I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 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 10:11-13)
The Hireling Christian
Sheep require constant care under the watchful eye of a shepherd who depends on his flock for many of life’s needs. Keeping sheep was not a hobby for those in Biblical times but a daily need of caring, tending, protecting, and leading to green pastures and still water. The life of a shepherd was hard. Constant threats of bears and lions keep the shepherd on guard. Every sheep was important to the family’s income, and if one sheep was lost, it was a tragedy. A good shepherd would do everything in his power to protect his flock. King David kept his father’s sheep when he was a boy. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, David would go after it and strike it on the head to deliver it. If the bear rose up against David, he would grab it by its beard, strike, and kill it. There was no fear of the young shepherd boy to give his life for his father’s flock.
On occasion, a family would hire a man to keep the sheep. He was called a hireling, which means he was hired to watch over the sheep. His job was to be employed for a limited time and receive a payment at the end of the watch. He had little concern for the sheep as his job was a paid observation of a flock that was not his own. The only thing he considered necessary was what he got out of the employment. If a wolf came up against the flock, he would not give his life for something he had no commitment or reward for and would flee. The wolf would take whatever he wanted, and the flock would be scattered. Hirelings are not devoted to the work. Unlike the shepherd, who is committed to the protection and care of the flock, the hireling is just a temporary part of the work with little or no interest in the outcome.
Jesus explained to the Pharisees that He was a good shepherd willing to give His life for the flock. The purpose of the Son of God coming to earth was to give His life as a ransom for all. Jesus was willing to die for the flock. He died on the cross for every man because He was the good shepherd who gave His life without compulsion. No one forced Jesus to die. He gave His life of His own accord. Unlike David, who took the bear by the beard and killed him, Jesus took the beard of Satan and died. But God had a greater plan to raise His Son from the dead to destroy the works of the devil and accomplish salvation for all those who would come to Him. Jesus gave a full sacrifice as the good shepherd.
The Christian is a disciple or follower of Jesus. Like the good shepherd, the child of God is to be committed fully to the work of the Lord. This requires a heart willing to give time, energy, and devotion to the work of the Lord. God desires to have shepherd Christians dedicated to the kingdom’s work without reservation. Hireling Christians are half-hearted in their desire to grow, encourage, share the gospel, and become better kingdom citizens. There is a sense of doing as little as required and less if expected. Hireling Christians never reach the point of dedication to Christ. Their hearts are just not in it. They attend sporadically, if much at all. The Bible is never opened, and prayer is never a part of life. Life for the hireling Christian is doing as little as possible.
Jesus was the good shepherd leaving an example for the Christian to become a shepherd Christian. When the ewe lamb is born, he must learn to trust in the good shepherd’s voice. As he grows in Christ, the lamb becomes a shepherd in the kingdom of God, looking out for others and doing the will of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Hirelings are not committed and run at the first sign of danger. Shepherd Christians are willing to lay down their lives for the work of the kingdom.