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Vol.  9  No. 9 September 2007  Page 11
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Louis Rushmore


Billy Goat Religion

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

    Have you ever heard of billy goat religion? Well, maybe not. After all, goats are not a part of the assignment of our Lord to his apostles to take the Gospel to “every creature” (Mark 16:15). Goats are not among those charged in both testaments to “prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12; Jam. 4:8) because of an impending appearance before the Judgment Bar of God to give an account of one’s life (Ecc. 12:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:10). However, the Bible does refer to animals, including sheep (lambs) and goats, figuratively through types, metaphors and similes to teach spiritual truths. “Types” use one thing to represent a fuller and superior thing or person (e.g., the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament versus the Lamb of  God—Jesus Christ—who died for us). “Metaphors” call something that it is not for the purpose of comparison and emphasis (e.g., Jesus compared Herod to a fox, Luke 13:31-32). “Similes” use the word “as” or “like” to compare two different things for the purpose of comparison or emphasis (e.g., the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove, Matt. 3:16). Jesus used his famous illustration of goats and sheep respecting Final Judgment in Matthew 25:32-33. So, using similar figures, just what is billy goat religion?

    Billy goats resemble sheep to a degree. Both goats and sheep are near the same size, have four legs, are grazing animals and have a similar voice. Likewise, non-Christians and unfaithful Christians may resemble Christians to a degree. Anyone with clear eyesight can distinguish easily between a goat and a lamb. Likewise, anyone possessing the least powers of discernment ought to be able to distinguish easily between non-Christians or unfaithful Christians and faithful Christians. If the world (family members, co-workers, fellow students, friends and peers) are prone to confuse us with (spiritual) goats rather than sheep, isn’t this a fairly obvious indication that we resemble goats more than (spiritual) sheep? Borrowing from a VBS song, “I don’t want to be a goat, nope, because goats have no hope, nope!”

    Billy goats will eat almost anything. “[T]”hough kept with sheep it had the advantage of being able to thrive on poorer ground” (New Bible Dictionary). The proverbial goat even eats tin cans! How is that different from the child of God who fills himself with the filth of this world (e.g., from song, movie, bad language, mode of dress, Internet choices, poor choices in Christian living) and conspicuously acts like a homesteader instead of a pilgrim (e.g., lack of Christian service, sporadic Christian worship, little conviction)? Lusts of this world are not passports to heaven, but elsewhere (1 John 2:15-17). Especially Christians need to digest the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15), fill their minds with noble thoughts (Phil. 4:8) and develop godly virtues (2 Pet. 1:5-10). There is a sense that we are what we eat, not only physically, but spiritually, too. “I don’t want to be a goat, nope, because goats have no hope, nope!”

    Billy goats and sheep are not the same. Goats and sheep may resemble each other in some ways, but goats and sheep are different members of the animal kingdom, and they represent in Scripture different classes of souls, headed to different eternities (Matt. 25). Do you practice billy goat religion, or are you one of Jesus’ little lambs? “I don’t want to be a goat, nope, because goats have no hope, nope!”

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