Patricia Hofer

sheep vs. goats

A little research on goats and sheep makes Jesus’ analogy in Matt. 25:31-33 a more universal and truly helpful comparison. In it, the people of the world will be separated, “one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” The sheep are invited to sit on the right hand of the King and blessed. The goats are cast out for their selfishness.

Goats are pushy and competitive from birth, even when domesticated. Besides being assertive and confrontational, they are independent and can climb over and under fences. Sheep, by contrast, have gotten more and more defenseless as they have been domesticated, with less agility. Because their safety comes from flocking together, they don’t like to be alone. And they are taught to follow from birth.

With this clear distinction in mind, rather than being a view of heaven and hell, the focus of the analogy is, as I see it, more about the kind of person Jesus is inviting us to be. But the problem for Christians, and all of humanity, is that we tend to appreciate the goat more than the sheep! One need only look at our Lord’s beatitudes to recognize the challenges we face (Matt. 5:1-10). That Jesus commended these behaviors shows clearly, at least to me, that the Master was teaching us about a world other than the natural, goatish one that we live in.

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