While doing my daily devotion, I came upon the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15: 3-7:
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
This portion of scripture has always puzzled me. I didn’t understand why you would leave the ninety-nine. What if a wolf came and got them? What if they weren’t safe? What if another one got lost? So I decided to do a little research on sheep to find out why it would be safe to leave the ninety-nine to look for the one. First of all, sheep are herd animals, meaning they travel in groups. They follow a leader to a new pasture and have a tendency to congregate together with other members of a flock. That being said, if one sheep was missing from the flock and they were grazing together, it would be perfectly safe for a shepherd to leave them for a short time. So that settled my question.
Immediately following the Parable of the Lost Sheep is the Parable of the Lost Coin where a woman has ten coins and loses one. What does she do? She looks for the coin until she finds it and when she finds it she rejoices.
This parable is immediately followed by the Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son. And there is no mistake in the placement of scripture. Jesus could have taught these parables in any order but He chose to teach them in this particular order.
When we have children, there are seasons when we have to exert more time, money, energy, etc. on one child than another and that’s ok. The children who don’t need the attention will be fine. And one may need attention today but a different will need attention tomorrow or next week.
One goal of childrearing is to raise out children to prefer one another and to nip selfish behavior in the bud. In the Parable of the Lost Son, the son who was always faithful and did the right thing got a little jealous of his brother who went out into the world. His father replied, “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” What a lesson in selflessness. It is not all about us and we need to teach our children that important lesson. And yes they will have those thoughts from time to time, no matter how kind and tenderhearted they are. They will feel left out, overlooked, unloved and in severe cases abandoned but they are not. We as parents need to take care of the child who needs us at that particular time and remind the others that they are loved and don’t need us as much now, but may need us more in the future. The others will be fine as the sheep who were left behind in the Parable of the Lost Sheep were.