Few years ago, while I was preparing to attend a minister’s conference, I came across these unique verses. Initially, I was not sure if this was a mere coincidence, or something God really wanted me to pay attention to. Well, these verses were what I ended up sharing with the ministers when I was called to share on my perspective on the spiritual growth of our young people.

God had given Ezekiel a mandate to prophesy against the shepherd. Why? They were forcefully leading and ruling over the flock assigned to them, instead of feeding the flocks. See Ezekiel 34:1-4.

“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”

I grew up in a very strict and well-disciplined community, which expectedly translated into many families. I agree that there is nothing bad with discipline or being strict, especially when done in love. But if not properly done, it could result into very malignant attitude of rebellion. For many of us, the second-order effect of that “strictness” resulted into finding a coping mechanism. At this point, we had to find a way to present a false-life before whosoever wants it, and then live another kind of life when we are with our peers. Especially, when we do not have a genuine reason why we are being “forced” to do something or act in a particular way. Funny enough, many times we know the rules and regulations are to please our leaders and parents, and not necessarily to make us better people.

But why do we need to force people to do what we want or what we think is right? Why can we not feed them to grow into becoming a better person, then naturally doing the right things? A parent should not force a newborn baby to walk when it is not time. The duty of the parents is to feed the baby, and let the baby grow. At the right time, with adequate nourishment, the baby will naturally walk. God was not happy with the “shepherds of Israel”, because they were forceful on their flock yet not feeding them.

The lesson here for every teacher, parent or leader, is to give your followers or children the right spiritual food. Feed them with the word of God more than the traditions and culture of men. And watch them grow into what God has called them to be. I know the default is to force them to be who we want them to be. But anytime you have to force them, see it as a sign of malnourishment. A sign that shows that they need to be more fed.

May God help us all to be worthy shepherds. Amen!