“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” Matthew 25:32-34.
It is clear from this section of scripture that we want the attributes of sheep and not those of goats. The sheep are given eternal life, but the goats are cast into the Lake of Fire (v41).
God uses the goat to symbolize evil in numerous instances in the Bible, but what is it about goats that causes God to use them in such a negative light? Goats have many admirable qualities. They are intelligent, sensitive, playful, and quick to respond to individual attention and affection. Sounds good, right?
But wait, there is much more! Goats are intelligent and playful but impulsive, unpredictable, devious, and contrary. When they are grazing, it is not unusual to see several with their heads through a fence, straining to reach the grass that is always greener on the other side. Goats are never content with what they have. Goats also possess a stubborn streak.
They are experts in opening gates and squeezing through small gaps because they hate to be confined. Fences that will handle sheep, cattle, and horses will not hold goats. Consequently, goats are not very good followers. “Gregarious behavior” is a term that refers to the flocking or herding instinct, which is found strongly in sheep, cattle, and horses. Again, this quality is rather weak in goats; they prefer leading or going off on their own.
A sheep follows its shepherd, peacefully moving forward with the flock. He is content to be led because he has faith in his shepherd. A sheep responds to his shepherd’s voice and goes where he directs. On the other hand, a goat follows only its own lead, creating disunity when he comes in contact with others in the flock. Because of his independent nature, he often finds himself in contention with the shepherd for leadership of the flock, leading some astray.
By now, a goat’s characteristics should be clear. They are not evil, but some of their traits could be deadly spiritually, if found in a Christian. A Christian cannot stand still, yet not all movement is proper growth. A Christian’s life must move in the right direction, along the path that leads to the Kingdom of God. We do not want to be sidetracked, to follow a road of our own choosing, on a whim or out of stubbornness or independence.
Now that we understand the biblical metaphor about goats, and what God says their ultimate end will be, we can look at ourselves in a more urgent light. Which do you want to be, a sheep or a goat?