Bible Reading: John 10:11-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
God will one day judge us, not purely on the basis of what we did, but also our motivation for doing it. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of this judgment in terms of fire that will test the works that we have done. He is clearly writing about Christians because he says, “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” [v.15].
In our Bible reading today Jesus speaks about the motive of a shepherd, and the one that He calls the hireling [v.12-13]. The hireling is literally one who is hired! He looks after the sheep for money while the true shepherd does it for love. The hireling’s main motivation is not the welfare of the sheep but of making money. Because he does not own the sheep he is not committed to them in the same way that the shepherd is. He is merely doing a job. When the wolf, or any other danger comes he abandons the sheep because his only interest is self-preservation.
Throughout the history of the church there have been those who used the church to make money and whose motives were questionable. A leader in the early church however, could not easily function like that, because they were the first in line when attacks and persecution came. Their position was dangerous rather than comfortable.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and is an example of what a true shepherd should be like. He is motivated by love. That means that he has a deep and intimate relationship with the sheep. Jesus said, “I know my sheep” [John 10:14]. In practical terms true a shepherd would rather die, than the sheep be harmed. That is exactly what Jesus did. Isaiah puts it so clearly, “All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord laid upon Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. In just the same way as His great ancestor David killed a lamb and a bear [1 Samuel 17:34-36], so Jesus has destroyed the ability of the wolf [the devil] to harm the sheep.
The sheep were dependent on the shepherd for food and protection. The shepherd in Israel would go before the sheep and weed the pastures so that no poisonous plant would harm them. He comforted and protected them. When they wandered away he would seek them, and he would be with them in the darkest hours. They did not fear when he was with them. It is not surprising that Jesus is known as the “Good Shepherd.”
Why is a person’s motive as important in God’s sight as their actions?
What is the difference between simply “doing a job” and having a call from God to serve Him?
In what way would you answer a person who asked you to explain why Jesus is the Good Shepherd? What personal experience could you share with them to back your answer?