“This will be my last article from Lessons from the Farm. I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of sharing these artilce with you. But as they say, ‘All good things come to an end.’ While I really don’t know how ‘good’ they are, it has been ‘good’ for me to put my thoughts in print to help crystalize my convictions in the spiritual realm. You, the reader, will have to be the judge of how ‘good’ they have been for you. May God bless each of you until He comes again.” (Titus 2:11-13) – Bob Yarbrough


This summer has been extremely hot and dry. We’ve had twenty-five days of 100+ degree temperature with very little rain. The grass is brown and the ponds are low, so low in fact that my goats cannot get water from them. I have a large trough that I fill with water for them about once a week, but a funny thing happens every time I bring the water hose to the trough. The goats come running to drink, but they each know their place in line because the big male makes certain that all the “underlings” are behind him. He constantly checks, and if one looks as if it might arrive to the trough first, the male “butts the fire out of it.” Goats will rare up on their hind legs and butt at each other’s horns in head-to-head combat until an “understanding” is had as to which one is in charge. This happens also when I bring feed to them. It is well understood that the “big kahuna,” the “King of the Hill,” the “Boss,” gets first dubs on the grub.

What I have described is called the pecking order in the barnyard – a system whereby animals learn their place among the others. It seems that all species of animals both domesticated and in the wild have some sort of similar activity. TV shows which highlight the great Outdoors regularly feature this activity with male (and sometimes female) sheep, rams, elk, etc. Shows which feature animals of Africa in the wild will sometime show the same type of thing. It is interesting to watch as these animals exhibit some type of pecking order as an inborn survival instinct.

Unfortunately, I have observed this type of behavior in humans as well, but of course without the literal head butts. As a career educator, I have witnessed my share of boys and girls who have attempted to be first, to be in charge, to “lord it over” others – in other words, to be pre-eminent. It certainly happens in the workplace and in the business world where a “dog-eat-dog” mentality demonstrates itself far too often. Stepping on (or over) others on the “way to the top” is common place; and often emotions are shattered, and sometimes lives are ruined in the process. Homes are not exempt either. A selfish, domineering spouse can make life miserable for every other member of the family. Neither is the church of the Lord exempt from exhibiting a preeminent spirit. It leads to divisions, cliques, and even church splits. When this occurs, a pretense of an issue is usually raised as the excuse, but the root problem is more often than not centered in competing personalities. The sin nature exhibits itself in all facets of life’s experiences. Over against all of this stands the words of Jesus Christ, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…By this all people will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). From this it seems that the best witness a believer can give to an unsaved world is to demonstrate how he loves and treats others.

There are several significant passages of scripture which address our behavior toward others. The premier verse, sometimes referred to as the Golden Rule, comes from the lips of Jesus himself: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Those who heard Jesus say this would have had to acknowledge that Jesus was summarizing the entire righteous requirements of the law and the exhortation of all the prophets. If people would treat their neighbors as themselves, no neighbor would be mistreated. Warren Wiersbe observed, “Practicing the Golden rule releases the love of God in our lives and enables us to help others, even those who want to hurt us.”

A second set of verses comes from the writings of the Apostle Paul. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor to each other” (Rom. 12:10). “In humility esteem others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). The word honor here means “respect” or “value.” Further, to outdo suggests that if competition does exist among believers, then see who can genuinely respect and value the other more. When one counts (esteems) others as better than himself, unity is enhanced and disunity is diminished. Where there is the desire for personal prestige or selfish ambition, then only division and rivalry can result. How sad that the Apostle John wrote about Diotrephes, one of the early leaders of the church, who liked to put himself first, even to the extent of refusing to receive some other believers also doing the Lord’s work (3 John 9-10).

On one occasion Jesus and his disciples were on the road leading to Jerusalem when James and John came to Jesus and requested that they be seated next to Him in His kingdom glory. The others became indignant, possibly because they didn’t think of it first. One could almost envision my male goat checking those behind as he was going to be first to the water trough. Obviously, their request was based upon selfish motives; and little did they know that in order for their request to be granted Jesus would have to suffer and die – indeed a cup of sorrow. While he didn’t know it then, James would be the first apostle to share in that cup. So, Jesus began to teach them what it meant to be first in God’s kingdom, because they had a wrong impression – one that admired position and authority. Jesus gave them a new definition of greatness, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). Several Old Testament personalities demonstrated that a servant’s heart was prerequisite to a promotion of leadership: Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David to mention a few.

Before one can effectively exercise any authority, he must first know what it means to take orders himself. Jesus ultimately demonstrated this model as He followed His Father’s will all the way to the cross. God’s plan of redemption first involved Jesus the servant before any knee will bow to Him as King (Phil. 2:5-11). If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. Jesus did. And He said that we should follow Him. “He is the head of the body, the church…..that in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18).

I suppose there is a certain amount of playfulness that occurs when my goats are butting heads (sure, I think animals enjoy play); but there is also a serious side to some of that activity. They regularly must establish a “pecking order” among themselves. That’s just the way they are! But one day the Bible says even that kind of activity among animals will be changed. The whole earth is presently groaning in travail awaiting its redemption (Rom. 8:18-23). When Jesus Christ comes back to earth to establish His righteous reign, even the animal kingdom will be changed and redeemed. In describing this change the prophet Isaiah said,

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isa. 11:6-9

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)

-Bob Yarbrough is a  retired educator who lives in Terrell, TX