The Donkey's Freedom
In the days of Jeremiah, this prophet likened Judah to a donkey; he said, “A wild donkey used to the wilderness, that sniffs at the wind in her desire (Jer. 2:24). The people of God had become like a donkey, contrary to the sheep of God’s pasture. Today, much of American Christianity has the same characteristics of Jeremiah’s donkey illustration.
The donkey roams and runs in the field, being loyal only to its own desires. The donkey has no place amid the flock. The shepherd does not lead the donkey because the donkey is a donkey; hence, the donkey is only free to be a donkey, but is never part of the flock. The donkey’s freedom is not the freedom of the flock, which is led by the shepherd. The shepherd has a flock, but the donkey does not listen to him and gives the shepherd no mind; the donkey is not mindful of the flock or the shepherd, but only seeks to satisfy his own needs and desires. The donkey is led by the scent that satisfies its cravings, even if it is the need for affirmation, acceptance, and approval by those of the flesh and the worldly-minded. So many in church today are living in the freedoms of a donkey, the brute beast. The donkey will be offended with this newsletter, while the sheep will say “Amen” and seek to be sheep.
Judah had all the rituals and they sang the songs of praise, and they read the word of God and prayed using the name of God, but their daily lives, their decisions, and desires reflected the life of a donkey. They were now comfortable and accustomed to the barren wilderness and sniffed the wind for a scent to satisfy their own desires. They had the freedom of the donkey and forsook the shepherd. Sadly, many pastors are also today’s donkeys and they yield and run off to the bray of the people.
The donkey may say that he is in the field and the donkey may say that he hears the shepherd, but the obedience to his own stubborn ways reveals that he is a donkey; his bray announces him. The donkey can reside in the field alongside the sheep, but the donkey gives little attention to the shepherd. The donkey is drawn through enticement or driven by the rod, but the donkey never obeys from a heart of obedience.
So many Christians today are stubborn donkeys calling themselves free in Christ; they say, “I’m free,” yet they constantly sniff at the wind and chase off to anything and anyone who will satisfy their disobedient souls. Each one has his own special desire that is rooted in self, but all of them refuse to yield to the Holy Spirt. Therefore, they find fault with the man of God, they criticize the faithful believers, and they proceed to accuse the righteous of wrong-doing; all done so that they may justify their wayward and chaotic lives. While accusing the faithful followers, they excuse themselves. They speak of God’s grace in the sphere of forgiveness toward their lack, yet never rely on His grace to empower them to live right. In their hypocrisy they extend their form of grace and love to those who are of like-mind, but to the faithful, the holy, the just, and the truthful, they extend simple contempt thus exposing their true spirit. They are stubborn-minded and hypocritical. They only extend kindness to those who follow after them, like them, and console their offense.
These stubborn donkeys refuse to change, but they expect to be accepted and adored by the shepherd. They deny instruction and defy correction. They want to be justified and deemed right so they call-out to anyone who is giving-off a scent of discontent. They want their sniff to be satisfied. Their own definition of love has been skewed by self-concerns and their own form of love now rules as the standard for Christianity. This form of love leads them to flattery; they love to receive flattery and they love to reciprocate.
To appear righteous, these donkeys will often focus on some particular thing that makes them feel godly; for some it is a political issue, for others a moral one, or an issue dealing with family, but they will all forsake the people of God, turn their faces away and their noses up in pride, and then proceed to assault the faithful believer’s steadfast trust and hope in Christ. These donkeys will align with those who seek to undermine the faith of the faithful, constantly accusing others of fault while excusing themselves. These donkeys love the self-life, which dominates their every decision. All their discussions and varied conversations center on their own needs, their own affections, their own offense, their own hurts, and their own personal appetites. They have formulated a spirituality that satisfies their pride and soothes their self-righteous form of holiness. They focus on some particular point that will give them a sense of righteousness, while they resist the Holy Spirit’s call to surrender their way, their wills, and their wants to His own. Thus, they are enemies of the cross. Paul wrote: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18–19).
The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the rebellious house of Judah and called them donkeys. Today, there are many donkeys calling themselves Christians as they lead lives with the stubbornness of a donkey. They choose their own way and ignore the fruit of their doings. They quote the word of God while they rely on their own thoughts. They attack the faithful and righteous while defending the wayward and wanton. They excuse their own rebellious house, while they accuse the men and women who have surrendered their lives fully unto the Lord. If they have children who serve the Lord, they are quick to take credit for that good son or daughter, though it developed through the works of another. They hold the pastor of holiness in contempt, so they can fellowship with their evil sons and daughters. They indulge at gluttonous tables and talk about family and friends while ignoring anything to do with the family of faith. They pull-away from holiness and declare to others that they are now free. They cast off the restraints of righteousness and walk with the glee of the worldly-minded. They complain about the strict lives of holiness while they seek to be regarded by others. Some are depressed souls always given to frustration and agitation, some even have suicidal thoughts, yet they proceed to tell you about freedom from condemnation. The donkey’s freedom, however, is to cast off the restraints of holiness, truth, and justice. Their children are coarse, crass, and corrupt, and full of unbelief, but they want to tell you how to live your Christian walk. They live in a state of frivolity and foolishness, and they have unsettled hearts full of unrest; therefore, they seek peace by pleasing themselves with varied luncheons and buying themselves “new things.” They seek peace by seeking support and soothing comments.
These donkeys call themselves free, but they are simply free to be a donkey. Full of stubbornness and noses that sniff the air for a scent of self-pleasure, they run after anything and anyone who will make them feel good about themselves. These donkeys twist the word of God like a Pharisee; they attack like a Philistine, and they hinder the people of God like Pharaoh.
These donkeys cast off holiness, truth and justice, viewing them as shackles; their fleshly lives rule. However, their deepest evil is dismissing these three divine virtues behind a redefined facade of love they have formed in the imaginations of their own heart. Their affections and appetites rule, thus they sideline holiness, truth and justice. In order to be righteous and enjoy their idolatrous and immoral lives, they attack people of holiness, truth, and justice. Therefore, they never find the love of God in its fullness nor do they love the truth. Hence, they are not free in Christ; they have the freedom to bray like a donkey.
They want pastors to pamper their delicate frailties, and sadly many pastors reciprocate desperately wanting others to view them as a nice, loving pastor. Their lives reflect chaos while they reach out to anyone who will relieve them of conviction. They seek to be justified by gaining support from those that are weak in the faith. They build support groups for themselves by calling, texting, writing, and posting each other to soothe one other with any tidbit of news that might keep themselves feeling validated in their rebellious ways. These are evil hearts of unbelief. This is the freedom of a donkey.
- The donkey may say that he speaks for God, but it was just the one time as it was with Balaam, and you’re still a donkey.
- The donkey may claim that Christ was once riding upon him; that may be a true claim but you’re still a donkey.
- The donkey may claim that he was in the manger and amid the presence of the Christ; that may be true, but you’re still a donkey.
The fruit of your life, the decisions you make, the language in your mouth, the thoughts in your heart, the fellowship that you enjoy, the shows you like, and the children you’ve raised all reveal that you’re still a donkey. You have not changed, you do not want to change, because you love to sniff at the wind. You claim that you’re in the valley and Christ is your shepherd, but you’re just a donkey braying among the sheep. You don’t have a baa-ha, you bray with an annoying voice of discontent. You claim to be the light, lead the sheep, love your family, teach the doctrines, and witness for Christ, but everything about you is in the realm of the bray.
The shepherd leads sheep not donkeys. Sheep live in the freedom of being under the shepherd’s care. The sheep are the shepherd’s concern; there is no better place to be. For the sheep, your freedom is in His hands and His staff is your friend, a sign of His rulership over your life. The donkey wants nothing to do with the shepherd’s staff, but the sheep see its freedom, and faith sees the green pastures and still waters ahead. This is true freedom, the freedom that rests in the shepherd’s will and fully trust in the shepherd’s way. Amen.
In the Service of Christ,
Dr. Gary H. Cote