As I worked through the lectionary readings for Sunday’s sermon, the most significant image that reverberated throughout the passages (click here for a link to the Lectionary Readings for the day) was that of the Shepherd. The Shepherd who was the chief cornerstone that the builders rejected. The Shepherd who leads us beside still waters and restores our souls. The Shepherd who lays down His life for His flock.
But there was another image that Jesus brought up as he spoke to the Pharisees: the hired man. Now, this hired man is “not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.” Okay, so if we look at this as an analogy, the hired man is someone whom the sheep know and recognize, but he has no responsibility to them. He has no investment in them and therefore he has no loyalty to them.
Jesus goes on to say that this hired man will see a wolf coming and will leave the sheep and run away. This man, who has no loyalty to the sheep, will desire to escape when trouble comes. He will abandon them when they are most vulnerable and allow them to be destroyed by the wolf.
So, what am I supposed to infer about this hired man? Who, or what, is he? Do I recognize someone in my own life who is close but actually has no real interest in me? Or, to remove the concept of human-ness, what is this hired man to me? Is it a habit I have or behavior that I engage in that is so much a part of my normal comings and goings that I don’t even notice it? Is it an idea I subscribe to simply because I’ve always thought that way? And if it is an idea or a belief, when the wolf challenges, do I renounce it in some fear response or because it’s unpopular? Is it a resolve that I have or plan that I make that, when stress or anxiety looms, I abandon it because it’s too hard to keep?
Or, are we the hired man. Do we say we care, say “I love you,” say all the good things? But, when trouble comes, do we tuck tail and run, abandoning the flock to the trouble lurking in the shadows?
It’s up to us to be intelligent and thoughtful enough to tease out who or what this hired man is. We cannot be idle. We must ask ourselves the hard questions and determine what this “hired man” metaphor is.
Who or what is the hired man for you?