Sheep to the Right, Goats on the Left

by Susie Braden


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, all the angels with him … he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”
— Matthew 25:31-33

This portion of Matthew’s gospel portrays the “Final Judgment” through the parable of “The Sheep and the Goats.” Matthew indicates a Christian is either a ‘sheep’ or a ‘goat’. His gospel indicates the Son of Man separates the sheep (on his right hand) from the goats (on his left hand) according to the evidence of the caring of their brothers and sisters. He blesses those who fed him when he was hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, visited the sick or imprisoned, indicating to the sheep on his right hand, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” These righteous will go into eternal life. To the goats on the left hand who did not feed him when hungry, give him drink when he was thirsty and did not welcome or clothe him, he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it me.” The goats therefore go to eternal punishment.

This parable seems to offer absolutely no middle ground, which to a Christian can be perplexing. However, there are many who question whether the sheep and goats are Christians, heathens or a mixture of both. Of course, we all want to be the ‘sheep’ and not the ‘goats.’ But ask yourself, how many times do we miss the calling to take care of each other, expecting perhaps someone else to offer help to the person in need? Instead why don’t we daily make decisions to have sheep-like action and not goat-like indifference? Furthermore, we must evaluate our own actions and not judge whether another one is a sheep or a goat. We must have compassion for all (even our enemies) and realize that our final judgement will be based on what we see and how we act in response to sufferings in our world.

Son of Man, we pray for compassion to be ever-present in our lives.