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“The Good Shepherd Giveth His Life”

The Eighth Commandment in the Gospels

5 min

The Lord Jesus Christ was the ultimate keeper of the eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:13). He came into this world to give, not to take. Leaving the glories of Heaven, Jesus willingly entered our world of sin and suffering. He took nothing from this world; yet, He gave everything to redeem it. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).

Like the Apostle Paul who followed the example of Jesus Christ, as men we also are to be like Jesus. Paul wrote to believers: “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Corinthians 10:33–11:1). So, one specific way we are to be like Jesus Christ is to be givers, considering others and their needs much above our own needs.

Throughout His earthly ministry, in both His words and His works, Jesus constantly was giving of Himself in order to meet the needs of others. He asked for and expected nothing in return. He healed the lame, and He made the blind to see. He made the deaf to hear; He cleansed the leper. He fed the hungry. Yet, in the record of all His miracles, the Lord Jesus did not perform a single miracle for His own personal comfort. Jesus once told a prospective disciple: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

Living in this world, when Jesus was weary, He fell asleep in a boat. When He was hungry, the disciples went into a nearby village to buy bread. When Jesus was thirsty, He asked a woman for a drink of water, promising her that He had the ability to give her spiritual water that was wholly refreshing. When Jesus was giving His own lifeblood on the cross, all that men would give in return was a meager taste of bitter vinegar on a sponge!

The generous nature of our Lord contrasted sharply with the selfish Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ day. These men were selfish, crafty, and scheming. Few things angered the Lord Jesus more than the violation of the eighth commandment! On two occasions, first early in His ministry and later a week before His crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord Jesus cleansed the Temple of those who were buying and selling. With a scourge of cords, Jesus drove the sheep and oxen out as well as their sellers; He overturned the tables of the selfish and dishonest moneychangers and demanded that the dove sellers remove their profane business from the Temple. Jesus said to them, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).

Selfish men throughout the ages have used their religious standings to gain for themselves. This practice is happening even today in churches and ministries because “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). We ought to refrain from the sin of Balaam (II Peter 2:15 and Jude 11) in seeking to personally gain through our spiritual duties.

In John Chapter 10, Jesus draws a sharp contrast between the thief who selfishly preys upon the sheep and the Good Shepherd Who gives His life for His sheep. The foundation of this discussion lies in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel Chapter 34, God rebukes the “shepherds of Israel” (the religious leaders of the nation) who selfishly preyed upon their people rather than sacrificially giving of themselves.

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them” (Ezekiel 34:2–4).

Jesus is referring to this very passage—and others similar to it—when He told His disciples: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:10–11).

As the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus provides to His sheep everything they need for living. If we have been redeemed by Christ and received eternal life from Him, He calls us by name. He makes us lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside still waters. He restores our soul. He leads us in the paths of righteousness, and He comforts us with His rod and staff. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. He prepares a table before us; He anoints us with oil. He is the door of the sheepfold. But ultimately, He lays down His Own life for the sheep.

Religious imposters, false teachers, and hireling shepherds do not love the sheep. They violate the eighth commandment by fleecing and killing the very ones they claim to protect. Promising spiritual benefits in exchange for donations, offering prayers for those who give, or conferring praise and spiritual titles of exaltation upon friends are just a few examples of insincere “protectors” that abound today.

The Apostle Peter used the example of Christ as the Good Shepherd to encourage other shepherds, pastors, teachers, and elders of the church to learn to give of themselves rather than to take for themselves. “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Peter 5:2–4).

True shepherds are not to be hired hands who steal, kill, and destroy. Shepherds are not to take oversight “for filthy lucre” but rather to give of themselves willingly, even to lay down their own lives for their sheep. Have you made Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, your ultimate example? As the spiritual leader in your home or if serving as one in your church, you should take this question to heart. When you serve God in any capacity, what are your motives? Do you yearn for the praise of men? Such a proud spirit violates the eighth commandment by robbing God of the glory that is His alone. Are you greedily seeking shameful or dishonest gain? Such a selfish attitude violates the eighth commandment by robbing God’s sheep for your own personal comfort. May God give each one of us the grace to follow the example set by the Good Shepherd and lay down our own lives daily for those that God has called us to serve.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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