Are You a Sheep or a Goat?


Ruth’s co-worker, Stella was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  As the illness progressed, Ruth frequently talked with Stella on the phone.  “Very soon I realized that the Lord was putting it on my heart to bring his word to Stella,” Ruth observed.  “My first reaction was apathy and denial. ‘Lord, are you sure you want me to do this?  I’m not sure I know how.’ 

“Finally, after lots of prayer and several sleepless nights, I asked if she was receiving visitors.  She said yes and also mentioned that she had been having several dreams recently and that I was in each of them.  I took this as a sign that the Holy Spirit was bringing us together.

“When I visited her the following day, she asked about the right way to pray and wondered whether her illness was the result of something bad she had done in her life.  I assured her that was not the case, and that God loved her more than she can comprehend.  All she needed to do was invite God into her life.

“Over the next few visits, we continued to talk and pray, and she invited Jesus into her life.  The last time I saw her before she died, she had an angelic peaceful quality about her, and although she could barely whisper, she assured me she was praying and would be just fine.”

After Stella’s death, the family thanked Ruth for helping Stella find the Lord.  Interestingly, they tried to do the same thing, but had been told that her friend Ruth was already providing for her spiritual needs.

What is significant about this story is that Ruth’s love for Stella moved from being passive in nature to becoming active, as evidenced by Ruth’s initial reaction not to act on the promptings she was receiving from the Holy Spirit.

The parable of the Sheep and the Goats is considered to be about the last judgment when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.  Notice that whether people are considered to be a sheep or a goat at the time of judgment has already been determined by their choices and conduct in life.

To the sheep, the King says, “Come, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Mt. 25:35-36)

The sheep asked when did they do these things for the king, and he said whatever you did for the least of people, you did it for me.  Our action toward others is our action toward God.  Unless love is acted upon, is it really love?

In recent years I have deliberately volunteered to serve in the Chaplain’s office of the local county jail, take communion to residents of a nearby nursing home, and participate  in an organization that raises money to establish special education programs in Catholic schools for the intellectually disabled.

My hope is to counter the inherent self-focused busyness in my life, and to let my faith and love move from being passive to being active. 

“There is no substitute for active love.” (Jerome Biblical Commentary)


2 thoughts on “Are You a Sheep or a Goat?

  1. James Becker

    Nice article – I enjoy getting your advice which comes from your articles – you are a good man – better than I.

    How are you all doing?



    1. Bill Dalgetty Post author

      Thank you. God looks at the heart more than our actions, which he readily forgives if we seek his forgiveness. You have a good heart.



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