In a recent debate around government and freedom, one of the people used the word “Sheeple”. He meant it to imply the kind of people who are easily led and kept happy by paternalistic government. The difficulty with saying that people who are like sheep are easily led is that sheep are not particularly easy to lead.
The Bible is full of stories about sheep and shepherds, and those stories are most often about the trials and tribulations of being a shepherd. Whether it is David wrestling a bear or the shepherd looking for the lost sheep, shepherding is a challenging occupation. Yet the challenge is not due to the sheep’s overwhelming intelligence, but more a result of its preoccupation with meeting the present need.
Most people are like sheep in that way. Our largest focus is on meeting our immediate desire. Want a bigger TV? There’s one on sale. Can’t afford it? There is just enough space on the credit card? Can’t pay the balance on the card? Pay the minimum payment, even if our statement tells us that our mortgage will be paid off first if we only pay the minimum.
Our life style is unsustainable because we are never content with what we have. We always want what’s next. It is hard for us to imagine just stopping because we have enough.
God calls us sheep, because truthfully we act very much like sheep. That’s why we need a shepherd; someone who will guide us to pastures when we need food and to clean water when we need to drink. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd. Not because he intends to lead us around by the nose, but because his goal is our freedom. If we rest in him, then we can be content. If we are content then we can stop the frantic search for more.
We don’t want to be sheeple. We don’t want a government telling us what to think or do. But we do want to be God’s sheep, because what God wants is for us to be fully ourselves.