We hear a lot today about fat cats. Generally taken to be someone who has got rich off the back of others – who have usually been made poorer in the process.
Ezekiel speaks about Fat Sheep in a similar vein.
The previous section reads very oddly. I can see God being a shepherd, looking for his sheep, caring for them, bringing them back from where they are scattered, tending the hurt, healing the sick ones – these are all pictures we are very familiar with when thinking of God. But, “The sleek and the strong I will destroy” (v16), really – are you sure? I’m not so comfortable with that thought, because I don’t think God is talking about a nice lamb roast.
The clue it appears is in the final sentence of verse 16
I will shepherd the flock with justice
As ever, God’s concern is for justice and right treatment, and as we move on to verses 20-24, we are enlightened further.
God is not judging simply between fat and thin sheep. He’s looking at why the fat sheep are fat. They have got fat by shoving and butting, the others have been driven away.
This is very much a challenge for us.
In the days when January sales were just that, and had real knock down bargains, it used to feature on the news, not just the people queueing up outside, but the free-for-all when the doors opened. Elbows were employed, and it really was survival of those most able to push their way through.
Are we shovers and butters? Making sure we get to things first? Seeking out the fresh, green grass for ourselves and knocking others out of the way in our haste? Do we want to make sure we have our share of whatever is on offer – and a bit more if we can get away with it.
Or are we looking for the weak? Holding back so they can get through. Letting others have what they need first, because their need is greater than ours.
What can we do to make sure these principles are lived out in the world? What can we do to support and encourage fairer trade, more ethical business practices?
May there be less pushing an shoving, and more justice and strengthening of the weak.
may I think of others
and their needs –
not just what I want.
In all my dealings
may I seek justice,
make space for the weak,
help the downtrodden,
and live in the ways of you
the One Shepherd