September 3rd, 2021

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A Note from Pastor Lou -- Truly #70 -- Sheep and Goats

Sheep and Goats                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    9.02.2021  

               

Truly, I say to you, as you did it
to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it
to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

Matthew 25:40, 45

        These two statements from Jesus belong together. They address in the simplest of terms the standards of human conduct that God holds all of us to account. Here in chapter 25, Jesus is concluding his teaching about the end times. Immediately preceding this passage on the final judgment is the famous "Parable of the Talents." In that parable he makes clear all of us have been gifted in varying ways and to various degrees with gifts and talents from the Lord. The Lord has invested in us, if you wish to understand it that way. He has given us life, and gifts of intelligence, ambition, and unique talent. He wants us to use those gifts for good in his kingdom. The use of gifts in a salutary manner leads to even more gifts and greater expectations.   The abuse or non-use of gifts leads to the loss of the original gift and eventual "weeping and gnashing of teeth" over God's abandonment.

         The passages give notice that God's expectation are not wildly over the top.  He does not expect every one of his sheep to build a big church, convert a nation of people, cure  some previously incurable disease, or any other such miracle.  No, the things that separate sheep from goats are the little things -- the hungry given food, the thirsty given a drink, the naked clothed, the stranger welcomed, the prisoner not abandoned -- everyday small things that come and go and we either do or not do.  When these things are simply done as everyday common place, without thought of eternal significance, but just done because it needs to be done, then we are seeing sheep.  Sheep don't even think about an eternal necessity, they just do sheepy things.  They end up surprised they are among the elect.

         The ones Jesus identifies as goats, on the other hand, are the calculating ones trying to rack up points with God for the big lottery win in the sky.  The do "right" for the chance at a big payday.  They are surprised they are not among the elect.

         So, which am I?  At the end of the journey, if asked whether I am a sheep or a goat, I think my answer is Yes.  Yes, I am a goat because there are opportunities I missed to property care for my neighbor and do a little more to further the name of the Lord in the world, and there are days when I clearly have the attitude "at least 'I am not like that sinner over there.'"  This is goat.  On the other hand, I trust that Jesus has taken away my sins and died for me, and in that trust there has also occasionally been something that he has let me see a little bit of, that tells me I may have done something good for his name.  It is best he not let me see too much of this, or it would become a point of pride for me, and I would be back on the road to goat-dom.

         Simultaneously sheep and goat, a 200% creature of God and this old world, fully in need of the Good Shepherd to save me.  I see goat.  He sees sheep.  Thank God.

         Remember Whose you are,

             Pastor Lou