About Goats

In the parable of the sheep and goats, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, all the nations will be gathered before him, and he’ll separate everybody from one another on his right and left, like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Then he lists the things that landed them among either the sheep or the goats, and the interesting thing is the list is exactly the same, except team sheep did the things he listed and team goats did not.

The thing about goats is this: They don’t know they’re goats. They go about their daily lives thinking they know who they are and where they stand in God’s eyes. They go to church almost every week, and they remember to say a prayer when they need something. They give their old clothes to Planet Aid and might even put a few bucks in the big red kettle at the Holidays to, you know, help out the needy. But, they don’t get up close and personal with it. They don’t act as if their life depends on it. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my father in heaven wants.” What God wants is for us to “love Him with all our hearts, our minds, our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself.”

What makes us sheep or goats is whether or not we are willing to show kindness to the person on the street corner holding a cardboard sign, to buy them a “Happy Meal” or a bottle of water, or warm coat to wear when it’s below freezing outside. It’s whether or not we’re willing to stike up a conversation with someone we dont know, but looks like they could use a friend, and perhaps buy them a coffee, or whether we find time to spend with someone who is ill, diabled or in prison. It’s about our actions, about having compassion on those around us, about helping the poor schmuck lying in the ditch, robbed and half beaten to death, instead of passing by on the other side of the street, so we can feel justified in our inaction, because, you know, we don’t really need to get involved with all that drama anyway!

God lists the attributes that make us sheep in his eyes. He tells us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit the prisoner, not because he wants to show us how to save ourselves – His grace and His mercy are sufficient for our salvation – but because it’s what He would do. Lutheran theologian and Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away,” and it occurs to me that when we do these things, it’s not so much about loving those in need, but about loving God by our interactions with them. We do them to show God how much we love and care for Him, and in so doing, we automatically love our neighbor as ourselves.

~SLM

Proverbs 11:1-16: Handbook for Life Part III

…and the interpretations continue…

1The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.

Treating everyone and everything with honesty and fairly is pleasing to the eyes of God.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Pride is the great downfall of mankind. When we let our pride get in the way, we cannot hear the voice of wisdom, but unpretentiousness opens our ears to God’s guidance.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Those who strive for decency have truth and authenticity to guide them, while the false and faithless will be ruined by their deceitfulness.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

The accumulated possessions of this world hold no value in times of disaster and crisis, but wisdom, knowledge and honesty provides safety.

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

The very act of living honestly and respectably simplifies our lives and makes them straight-forward, but if we scheme, our schemes become our undoing.

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

It is our integrity that carries us forward, that gives us rectitude and keeps us truthful, but the dishonest, the devious, the treacherous, are enslaved by their malicious desires.

Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Faith given over to humans is misplaced faith, because all of mankind’s promise and power comes to nothing, for men die and with them dies all their desires, all their prospects, all their hopes.

The righteous person is rescued from trouble,
and it falls on the wicked instead.

An honest person is liberated from trouble, which falls on the despicable instead.

With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
but through knowledge the righteous escape.

With their words, godless people destroy others, but through wisdom and judiciousness the decent can escape the trap of gossip.

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

When good triumphs over evil, or when the wicked are destroyed, we all celebrate it.

11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

Through their blessings, good people exalt others, and through their words, the malicious tear others down.

12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Someone who put others down, ridiculing and disparaging them spreads ruin and destruction, while those who are wise do not judge.

13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

If a gossip will tell just one thing, he will tell all, but one who is trustworthy will hold his tounge.

14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.

It is best for leaders to listen to the points of view from all sides, to consider the advice of many in order to give wise counsel and provide for stability safety.

15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer,
but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

Vouching for the credit of someone you do not know well is a fool’s errand, better to walk away than to suffer for a bad decision.

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.

Honor and respect are given to a kind and gracious woman, while money only goes to heartless men.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This section of Proverbs is clearly about how to treat others, about how to live our lives in conjunction with others. It instructs us to live our lives honestly and conscientiously, to think of how our actions, or lack of actions, affect others. Romans 12:17-18 advises us, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Proverbs 11:1-16 serves as a reminder of the laws of physics, which demand that for every action there is an equal and/or opposite reaction. Living consciously is the key; being aware of how our actions produce re-actions, of how our daily lives, and what we choose to do and say, influences all those with whom we interact. We should think of ourselves less and others more, remembering that community is as important as we are.

If we would simply hold our tongues, close our lips, open our eyes and ears, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, keeping His commands, we would see and understand many things we have never even thought it possible to know.

~SLM