We hear in the New Testament Jesus’ parable where a man leaves 99 sheep to find the one sheep that’s lost. Jesus uses this analogy along two other parables of a lost coin and the lost son as a response to the Pharisees who can’t comprehend why he receives sinners as any other person that is already “saved” (Luke 15). It’s, of course, not the first, nor the last time Jesus is criticized for having a form of communion with tax collectors and other people who are not necessarily “holy”.
The parable of the lost sheep is one that has been covered and taught multiple times in every church around the world. It is taught to remind us of God’s heart towards sinners (each and every one of us) who are considered spiritually lost and need a savior (Jesus) to come and find us. We see God’s intimate heart and character at play. Ed Stetzer, from Christianity Today, says it this way, “It is a humbling reminder that God is not just interested in us but also in those who do not know Him.”
It’s not that bad, right?
I recently heard a sermon by Mattie Montgomery (full video below) where he talked about this very thing. If his name isn’t familiar, he was the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band, For Today, until they broke up a few years ago. If you haven’t heard their music, I recommend you give them a listen, but that’s beside the point. Montgomery said that this parable could be used as an example of God’s lack of conformity and complacency to save us.
He says that if he was in the man’s position and, let’s say, a bear came and took that one lost sheep, he would probably feel fine with it knowing the bear didn’t maul him or the rest of the sheep. That’s only one less sheep to worry about and you still have 99 left in your field. Conformity comes into play and God reminds us that we need to care for every single sheep just like He cares for every single sheep.
Short Disclaimer: Just because the man leaves 99 sheep to find one, doesn’t mean that he now has one good sheep and 99 unattended and possibly lost sheep. It’s not written, but logically speaking, he probably had someone take care of his herd (do you call a group of sheep a herd? flock?).
Satan will sometimes play tricks with us where we still feel like we are winning. We still feel like winners because we still have 99 sheep. You have to admit, if you are in school, that is a good grade to have on an exam… but what if you lose one more the next day or week? What if this happens for a few weeks, where you only lose one more percent of the body of God or you lose one percent of your soul and it accumulates to 20 or 40 percent? Is it still something we could be comfortable or complacent with? Now, that’s not a grade you always feel comfortable having on a final, right?
It can be all fun and games until…
At some point last week when I was on my commute to work, I decided to listen to the radio instead of Spotify, as I usually do, on my phone. A talk show was on and the two radio DJ’s were talking about a man who was arrested for stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas. Yeah, you read that right! 1.2 million dollars in Mexican cuisine! How?!
See, this man didn’t raid some factory or hijack a food truck. For over 8 years, this man was a delivery truck driver for a Mexican restaurant who made shipments to a juvenile detention center a few times a week. Every time he would deliver a shipment, he would take one or two fajitas for dinner. This added up to that dollar amount after his employers found something fishy going on… except fish wasn’t on the menu (bad joke, I know).
Montgomery uses the example of an affair in his message. An affair can begin with one friendly text with the opposite text, and it only escalates from there. One friendly message or email is not worth being comfortable to lose something worthwhile like a wife or girlfriend.
It’s just one small thing that has to go wrong for us to begin to fall into a deeper hole. It could be as small as telling a white lie, yet, after doing it 20 times, who knows what you say is true. Don’t let it become something you grow comfortable with like stealing a fajita. Worry about resolving the small argument than having to worry about the dysfunctional marriage that is headed towards a divorce.
These small fixes are big wins!
There is a reason as to why the parable of the lost coin mentions that the woman’s actions are to “light a lamp, sweep the house, and search thoroughly until she finds it (v. 8).” The woman places high priority in the small thing to make sure it doesn’t become a bigger issue. And realizing how much the future matters when the little things are taken care of, it’s no wonder the man rejoices when he finds his sheep. It’s not a surprise when the woman rejoice with her friends and neighbors when she finds the coin (v. 6 & 9). To keep this post from dragging, I won’t go into detail over the parable of the lost son, but that is another example with a more intimate approach of the worthiness of everything, this case, showing us through a lost son who is also as important as the one who is at home.
If we want to hold a heart like God’s, we need to take action at every moment something falls off its tracks. It’s better and easier to try and heal a dirty paper cut than try to deal with an infected wound. God wants us to worry about the individual things, like the one sheep or the one lost coin.
Do you have small things that you are beginning to lose sight of out of complacency? Think about the New Year’s resolutions you set a few months back. If you made them, it’s because you deemed them important for a reason. What else do you see falling out of place?
Also, if you enjoyed this post, I will leave a link to the full sermon by Mattie Montgomery, who goes into detail over this topic. He talks about many more good things worth listening to.