Sheep are perhaps one of the oldest sources for metaphors of human life. The Bible makes frequent references to sheep as God teaches us about who we are and who He is.
A recent week’s vacation at a cabin on a farm provided me with an opportunity to observe a flock up close and personally.
My wife and I remarked how the sheep appeared to have a rather amazing work ethic: but for the very heaviest of downpours, they kept to their singular task: munching grass. Hour after hour, they labored away, doing what they were meant to do, lying down to rest when needed, and scurrying over to the farmer when he made his appearance at the gate.
I was especially intrigued about the way they went about their lawn mowing duties. I would watch the sheep graze in a particular area of the field for a few minutes, but when I checked on them an hour later, they were in a completely different section of grass, completely disconnected from where they were previously munching. The field became spotted with tufts of grass that had been nibbled and those that had been ignored. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the sheep’s approach to their grazing duties. It was as if they merely followed the wind, and then hopped, skipped, and jumped their way around the field, eating without any particular system or plan.
My conclusion: sheep have no strategy.
They just do what they were meant to do, without concern for achieving maximum output for minimal input. They seem unbothered by patchy results. I never once saw them confer together about the best way to go about the day’s task. They just stood up from their places of rest, and sometimes began munching right away, sometimes took a few steps to graze over here, and at other times they would walk to the other end of the field entirely! Plenty of grass within reach, why meander so far?
Unlike us, the sheep seem to focus simply on the task at hand. They know what they are to do, and they do it.
How often do we favor planning and discussion over actually doing the work that God has for us? Sure enough, the Bible does warn us to take account of things before jumping blindly into a project which we will be unable to finish (Luke 14:27-33), nor to take lightly our commitment to Christian faith and relationship with God. But once we do know what God would have us do, perhaps we should be a little more sheep-like and not paralyze ourselves with debate about how to do the work. Rather, like the sheep, we should, in faith, just do it.
After all, we have the Good Shepherd leading us.