Identifying Goats, Part One

So what does a Goat look like?

Here are three of the characteristics Paul gives in 2 Timothy 3.

1. Individuals who think “they have it all together.”

These individuals will never admit any weakness. We know that relationships and friendships are built on confessing our weakness and vulnerabilities. Individuals who think they have it all together often will leave you feeling disconnected, weak, giving you the feeling you are beneath them.

There is often an implied superiority in the one who seems to have no need for other individuals. There is an imbalance in the relationship, and you often take the weaker role because this person will not allow you to be strong. You become dependent on the “strong one” because the weaker individual is attracted to the stronger one.

James 5:16 says, ”Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed (HCSB).” There is to be an equality in Christ-centered friendships that allows us room for give and take as we bear one another burdens and work together through the daily joys and sorrows of life. When one person dominates a relationship, that is a warning sign that there is an unhealthy imbalance in the relationship.
2. Individuals who are religious instead of spiritual.

Religious individuals are dedicated to God, Biblical knowledge, appearing strong and having it all together.

The question is: do they really know God?

Do they allow themselves to open up about their struggles, their sinfulness and imperfections?

Are they truly relational individuals?

There is a difference between people who are religious and people who are spiritual. Spiritually healthy individuals draw us closer to being the people God intended us to be. These individuals demonstrate character traits that are good enough that their very presence on our lives is positive.  These individuals are accepting and honest and are very much present in our lives. They help us bear good fruit in our lives.

We are intended to be in relationships, healthy relationships. God designed us first to be in a relationship with Him. Proverbs 13:20: ”Become wise by walking with the wise, hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces (MSG).”

Proverbs 14:7: “Escape quickly from the company of fools, they are a waste of your time, a waste of your words.”

Proverbs 14:12-13: “There is a way of life that looks harmless enough, look again- it leads straight to hell. Sure these people appear to be having a good time but all the laughter will end in heartbreak.

Galatians 5: 25-26: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implication in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Goats often push those around them to become more religious, to follow more rules or to become more like them.

Sheep walk with us, mutually encouraging one another to become more like Christ.

3. Individuals who have no problem saying “I am sorry” but never change their behavior

These individuals avoid working on their problems. Instead of dealing with the issues in their life, they shut off any awareness of their own problems and of the God who has the power to transform.

You will often notice:

  • Statements like, “I don’t have a problem, I can change.”
  • These individuals often avoid complete submission to God or His will
  • They refuse to own their imperfections
  • A refusal to forgive others
  • A lack of a hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • A lack empathy
  • They blame others

True confession and repentance involves simply accepting responsibility and then committing to a change in behavior. Those who apologize but always explain or justify their behavior are not interested in glorifying God, but glorifying themselves.

Goats talk a good talk, but don’t change.

Sheep continually allow the Holy Spirit to make them more like Jesus by admitting shortcomings and allowing them to be strengthened in Christ.

Wealth is Relative

The adult Sunday School classes at my church are studying James chapter five tomorrow. This chapter begins with a stern warning to rich and oppressive landowners:

1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

In God’s providential timing, tomorrow is also the Sunday that we will be collecting money for Christmas in August. What, you may ask, does a warning to the rich have to do with collecting an offering at church? It all goes back to the title of this post: wealth, my friend, is a relative term. In studying for my lesson tomorrow, I read the following statement in a commentary on James:
The second complaint James made was against the wanton indulgence of the rich. They lived luxuriously and in wastefulness. They went beyond what could be justified under any conditions; they flaunted their riches and wasted them in excesses. Israel had been plagued by such people in almost every generation. Prophets like Amos cried out against such luxury when the poor were starving. This matter raises a question concerning ourselves. Most of us are not rich, but we have an abundance of the necessities of life. Will God overlook our unconcern for the multitudes of people in our world who lack the minimum food and clothing needed for survival?

It is true times are tough economically. But what better time to teach our children and remind ourselves that our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills? I encourage you to seriously look for ways that you can practice some self-denial and make a sacrifice of praise for God’s work to be done among the nations. Maybe you can give up your daily Starbucks fix for a week and donate that $20. Perhaps you could brown bag it to work two days this week. Or rent a movie instead of going to the theater. Or give the money you would have spent on gas had you gone to the lake in your boat or gone for a ride on your motorcycle. Maybe it means you sit down with your family, discuss the urgent need ministries have across the world and then you sell some video games or movies you don’t use. Maybe it means committing to missions the money you would have spent on playing fall ball or going on a mini-vacation. Perhaps Christmas this year should be giving a well to a village in East Africa through Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision.

Did you know that on average, Americans spend $13 billion every year on materials produced by the porn industry? Evangelicals make up approximately 10% of the US population, and we spend nearly as much as the general population on pornography. That means that evangelical Christians most likely spend around $1 billion a year on pornography. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal last year was $170 million and Southern Baptists were $41 million short of the goal. We spend nearly 100 times more on our idol of sex than we do to ensure that the nations know the love and salvation of Christ. It seems as though our priorities may be a little askew.

We often think there is a great sacrifice on our part when we give out of our abundance. But how much more faith does it take to give when we have less than we are used to having? And how can you really consider it a sacrifice at all when we live in such wealth and our money is going to provide food and clothes and access to the Gospel for millions around the world?

To learn more about the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, visit here. To learn more about the Christmas in August campaign, read this post. To see how one community of believers has answered the call to give sacrificially, read here.

When you see how we still have so much compared to the rest of the world, and you are faced with the great need that we are able to meet, the question becomes not “why should we give?” but “Why would we not give?”