Using animals to describe people is not uncommon in the Scriptures. Many times, the use of word pictures and objects to further illustrate spiritual principles is often necessary. The Lord often used animals to describe people in ways people could better understand. The Lord Himself, is often referred to as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and the “Lamb of God”. The Lord mentions four animals in just one verse here in Matthew 10:16, Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord describes Israel’s backslidden prophets as foxes that run and hide in the holes in walls instead of fixing the breach (see Matthew 8:20). O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. Ezekiel 13:4, 5
The Lord also describes King Herod as a fox in Luke 13:32. Herod was the sly king over Jerusalem and was known for constantly maneuvering politically to placate the Jews and the Roman government to ensure a position for himself. Therefore, we see Lord uses all kinds of animals to illustrate the character of a person’s personality and other profound truths throughout the Bible.
These Biblical analogies can help us understand the different kinds of people who might be sitting next to us in church this Sunday. This information is not written so we can have a superior attitude towards other people, but that we can understand the reality of who populates the typical church. This is especially important if we are a new believer. Satan attends church and uses our gullibility to deceive and hurt the young believers among us.
Therefore, be aware; not everyone sitting next us is a good role model for us. They maybe still unlearning things from the world. They have some animal natures that need to die just like we do.
To start we hope to find Sheep in The Church
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27
Why did Jesus call His followers sheep? Because sheep require more attention and care than just about any other livestock known to man. And, to put it bluntly, sheep are dumb, and concerning the ways of God, so are we! (see Isaiah 55:8,9). Listen to Isaiah 53:6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way. Here are 5 characteristics of sheep, that apply to us as a believer.
1. Sheep Need a Shepherd to Guide Them
Sheep only know where to go because they follow the herd. (Today it is called peer pressure.) If the herd runs off a cliff, most will follow to their death. That’s why sheep need a shepherd if they are going to be safe and healthy. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He appoints His under shepherds (pastors) to feed His flock. The pastor utilizes sheep dogs (associate pastors) to assist him in his efforts to gather and protect the flock.
2. Sheep Need a Shepherd to Feed Them
It has been said that sheep left to themselves will starve because they’ll stay in one place and eat all the grass and not know how to search for food. Sheep left to them selves are almost always thin and sickly, and so are Christians. The shepherd will lead them to green pastures and still waters. The shepherd will also clean the field of sticks and stones that might be harmful to the sheep when they try to digest them. This is what a pastor does as he removes false doctrines and heresy from the sheep’s life.
Sheep can be skittish and fearful animals. If they sense danger or a predator around, they won’t eat. But, if the shepherd is near, they’ll be at ease. Christians don’t receive much from the Word, until they are settled and feel loved. That’s why worship usually goes before the preaching of the Word at most churches. It leads them besides the still waters which settles them so they can eat or receive from the Word of God.
3. Sheep Need a Shepherd to Protect Them
Sheep are defenseless animals. So are believers in their early years. With no horns, claws, or large teeth to protect themselves, they are vulnerable to attack. Their only defense is to stay in close to the flock. Sheep need the protection of the shepherd as he uses his rod and staff to fend off predators. Wandering sheep and isolated believers almost always end up as wolf food.
4. Sheep Need a Shepherd to Save Them from Themselves
A common term known to sheep herders is what’s known as a “cast sheep”. A cast sheep is sometimes an overly fat sheep in its full coat, who has fallen, perhaps into a depression in the grass and like a turtle on its back, is unable to get back on its feet. The sheep can suffocate under its own weight and worse yet, will soon become a victim of predators as the rest of the flock moves on.
They are especially in danger because its constant bleating becomes a dinner bell for nearby lions or wolves. But if the shepherd reaches down and lifts the sheep out of its predicament, the sheep’s life will be spared. This is what King David meant in the twenty third Psalm when he said the “Lord is my Shepherd” and in verse three when he says, “He restores my soul.” As a shepherd David knew what this meant.
Christians often find themselves in a “depression” or a pit that they can’t get themselves out of. It often takes the Lord working through His leaders and His people to lift us out of the miry clay. We all need our soul restored from time to time. We need others to keep us on track if we are going to make it through this life.
5. Sheep Know the Voice of Their Shepherd
Sheep can be mixed with flocks from other ranches and herds and still recognize and respond to the voice of their shepherd. They know their shepherd even over the commands of other shepherds. Real Christians know the voice of Jesus and they follow Him. This is also true of their ministry leader here on earth. They know who God has put them with. God wants His people and churches networking together to bring a greater witness for Christ, but He also wants them to be part of one Christian community. Are you?
Recognizing the Goats in The Church
Perhaps one of the most disturbing portions of God’s Word is found in Matthew 25:31-46 where the Lord Jesus describes the difference between sheep and goats nations, the righteous and the cursed (see Ezekiel 20:38 and also 2 Corinthians 5:10).
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Matthew 25:31-33
Here, the Lord describes sheep as those people who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in strangers, clothed the naked and visited the sick and imprisoned. The goats did not. Now before we question whether we are saved by grace or by our works (Ephesians 2:8, 9), we need to consider that some Bible scholars believe Jesus is speaking here about the gentile nations of the world (non-believers) at the end of the Age.
This time would be like World War II when there was a great persecution of Jews. Many people put their lives on the line to save them, by hiding them, by feeding them, or helping them escape from the Germans. Some believe these Scriptures refer to how the world will treat Jews during the last days of before Jesus returns. Others believe it is about how the world treats Christians who are persecuted in the end time. The Lord God will reward those who stand by His peoples’ side whether Jew or Christian.
For those who disagree with this eschatological point of view, the truths are still relevant for today. Those who bless the least of Jesus’ brethren (verse 40) will be rewarded. Those who are hostile or even indifferent to God, His people, and people in general do not know the Lord; they are not part of His flock. They are goats.
Recognizing the Pigs in The Church
Pigs are a picture of worldliness and uncleanness (Leviticus 11:7,8). They are the garbage disposals of land animals. Pigs represent the worst in our old sin nature. According to the Old Covenant, pigs are declared by God as unclean. Even touching a pig could make an Israelite unclean. Pigs are consumers, they’ll eat anything in their path. They’ll even eat each other if given the opportunity. Nothing is refused by pigs. You’ll often hear of groups of pigs inhabiting landfills and junk yards where they breed profusely and eat everything from paint, rotting food, and waste.
Some Christians give into their “pig nature” and are ultimately destroyed by their own appetites. Aaron Katz once described witnessing an event at a church picnic where he saw the cook prepare a lamb for dinner. They simply slit its throat, and the sheep quietly, without a peep, expired as its blood drained from its body, much like our Savior, in Isaiah 53:7, He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
He went on to describe watching four strong men wrestling with a pig they were also trying to prepare for dinner. It took the entire strength of those four men to hold the pig down as it snorted, squealed, and thrashed about in their arms. When they slit its throat, it continued to thrash about and squeal until the last drop of blood left its body.
This is a perfect picture of how our flesh is unwilling to die to the sinful nature in each of us. Many times, the pig nature in some believers resists the crucified life so vigorously that they will be near death before they will surrender fully to God. Sheep simply yield to the work of the cross and experience the resurrected life of the Spirit. The bottom line is, we can die the easy way or the hard way, the choice is ours. Die to your old man as you focus on Christ in your inner man. (Galatians 2:20).
Recognizing the Porcupines in The Church
Is there such a thing as a “Porcupine Christian?” Porcupines are mentioned in the Bible as those creatures who will inhabit desolate places. Why? Because they like being alone and the other animals like it that way!
“I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” says the Lord of hosts. Isaiah 14:23
Porcupine Christians are those people you must stroke just the right way or you’ll get stuck with one of their points. The whole time you’re talking with them you feel compelled to keep the conversation limited to superficial or surface issues lest you come upon one of their sharp opinions) points. You have to handle them very carefully or you’ll feel the “jab” of one of their pointers (quills). You’re always mindful of how easily they get upset.
These Christians always have strong opinions about something. Their point of view is rarely or never open to discussion. Porcupine Christians don’t have many friends in the church or ministry. They are loners and usually, directly or indirectly may cause their family to limit their relationships with other people in the ministry as well. They are puzzled as to why they seem out of place at church. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. Proverbs 12:18
They believe their belief system is Biblically based so they are often clueless as to why they are affecting people they way they are. What they are unaware of is, that the spirit in which they hold their beliefs often produces death instead of life. I remember there was a particular wife of a porcupine Christian in a church who was upset that after leaving the church under her husband’s direction, no one called or contacted her to see how she was doing. What this dear lady didn’t recognize was that her husband’s beliefs and sharp opinions had isolated her and her family from healthy friendships in the church.
It’s not that the people in the church didn’t want to spend time with her, it was that there was a controlling atmosphere that surrounded her family that repelled most of the people. Many times, these believers have more friends or acquaintances outside the church than they do in the church (that’s not a good sign for any Christian). Often these strong opinionated Christians will stay home and start their own church. They seem unable to soften their touchy, narrow-minded personality.
In nature, porcupines are usually critters that are left alone by the other animals, simply because it’s not worth getting stuck by one of their points. Remember, healthy sheep love to herd or flock together. If your ideology or point of view results in your terminal isolation from other believers, you are probably a porcupine Christian. The Bible says, “If we walk in the light as He (Jesus) is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” (1 John 1:7). If you have no fellowship, you are not walking in the light!
God ordained that as sheep we would all have the soft outer garment of wool, not the rigid, sharp, opinionated covering of quills. Which would you rather rub up against? This is worth thinking about. Especially if we don’t have healthy relationships with the people in our ministry family right now.
Recognizing the Mules in The Church
Do not be like the horse or like the mule which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. Psalms 32:9
I suppose we all are “mule-headed” and stubborn in areas, but there are some people who are so stubborn that they could be characterized as a mule. As Christians, our goal is to be yielded and pliable in the Master’s hands.
It should be the still, small voice, the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit that prods us. But there are believers who seem cemented in their ways. If someone doesn’t put a bridle on them and pull them into the right direction, they’ll just stay in the same spiritual spot year after year. The Bible exhorts us not to be like a mule, without understanding, but to move with the Spirit of God. This is serious business with God. 1 Samuel 15:23 states: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. I am sure none of us want to be known as a witch or idolater just because we are stubborn. Something to think about.
Recognizing the Eagles in The Church
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Eagle Christians are those believers who put the flesh to death in their prayer life so they can serve God. As an eagle goes through its molting period and loses all its feathers, claws and even beak, in order to grow newer, larger, and stronger ones, so these Christians endure the stripping period of God’s workings. This process is what we describe in our book, Roadkill Seminary. They wait in prayer and serve as a waiter before the table of the Lord, day and night. The result is a Christian with strong wings of faith to ride the winds of God’s Spirit as they soar high above the problems and situations of life.
With this eagle eye perspective, from the place seated next to Christ (Ephesians 2:6), these Christians make wise, accurate decisions for their families, ministries, and careers. With the whole picture given to them from their place in heavenly places, they see the bigger picture that many Christians fail to see. These Christians shall not faint, nor be weary as they serve the living God. All of us can be eagle Christians if we will wait on the Lord.
Recognizing the Sloths in The Church
God speaks more frequently about the dangerous effects of slothfulness than any other animal in the Bible. Could this mean these “sloth” people are in our churches and ministries today? The negative characteristics of this creature can be found in each of us if we are not careful. When the first European explorers of Central and South America discovered this animal in the tropical rain forest, they gave it the name “sloth” because it was so characteristic of the Hebrew word “atsluwth,” which means to be idle.
All a sloth does is eat and sleep. It moves very slowly. One was observed traveling four miles which took 48 days. It is so lazy that moths and other bugs infest its fur. Some even take on a blue green appearance from algae build up due to their lack of personal hygiene. It means to have lost the fire or the drive we once had. Here are 10 symptoms of slothful behavior.
- The sleeping sloth will awake in poverty. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall your poverty come on you like a robber. Proverbs 6:9-11
- The lazy sloth will always work for someone else. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slothful will be put to forced labor. Proverbs 12:24
- The sloth doesn’t finish what he started. The slothful man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession. Proverbs 12:27
- The sloth’s laziness results in a painful journey through life. The way of the slothful man is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of the upright is a highway. Proverbs 15:19
- The sloth’s work habits make him a terrible employee. He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer. Proverbs 18:9
- The sloth is always fighting the desire to sleep. Slothfulness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. Proverbs 19:15
- The sloth is so lazy he won’t even feed himself (physically or spiritually). A slothful man buries his hand in the bowl, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again. Proverbs 19:24
- The sloth is constantly frustrated by his own desires. The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare. Proverbs 21:25, 26
- The sloth works hard at one thing… making excuses as to why he doesn’t work! The slothful man says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!” Proverbs 22:13
- The sloth is full of excuses, sleep, and laziness. The slothful man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does the slothful turn on his bed. The slothful man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. Proverbs 26:13-15
In the final analysis, slothfulness is idolatry, which is the worship of anything other than our Heavenly Father. You see when we worship our desires, our craving for comfort, and our right to our own life, we make “self” a god. When we turn from the true “life giving” God of heaven, we lose out on the power to live life abundantly. Thus, sleep and laziness cover us like a heavy blanket, leaving us at the mercy of our sluggish self. The remedy is repentance and obedience. Put your life on the altar and count it as dead. Then live by faith in God. Galatians 2:20 states: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Recognizing the Snakes in The Church
Now the serpent was more cunning then any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1
Just about everyone knows and fears snakes. Why? Because they are sneaky and subtle. They can move into places totally undetected. They are quiet. They don’t bark, growl or roar. These stealthy creatures can twist and weave their way in and out of almost any situation. This is why Satan is described as a serpent. He is cunning and deceptive in all his ways. Yes, there are snakes in church! Why is this so? Because snakes love to hide in the grass and sheep love to eat grass.
Snakes may be people who are deceived Christians or unsaved people who are deceived and think they are Christians. The deadly thing about these people is the poison they want to inject into people. This venom can be very subtle comments that infect the minds of individuals or the flock. This poison can be rebellion and anti-authority rhetoric against the church leadership or against our government authorities. It can also be a seducing spirit which causes the flock to fall into sexual immorality. It can be a religious spirit causing the flock to fall into heresy or extreme interpretations of Scripture. Its goal is to take our attention off of Jesus, who is our only antidote (see John 3:14-16).
I once heard one pastor call another pastor a snake because he was trying to gain a higher position within their denomination. He evidently was using manipulation and slick salesmanship to work his way up the ladder. As stated before, some snakes are deceived Christians with impure motives who Satan can use, while others are directly planted by the enemy. We must love them but not allow ourselves or anyone to be bitten by them. Remember, their poison causes us to put our attention on just about everything except Jesus! But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Just as snakes in the natural world give you the creeps, so do snakes in the church. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on it but there is usually a “check” in your spirit when these people are in the room. They can maneuver themselves into just about any position in the ministry. Their forked tongue speaks of how well they can say two different things at once. They will say one thing to one group in the ministry than something totally different to another group in the ministry.
I remember another man in leadership of a church who was very insecure. He would say kind and flattering things to his fellow associate pastors but when he was with the senior pastor, he would say the opposite. He was evidently hoping to win favor with both groups. I believe this man is losing his “snake tendencies” as he grows in the Lord and as we love and pray for him.
We see this same snake spirit every night when we watch the news. This where we see how snake catchers can become snake breeders.
Recognizing the Wolves in The Church
Wolves are usually nocturnal predators who sneak up on their prey to devour them. Jesus called false prophets wolves. Listen to Matthew 7:15, Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Jesus said that there would be many false prophets who would look like sheep (Christians) but who would be commissioned by the devil. Wolves need camouflage to get near their prey so some of the devil’s workers will look like they’re saved. In verse 16 Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruits.” Notice that fruits is plural. Just because a person has good fruit in one area doesn’t mean they are the real thing in every area. We must consider all the fruit they are producing. “Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” These wolves can be national figures or people sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday morning. Listen to Acts 20:29 and 30, For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Some of the people we are talking about are sincere but misguided or wounded Christians under the influence of demonic spirits. These believers may sincerely believe they are standing zealously for their Christian belief or doctrine when in actuality, the ravenous “wolf spirit” that is motivating them desires to divide the flock and draw disciples unto itself and away from God’s shepherds. This spirit will try to draw people to a particular issue or pet doctrine. Beware, this spirit will visit every church at least once.
A true shepherd always works to gather the flock of God together. Wolves and deceived Christians used by demonic spirits, seek to divide and conquer the flock. Acts 20:29 says they don’t spare the flock. The flock is secondary to their purposes, which are opposite of the Spirit of Christ, who gave His life for the flock. We should as well.
Upon seeing and recognizing these animal types in our churches and ministries, we can better understand why the Lord Jesus said we would be like defenseless sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves. Therefore, He commands us to be shrewd, cunning, crafty, and wise as a snake while we are in this world. Yet we are to be as harmless and gentle as a dove, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is how the righteous become bold as a lion. I pray each of us will be just as the Lord instructed.