A friend of mine put me onto an enjoyable devotional book titled “Live Dead Joy” by Dick Brogden. One of the daily entries contrasts sheep and goats. Mr. Brogden points out from his experience living in the Arab world that sheep are “much dumber” than goats. He says “goats have the good sense to avoid cars” so when you see goats by the side of the road you can continue to speed past. As opposed to sheep, you must slow down and be cautious as a sheep could wonder right in front of your passing vehicle.
In Jesus’ parable of the Shrewd Manager, he points out that “ the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (Luke 16:8) . There is another parable in which Jesus says he’ll separate people as a shepherd does to sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep will enter the kingdom of heaven. They lived out their faith by serving God by serving those in need. But the goats missed the memo. They were too obsessed with their own agendas to notice the poor, weak and needy.
It’s interesting that people living in faith to Jesus often are referred to as his “sheep” and Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). So why would we be compared to the more naïve animal and not the wiser goat?
Of course, it’s not yet known why. But here’s a thought. Shrewdness is not necessarily a bad thing. As Jesus sent out the twelve apostles and gave them the authority heal and cast out evil spirits, part of his instructions were to be “shrewd as snakes” as well as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). So having good judgment or being astute is something Jesus called on his followers to have. It’s just not the main thing.
More than shrewdness, Jesus spoke on love. Both that we are to love of God and love of others. This may be the fault of the “goats” in the story. The people represented by the goats were more concerned for themselves. They don’t see the need to be too concerned about others. They love themselves, their agendas and their desires more than anything else. They are self-reliant. They don’t see the need for a Savior either.
Sheep on the other hand will follow the shepherd. The shepherd protects and watches over the sheep. Sheep might be unsophisticated at times, but sheep know they need guidance. Sheep need a Savior.
Which is the more intelligent – sheep or goats? Goats may be more astute in dealing with the things of this world, but sheep have a compassionate view of things. A view that includes the knowledge and acceptance that sheep need a shepherd. The view God chose for us. To love Him and others more than ourselves.
So which is the wiser?