1 Peter 5:1-4
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…
I thought that I was passing by a sheepfold, where the shepherds seemed extremely busy. But they were occupied entirely with the gate and the hurdles, and had turned their backs on the sheep. The pasture was bare and brown, little better in some places than a sandy waste; the water was muddy, and full of dead leaves. The sheep were few in number — thin, emaciated, and looked scarcely more than half alive. "What are you doing, friends?" I asked of the shepherds. "Our master told us to feed his sheep," they replied. "We want to attract those sheep out on the mountain side; they are his too." "And what are you doing to attract them?" "Do you not see? We are gilding the gate and the hurdles, in the hope that, when the sun shines on them, those outside sheep will be attracted by curiosity. Then when they come inside we can feed them." "And why do you not feed those that are inside?" "Oh, they are in; they are safe enough! They can pick up food for themselves. We have not time to attend to them as well as attract the outsiders, and the latter business is by far the most important. We have a further attraction also: we play on the shepherd's pipe. The outside sheep often come round to listen." "But, friends, it is for the sheep inside that my concern is awakened. Your Master said, 'Feed My sheep.' Your gilding and music will never feed them." "Oh, no; those are for the sheep outside. We do feed them inside. Look, here is grass, and there are turnip troughs." "Do you call it grass? Parched, poor, uninviting stuff! My good friends, these troughs want cleansing and filling." "Do you think we have any time for that? We must attend to these other things." "Surely not to the neglect of the main thing? To what are you attracting these sheep? To what are you dooming the others? Attraction to starvation is not a very attractive idea." "Then you would have us to spend all our time on the sheep inside, and never gather the others in at all?" "By no means. I would have you to attract the outsiders; but I would have them attracted by fresh food and clear water, not by golden hurdles and shepherds' pipes. Trust me, the true way to attract lost sheep is by letting them see that the found sheep are better off than they are." "That is exactly what we are trying to do. Therefore we gild the hurdles to entice them to come and look into the fold." "And when they come and look in, you show them — what? A bare patch of ground, and a few half-starved sheep. My poor mistaken friends, the day is coming — ay, and fast too — when you will stand alone behind your gilded hurdles; for the fold will be left empty. The sheep will either be starved to death, or will have dragged their emaciated limbs to other fields than yours, where there is yet green grass left, and the fountain of living water is fresh and pure. Will you put down the paint pot and lay aside the reed, and begin at once to clear out the water and refill the troughs? It is not yet quite too late. It soon will be." Does the parable need interpretation? Will the shepherds listen?
(Emily S. Holt.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: