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But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. – John 10:12-13

In John 10 Jesus contrasts Himself as the Good Shepherd to those who forsake the flock in times of need or danger. He is talking about the hireling – someone hired to watch the flock while the shepherd is away or to assist him in caring for the flock from time to time. In the church today, the hireling represents elders or pastors, those who help oversee the flock of God. As a matter of fact, the word used in 1 Timothy to describe the role of a pastor is the word “overseer.” He manages things under the rule of Christ, who is the Head of His Church.

Here Jesus is talking specifically about hirelings who forsake the flock. A good minister of Jesus Christ will be faithful to Christ and the flock and discharge his duty whatever the cost. In contrast to the Good Shepherd and those who are faithful to Him, Jesus is explaining how He is different from the hireling who is doing his job only for the money. The hireling here puts his own safety and pleasure ahead of his duty. He gets paid to do a job, but as soon as there is risk he turns and runs away.

The hired man does not own the sheep. They are not his. He is simply caring for them. In reality he does not care for them at all. He cares about his job, and his own comfort and well being to the point that as soon as trouble shows up he deserts his post! Jesus on the other hand gives His life for HIS sheep – He shows ownership by purchasing them with His life.

When a wolf comes on the scene to threaten the flock, the shepherd will spend (give) his life to protect the sheep and ward off evil and harm. The hireling sees the wolf and fears for his own safety so he flees the scene, leaving the flock to be caught, harmed, and even killed. Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd, and those servants of His who are faithful to care for His sheep stand in stark contrast to these hirelings. He owns the sheep; the hireling works for pay. He cares for the sheep; the hireling cares for himself. He confronts danger and gives His life for the flock; the hireling flees and saves his own life while the flock is scattered.

We can see this in the church if a minister is in it for the money or for position, power, prestige, or for self gratification. He will not truly care for the sheep. He will do his job for a while as long as everything is okay, but as soon as trouble, rough seas, or danger appear – ZIP – he’s gone! The minister must be surrendered totally to Christ and obedient to the point of death for the flock. Otherwise the flock may be scattered, preyed upon, and killed.

If your minister is faithful let him know that you appreciate his faithfulness. He needs to know that you are aware of his love and care. And if your pastor is not faithful but deserts the congregation or members of his church whenever times get tough or a problem arises, talk to the other elders. If necessary, for your own safety – go to another church! Your spiritual well being is the RESPONSIBILITY of your elders before God. If they are faithful you will be fed and will grow. If they are not faithful, you will suffer and your faith could become damaged. If you need to know what to expect from elders remember that our example (and the example for ALL Christians) is Christ Himself. He is the Good Shepherd and we are to imitate Him every day in every way!

Why does the hireling act the way he does? Why will a minister care more about his own self-interest instead of caring for those in his care? Why would a hireling forsake the flock in a time of danger when he is needed most?

First of all, Jesus says that the hireling is just that, a hireling. He is an employee, paid to do a job. He does not own the sheep. He has no investment in them at all. His livelihood is not based (in his own mind) on the condition of the flock.

The second reason he flees or fails to confront it when danger arises is that this is his job, not his calling. One involves only self-interest, the other daily self-sacrifice. We must realize that in day to day life we are CALLED to follow Christ. That is our calling and it is to be our life no matter what else we accomplish, we must be faithful to follow Him. It is part of who we are. Very rarely today is a job part of who we are! It is a means to an end. We work to earn money to provide for our needs and wants. It is how we survive and thrive in today’s world.

We must not be like the hireling here. We need to find out what God is calling us to, we need to care about the ministry God has given us. Otherwise we become just another hireling. One who flees at the sign of danger and allows those in our care to be harmed. Of course this applies to elders – but I think it also applies to each of us every day.

Do we just do a job? Or do we have a calling? Jesus was called – the disciples were called – the early church was called – and that calling cost many of them their lives. Today, we are called (Eph. 4:1)! Called by the Spirit of God to abandon all to follow Him. Everything we love and care deeply about in this world needs to look like we hate it in comparison to our love for God! The hireling does not care, he does not invest himself in his work. He has no calling. We, on the other hand, have a divine call and an obligation to forsake even our safety in place of our duty to God and our fellow men! Safety or duty? Self-interest or self-sacrifice? A job or a calling?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and by no means a hireling. He will not flee when danger appears. He is always there to set the example of the consistency that the Spirit makes us able to exhibit as well day to day. He also has a millstone waiting for the neck of those who would flee, turning over the sheep and even little lambs to the lions and wolves in our midst (Matt. 18:6).

Today, be a faithful shepherd and a faithful sheep and thank God for your faithful pastors and elders. Answer the call and forsake the idolatry of self worship and service. Serve Him. Find out what Jesus wants you to do today, and do it.


April 2023

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright
© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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