Skip to content

R&V In the Word: The Birds and the Squirrels

Image: Intan Paugh

Read Matthew 25:31-46 NIV

“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Matthew 25:32 NIV

It turns out that the shepherd’s hook that holds my birdfeeder is an excellent ladder for the chipmunks and squirrels in our yard.

I borrowed wisdom from the Internet about ways to deter these greedy scavengers, including, of all things, greasing the pole with coconut oil. This worked for a little while, but then it rained, and the sun warmed, and the oil melted or absorbed into the metal, and Cinderella’s little helpers found their way back to my bird—I mean squirrel—feeder.

I want the wildlife in my yard to thrive, but only my preferred wildlife. I want to separate the birds from the rodents and judge them for their deeds and misdeeds. Come, cardinal, you who are blessed by your Father, take your sunflower seeds that I have prepared for you. But you, chipmunk, depart from me! For you filled your cheeks with seeds meant for more worthy creatures. 

But it is not for me to separate the birds from the squirrels, just as it is not my job to separate the metaphorical sheep from the goats.

I learned recently that in the Old Testament days, the sheep and the goats roamed about in the same herd. When you do a quick Bible search for sheep and goats, there they are, mingled together, counted the same, with equal value and worth to the community. They provided milk, meat, and fabric. Goatskin was often used as a bottle to store liquids, like the wineskin in Jesus’ parable (Luke 5:37-38).

The sheep and the goats were one herd, part of the same earthly kingdom, with their unique roles to play in the grand scheme of creation.

Just like my chipmunks, squirrels, and birds.

One of the reasons I am drawn so much to Jesus is because of the vision he casts for an abundant kingdom right now. The parable he tells in Matthew 25 is prophetic in nature: if you want to live an abundant life that reflects the heart of God, be like the proverbial sheep.

But it is also a companion parable to other teachings of Jesus about withholding judgment. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus tells his followers not to judge at all. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” he asks. Leave it for the Lord at the end of days. He will sort out the sheep from the goats. Your job, he says, is to care for the kingdom’s outcasts and misfits.

I think the right thing for me to do with my creature-feeder is to live out of the generous hospitality of God’s kingdom and just keep refilling, even for the chipmunks. Even for the squirrels. 

There’s enough for the whole starving world.

Points of Reflection

  1. Reflect on a time when you’ve felt the urge to judge or separate others based on your preferences or biases. How does this reading challenge your perspective on such inclinations?
  2. Reflect on the interconnectedness of all creatures in creation, as illustrated in this reading. How does this perspective influence your attitudes and actions toward the environment and other living beings?

For the Kids

  1. Imagine you are one of the animals in the story (bird, chipmunk, squirrel). How would you feel if someone only wanted one type of animal in their yard and not the others? Why do you think it’s important to treat all animals fairly?
  2. Think about a time when you were kind to someone who was different from you. How did it make you feel? What do you think Jesus would say about your kindness?


God’s kingdom encourages us to shift from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. All of life—everything in the entire universe—is a gift, after all, extravagantly poured out, growing, and multiplying through the breath of our Creator. In what way, small or large, can you embrace the virtue of generous hospitality that Jesus modeled for us throughout the gospels, extending that gift from humans into the natural world around us? Ask the Lord to reveal to you the places in creation where you’ve been stingy with grace and mercy.


One of the most influential books related to the Bible that I’ve read in the last five years is Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey. Bailey illuminates the cultural context of Jesus’ life and community so that we can better understand the gospel stories and apply their teachings to our lives.

Share on Social

Back To Top