The GOATS in Scripture

On Sunday night, there was a lot of discussion about which quarterback was the GOAT, i.e., the greatest of all time. The contest was between Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady, currently of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

You can probably tell who I like by the order I mentioned them! I’ve never been able to get past “Deflategate.”  

You might be asking, “Why is she starting her blog post with a football illustration?” 

The answer: Because the whole GOAT thing ought to be about more than stats. 

What makes a person the greatest?

I was able to attend the Masters golf tournament the first year Tiger Woods won his green jacket. Is he the greatest golfer? I thought so until his wife attacked his car with a golf club. The sportscasters were talking about her attempt to free him from his car. Meanwhile, I looked at my husband and said, “Nope. She is really angry at him!” They divorced shortly after because of his marital affair. 

I thought the Williams sisters were amazing tennis players. I stopped cheering for Serena after I watched her U.S. Open final against Naomi Osaka. Serena was hoping to get a record win that day, except Osaka played a better match. Let’s just say Serena didn’t handle the loss well and, as a result, Osaka was in tears after the match. It wasn’t a great day for Serena fans, on many levels. 

Tom Brady was suspended by the NFL after it was discovered the Patriots were playing with slightly deflated footballs. Brady denied it was his fault, and the controversy was never completely resolved. That said, one thing was made clear. Brady preferred throwing a softer football, and the footballs he was throwing did not meet the inflation regulations. Most people didn’t really blame the equipment guys for taking it upon themselves to let the air out of the balls.  

Who are the GOATS in sports? Why did I even write about sports in my blog post today? 

I watched the Sunday night football game and listened to the commentators discuss who they considered the “greatest” quarterback, Mahomes or Brady, and why. No one ever mentioned anything about their character or personal qualities, only their stats. 

Granted, it was game day, but should that be all we consider when assigning the title “GOAT” to a person?  

Our culture tends to elevate a person’s abilities as a more esteemed quality than their character. 

God, however, has higher standards.

What did Jesus say about the goats?

Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when he spoke about the sheep and the “goats.” He said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:31–34). 

Jesus then told his disciples that the reason some people were considered sheep while others were labeled goats is because of the kindness they had shown to others, an indication that they were acting in a righteous manner. Scripture makes it clear that our salvation doesn’t depend on our works. But that truth shouldn’t cause us to think our works are insignificant.  

Jesus makes it very clear that our salvation should cause change in our character. Our standard for the way we treat others is the same standard for the way we treat Christ. He said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Why is God’s standard the only one that matters?

God’s people are called to live with his standards because living with the world’s standards could cost someone their eternal life. Most people believe there is a heaven and trust they will get there. Very few believe they need to worry about going to hell. 

Jesus made certain his disciples understood that on the day of judgment the sheep will be separated from the goats. Jesus taught the reality of heaven but also the reality of hell. We like to spend time thinking about all that heaven will mean, but our thoughts of hell are usually rare and brief. 

If we thought about everyone as sheep and goats the way Jesus taught, how would that change our thoughts and, therefore, our actions? 

Jesus made it very clear to his disciples. Those who will be considered GOATS in heaven are his sheep.

God’s standards for “GOAT”

In our world, goats can be great and sheep can be lost. Most labels have limited truth. But there is one label that is profoundly important. Paul wrote, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Every Christian started out as a goat and was born again as a sheep. None of us can live perfect lives, but all of us can try to live according to God’s word. 

Paul instructed Titus about God’s standards for “great.” He told Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7–8). 

God’s standards for “GOAT” have a much different set of “stats” than those our culture values. 

The truth about great

The world usually labels “great” much differently than God does. One of the best ways to change someone’s life is to help them redefine greatness. Everyone wants to be a “GOAT” until they realize what it means to become a sheep.  

There is a reason I root for Patrick Mahomes. He has often used his ability as a football player to glorify his God. In one interview, Mahomes said, “If someone looks up to a person and they are a Christian and, say the person looking up to them is not a Christian, I think there’s great impact in that. Maybe it will lead them to find out who Christ is. . . . I understand that he’s given me a lot of blessings in my life, and I’m trying to maximize them and glorify him.” 

Which quarterback is the GOAT? 

We should allow God to provide our answer to that question, not a set of stats. Then, we should apply that standard to our own lives. GOATS in Scripture are actually God’s sheep. 

If I could say one thing to Patrick Mahomes (besides “GREAT game Sunday night!”), I would say, “Keep living as a sheep and you will be a GOAT. The most important trophy in life isn’t received during this life.”  

If the game Sunday night is a preview of this year’s Super Bowl, you KNOW which team I will be rooting for! 

I believe in cheering for the sheep.