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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Parables: Sheep and Goats

What does this parable teach Christians?

In Matthew Chapter 25:31-46, Jesus teaches about a king who sits on his throne and divides his people into two groups, just as a shepherd would divide sheep from the goats. He then explains that how the people have lived and treated one another will determine their future in his kingdom. Those who are kind to others (the sheep) will enter Heaven, those who aren’t kind (the goats) won’t.

This parable teaches Christians a number of things.

Helping Others

It shows Christians how important it is to help people. The 'sheep' are allowed to enter Heaven as they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, looked after strangers, gave clothes to people who needed them, looked after sick people, and visited people in prison. The 'goats' are not allowed to enter Heaven, as they haven't done any of these things.

The parable shows that the way we treat others is really important because Jesus identifies with everyone. If people reject or ignore the needs of others, they are rejecting and ignoring God. Likewise, in blessing others, people are also being a blessing to God.

Life After Death

The parable lends further support to the Christian view of life after death. Jesus' teaching here is clear: there is a Heaven and a Hell, where you will go, depending on your behaviour towards others.

God's Judgement

Christians believe this parable also gives a number of clues about the end-time events and about the judgement of humanity.

God can be viewed as an angry and vengeful judge waiting to punish everyone who sins. There are some people who still adopt these beliefs today. They often look to the Old Testament to support their viewpoint seeing God as someone who rewards goodness with a blessing and punishes evil with anger.

However, there are others who emphasise the teaching that one day everything that has gone wrong on earth will be put right by a merciful and loving God. That, although we don't necessarily get things right, God is a loving God who forgives choices that we make.

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats teaches that, although salvation through Jesus is open to all, it does not mean that the impact of our actions can be dismissed. Christians believe that the presence of God in their lives should affect how they live and treat others because one day they will stand before God and answer for how they have lived.

Read Matthew 25:31-46 Consider:
  • Who is the king?
  • Why is the king described as a shepherd?
  • Who are the sheep and who are the goats?
  • Why are the sheep and goats separated?
  • What did the sheep do that was so good?
  • What did the goats do?
  • Is the king's response a just and fair one?
  From reading Jesus' words, Christians believe Jesus will return as judge and king. All people will be judged when Jesus returns. People will be separated into two groups, those considered righteous (right) and those unrighteous (not right).
  • The good people (sheep) will inherit eternal life and the Kingdom of God
  • The bad people (goats) have no place in this kingdom and are sent away.