WHO IS THE HIRELING OF JOHN 10?
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. my purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10
Times without number, I have heard preachers, teachers, and every other category of believer in Jesus, refer to the devil as the one who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy”. Never once, in all my Christian experience, have I ever heard or read a query to this interpretation.
Yet, when I read Jesus’ words in John 10, nowhere does He refer to Satan in His teaching about the hireling and the Good Shepherd. His debate was not with the devil whom He could vanquish with the Word, but with the religious leaders who twisted the Word to suit their own purposes.
In His teaching on the Good Shepherd, Jesus contrasted Himself with the “hireling” who had no interest in the sheep but in what he could gain from shepherding them. When danger or difficulty came, the hireling abandoned the sheep to save his own skin. No mention of the devil here!
By contrast, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, not only takes good care of the sheep whom He knows by name, but He also sacrificed His own life for His flock.
Who, then, was the hireling? Surely, Jesus was referring to the religious leaders, with whom He continually contended because they cared more about themselves than about God’s people. He called them “hypocrites”, play-actors who played the role of “shepherd” to impress their audience.
Matthew 23:2-7; 13-36 is a painful exposure of those who masquerade as shepherds but behave as hirelings. On many occasions, Jesus pointed out their dishonest use of the Law.
“For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” Mark 7:10-13 NLT
These religious leaders were so dishonest that they refused to weigh all the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. They rejected His claim that His authority came from God. Instead, they crucified Him as a blasphemer because He claimed (and proved by the Word, His works, and the witness of the Father) that He was the Son of God.
Yes, Satan was behind their attitudes and behaviour but, in the end, they made their choices and were the greatest threat to Jesus’ mission. They influenced the people against Jesus despite all the miracles He did for them. Although they made the decision to crucify Jesus, they were ultimately accountable to God, the highest authority, for what they had done.
“Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.” Matthew 27:20 NLT
‘Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!” Matthew 27:24-25 NLT
Peter laid the guilt for Jesus’ death squarely at the door of the Jews, including all those, led by the religious leaders, who had clamoured for His death.
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.” Acts of the Apostles 2:22-23 NLT
Nowhere did Peter on the day of Pentecost, give credit to the devil for having Jesus crucified. It was the human will by human hands that killed Him. What of today?
There are many “hirelings” in places of leadership in churches across the world today, people who are filthy rich at the expense of the “sheep” who depend on them for care and guidance. These are the ones who kill, steal and destroy since those who follow them are robbed of money, wisdom and life itself.
Unfortunately, these hirelings are often difficult to identify because they masquerade as shepherds or, as Jesus said, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We can identify them by their fruit.
I am very wary of those who get people to give either by offering them a reward or by making them feel guilty if they don’t give. Many great so-called compassion ministries are built on the money the big names get out of their followers while they gather wealth for themselves. Some even claim that their wealth is their “reward” for their service. Really! Where do they find that in Scripture?
Three things motivate the hireling that contradict what Jesus taught about the way of God’s kingdom; fame, power and money. Look for these “fruits” in the lives of false shepherds and stay away from them and their teachings.
The tragedy is that, though these false shepherds will take the rap for what they have done, the sheep who blindly follow them will also be lost because they have exchanged the truth for lies.
God holds every individual responsible for what he/she believes and how his/her belief system directs their lives. He has given us the New Covenant in His Word to show us how and provide everything we need to live godly lives.
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT
No one can hide behind ignorance as an excuse. We are told to test everything and hold fast to what is good.
“Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 NLT
Jesus warned us that deception will be the greatest threat to believers as time draws to an end. Fear and deception are the devil’s most effective tools, and hirelings his most efficient allies in his quest to draw people away from simple faith in Jesus.
So, my beloved friends, beware of the hirelings who are everywhere and out to lure you away by their smooth-tongued and convincing words that twist God’s Word, pander to your flesh and set you on the path to destruction.
Remain “in Christ”, abide in Him and in His Word. He is your only place of truth and safety.