christ-followers, have made the choice to put their dependence in God, placing their very life in the Shepherd’s hand, they receive Heaven’s reward. Okay, so what about the goat?
Generally speaking, goats can move with the sheep herd, but they aren’t followers. Instead, they tend to be stubborn at times and do whatever they want when they want, and we see people like this every day who have not surrendered their life [totally] to Christ for whatever reason, and desire to live how they choose and do what they want, good or bad. In the parable, the goats are the ones that burn. Whoa!
In our culture, the focus is often independence and doing what we feel, but the life of Christian is about dying to self daily. Still, even as a Christian we lose sight of that and fall into goat-like behaviors, depending on our own abilities, resources, talents, money, education, etc., when truthfully we should be living as if our very next breathe depends solely on God, because it does. Being you for a purpose means that every word, thought, and deed is guided and directed by the great Shepherd, the only one who is really worth following into a place of infinite possibilities, and the only way to Heaven.